The CTA and Pace's shift to a new fare payment system dubbed Ventra will also bring changes for more than half a million seniors and individuals with disabilities who use transit, the Regional Transportation Authority expects.
To explain the switch, the RTA last week started mailing brochures to riders enrolled in Reduced Fare, Ride Free and ADA Paratransit programs.
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Pace and the Chicago Transit Agency are rolling out Ventra later this year to comply with a state law requiring the three transit agencies to offer a contactless fare card that can be used interchangeably. Metra has said it will comply with the mandate by the 2015 deadline.
The RTA, which administers the Ride Free and Reduced Fare programs, will mail hard-plastic permit cards in the fall to customers.
The permits are contactless -- meaning riders can simply touch Ventra card readers with the cards on buses or at CTA stations.
The permits can also be shown to Metra ticket agents or on trains to ride free or obtain discounted fares.
To activate the permits, RTA riders can call a number listed on the back of the card. Once activated, Reduced Fare passengers can put money on the cards at stations, online, by phone or at participating stores in the suburbs.
ADA Paratransit users will continue to pay for rides in cash or with tickets for the immediate future.
Although there is a $5 refundable registration fee for most Ventra passengers, Reduced Fare, Ride Free and ADA Paratransit customers will not be charged. In addition, the permits will not be able to be used as debit cards, as is the case with other Ventra cards.
If the permits are not used for 18 consecutive months, a $5 dormancy fee per month will be charged.
The Ride Free program is available to low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities. Reduced fares are offered to anyone age 65 and older.
For more information or to update your address or contact information, call (312) 913-3110 or go to rtachicago.com/fare-programs/rta-fare-program-transition-faq.html.