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Ventra outage hits 60 CTA stations, results in 15,000 free rides

The troubled Ventra fare-payment system took another hit during the Wednesday evening rush hour when some card readers at 60 of the CTA’s 145 train stations failed, resulting in 15,000 free rides for commuters before the problem was fixed, according to the agency.

A “back-office server” malfunctioned around 4:30 p.m., causing Ventra readers to go out in a ripple effect that shut down readers anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes, according to CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase. The card readers were rebooted as customer service employees waved through riders.

The CTA estimates it gave about 15,000 free rides during the outage. In all, 165 card readers were affected out of about 800 readers at rail stations, Chase said. The readers on buses were not affected, she said.

The agency said it would bill the contractor for Ventra, Cubic Transportation Systems, for the costs of the outage.

The outage is the latest in a series of problems during the two and half months since Ventra was introduced, including extremely long waits for cards in the mail, riders being overcharged and an activation process that led to the temporary reinstatement of old payment options.

CTA President Forrest Claypool said last week that the CTA won’t write a check on Cubic's $454 million contract until customer hotline wait times improve, fare readers on buses and at rail turnstiles process transactions more quickly and more Ventra equipment is functioning.

But that didn't stop a CTA public budget hearing Tuesday night from turning into a forum for commuters to air their grievances over Ventra.

About a dozen activists and CTA riders gathered 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." During the hearing, the 60 people who attended applauded as speaker after speaker rose to denounce the system.

chicagobreaking@tribune.com | Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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