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CTA budget hearing turns into forum against Ventra

A CTA public budget hearing turned into a forum for commuters to air their grievances over the troubled Ventra fare-payment system.

About a dozen activists and CTA riders gathered before the Tuesday night meeting in the lobby of the CTA's headquarters, in the 500 block of West Lake Street, with signs reading "Victim of Ventra" and "Stop Ventra."

When riders were invited to speak to the CTA's board Tuesday regarding its 2014 budget, which includes no fare hikes or service cuts, most addressed the problems they've had this year with the new fare card.

"Ventra is an absolutely worthless system, and I do not want it in my city anymore," said Georgette Kirkendall, 25, who described herself as a lifelong Chicago resident and CTA customer.

Kirkendall said she received her Ventra card in September, and "this thing has been trouble ever since," citing commonly described issues, such as seeing a negative balance in error and problems scanning the card successfully.

Many in the crowd of about 60 people applauded after she spoke.

Ongoing glitches with the Ventra system forced the CTA to restore other fare options last month.

Many questioned whether CTA officials were making decisions for the public good.

"We're giving them money for a system that works a lot less efficiently," David Orlikoff, 24, who called himself a regular CTA rider, said of vendor Cubic Transportation Systems Inc., which the CTA contracted with to develop the Ventra transit card.

Board members at Tuesday's meeting did not respond to public speakers. The board is scheduled to vote Wednesday to finalize the budget, which earned a guarded thumbs-up from the budget watchdog group Civic Federation, which in a release warned the agency not to rely on an increase in funding from the state in the reduced-fare subsidy it provides due to the state's "continued fiscal deterioration."

mmanchir@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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