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, 2013. On Nov. 4, CTA President Forrest Claypool addressed the widespread complaints in a speech wherein he blamed the program's chief vendor, Cubic Transportation Systems, a division of Cubic Corp., for the problems. Cubic installed the new contactless fare payment readers in Chicago trains and buses; 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 quickly 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.
Reports added that when users would call customer service to complain of the multiple charging issue, they could be put on hold for extended times and in some instances would get disconnected. Claypool subsequently ordered Cubic to triple its call center operators and upgrade software on the readers to speed up transaction times.
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.
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