With about 35 percent of riders still using cash or soon-to-be-obsolete magnetic stripe cards, Pace is on a campaign to inform riders that the suburban bus service and CTA will switch to Ventra on July 1.
The new fare system allows commuters to use a Ventra card to switch between the two systems seamlessly.
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Sixty-five percent of transactions on Pace are made with Ventra cards compared to 92 percent on the CTA. Most Pace passengers that don't use Ventra pay in cash, spokesman Patrick Wilmot said, noting that there are about 30,000 cash transactions daily.
Although Pace customers can still pay with cash on buses, those riders won't get free transfers as of July 1. Since June 2, Pace has dispatched employees to bus routes across the six counties where there's a high proportion of riders paying with cash to educate them about the Ventra deadline and hand out cards.
"We are taking it very seriously. We don't want people to be surprised," Wilmot said.
So far, many passengers say they know about the change but are waiting until July 1 to switch, he said.
The debut of Ventra in 2013 was fraught with complaints about glitches, waits at call centers and controversial fees associated with the debit card option.
As a result, the CTA and Pace pushed back the transition deadline for months. Now, it's operating relatively smoothly, but there will be a learning curve for some, Wilmot said.
Here are 10 things to know about Ventra:
• Pace still accepts cash on buses, but it will stop giving out free transfers to cash-paying riders as of July 1. Ventra customers will receive free transfers.
• Ventra cards can be bought at stores including Wal-Mart or Jewel/Osco and at currency exchanges. A one-time $5 purchase fee will be waived until July 7 at retailers. The $5 fee will be added to your balance once the card is registered.
• Pace recommends registering Ventra cards because it allows riders to track expenses and lets Pace or CTA reimburse balances if the card is lost or stolen.
• Ventra cards can be ordered online at www.ventrachicago.com or by phone at (877) 669-8368 (NOW-VENTRA).
• Pace has installed machines to purchase Ventra at sites including the Elgin Transportation Center, Aurora Transportation Center and Joliet Union Station.
• Pace will hold informational sessions and give out Ventra cards at several events including 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Aurora Transportation Center, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at the Des Plaines Metra station, and 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Elgin Transportation Center.
• The new system allows riders to pay with contactless credit cards with no fee.
• But card reader machines will pick whatever contactless card they detect first. So if you want to pay with your Ventra card, remove it from your wallet and hold it up to the card reader. If you hold up your wallet, it's possible the card reader could inadvertently charge a contactless credit card, Wilmot said.
• If Ventra cards aren't used within 18 months, a $5-per-month fee will be assessed. Any transaction will "reset the clock," Wilmot said.
• The CTA and Pace will put outstanding balances on old fare cards onto Ventra cards but you need to apply by mail. For more information, go to www.pacebus.com/ventra/.