www.redeyechicago.com/news/cta/redeye-cta-ventra-improvement-but-more-progress-required-20131122,0,2202622.story

redeyechicago.com

Ventra aims for shorter board times on buses

By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz

RedEye

11:50 AM CST, November 22, 2013

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Ventra, the CTA's new fare payment system, has seen "improvement in nearly every performance area since Nov. 5," but "much more progress [is] required," according to a progress report the CTA released today, its first since the agency slowed its transition to the controversial system earlier this month.

The CTA said an upgrade to rail software helped Ventra readers process train rider taps in 2.5 seconds or less 99.7 percent of the time since Nov. 11. The CTA said it is making similar upgrades on buses, where some riders have reported lengthy boarding times because of slow readers.

"Bus tap times are well below performance standards," the CTA said in a statement. "The same software upgrade already in place on rail has shown improvement on the initial 50,000 transactions, and the upgrade is being rolled out to all buses."

CTA president Forrest Claypool said earlier this month that the Ventra vendor, Cubic Transportation Systems, would not receive payment until it fixed problems such as reader processing times and customer service waits.

The CTA was previously set to phase out Chicago Cards by Nov. 15 and disposable magnetic cards by Dec. 15 but these deadlines were dismissed this month as the problems were addressed.

In terms of customer service, call center wait times are down to 2 minutes, 24 seconds, which includes people activating the card and waiting to speak to a customer service representative, the CTA said. A week ago, the average customer hold time was 6 minutes, 36 seconds.

The Ventra call center received about 10,000 calls on an average weekday this week.

Starting Monday, the Ventra customer service center at 165 N. Jefferson St. will see its hours expand, going from an 8 a.m.-to-4:30 p.m. schedule to one that starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m.

About 63 percent of CTA rides were paid for by Ventra last week, the agency said.

The CTA said Ventra cards have been mailed out to all Chicago Card users who verified their addresses. The agency said it has made 120,000 calls to these riders to remind them to transition to Ventra.

Meanwhile, the Regional Transportation Authority, the funding arm for the local transit agencies, announced this week it is launching a probe to check Ventra snafus.