Ventra Capitalists

Zimmer, Tyler
Date Written:  2013-11-21
Publisher:  Jacobin
Year Published:  2013
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20530

Zimmer discusses the problems arising with the recent implementation of the Ventra fare collection system for Chicago transit, a change that has been costly and inefficient for riders but profitable for corporations involved.



Unlike the old magnetic strip fare card system, Ventra requires riders to purchase a prepaid debit/credit card that doubles as a transit pass. Whereas fare collection has been under public control for the entire lifespan of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), officials recently signed a $454 million deal to turn over fare collection to Cubic Corporation, a multinational firm which, in addition to causing transit fare headaches all over the world, is also a major player in military equipment manufacturing.

Since Ventra went live this fall, nearly every aspect of the new system has been a fiasco. Transit riders are routinely double- and triple-charged for fares, only to find that the process of sorting things out -- waiting more than thirty minutes (on average) in the hopes of speaking with an overworked out-of-state employee in a call center -- is often worse than throwing in the towel and moving on. A few weeks back, news broke that bus riders were being charged not only for boarding buses, but for exiting them as well.

While some are lucky enough to avoid being overcharged, others can't get charged even when they want to. In theory, all you need do to board a bus or move through the turnstiles is tap your Ventra card once against a card-reader. But, in practice, it's never quite clear what’s in store for you -- or for all those similarly anxious folks waiting in line ahead of you.

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