Tuesday, November 12, 2013
The Chicago Transit Authority reported it was taking steps to resolve customer service and card usage issues with the recently launched Ventra Card prepaid transit card program. Media reports have highlighted problems with the new program, including long wait times for users making customer service calls and difficulties in transit riders using the contactless cards to pay for rides.
News reports, as well as customer complaints on social media outlets, said Ventra users had to wait up to an hour to reach customer service representatives after the contactless fare readers that accept both bankcards and Ventra Cards were debiting prepaid cardholders multiple times for single rides.
The new program, which replaced an almost 20-year-old system, went live on Sept. 9. Less than two months later, CTA President Forrest Claypool addressed the widespread complaints in a Nov. 4, 2013, speech, where he blamed the chief vendor on the program, Cubic Transportation Systems, a division of Cubic Corp., for the problems. Cubic installed the new contactless fare payment readers in Chicago trains and buses, and it also operates the customer service call center.
The CTA said Ventra users were being charged for multiple rides because fare readers were not responding quick enough when they were tapped with cards, resulting in users tapping their cards additional times on the readers or moving to other readers. In this way, users were being charged for multiple taps.
"To address the issue, Cubic this week updated the Ventra reader software with improvements that will process transactions with 2.5 seconds or less 99 percent of the time," the CTA said.
Reports added that when users would call customer service to complain of the multiple charging issue, they could be put on hold for up to an hour and in some instances would get disconnected. Claypool subsequently ordered Cubic to triple its call center operators to 300.
The Ventra Card is the first dual transit and general purpose reloadable (GPR) prepaid card program to be implemented in a major U.S. city. First Data Corp., which processes transactions that occur on the GPR account of the Ventra Card, pointed out that the Ventra transit account used for the payment of fares is handled by the CTA and Cubic.
A First Data spokeswoman said the acquirer only handles customer service calls related to opening the optional GPR accounts on the cards.
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