Last-minute Ventra transition tips

Ventra card

The new Ventra card. (Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune / August 25, 2013)

Now departing: Disposable CTA cards.

This is the final weekend the CTA will accept disposable magnetic cards to pay for rides. Starting July 1, the agency will allow only Ventra, some personal bank cards, certain phones and cash (on buses) for fare payment.

This weekend may be one of the greatest tests of the 10-month transition to Ventra because Sunday is the Pride Parade in Lakeview. More than 1 million revelers attended the parade last year, many from out of town.

Also this weekend: Old St Pat's World's Largest Block Party and the Cubs-Nationals games.

Avoid the lines and confusion. Going Public has some last-minute tips for those who have and haven't transitioned to Ventra.

If you have transitioned

  • Add money to your card online or at a rail station machine before Friday. Lines could be long as out-of-towners navigate Ventra for the first time. GP has noticed the waits at rail station machines tend to be lengthy at the Grand Red Line stop on the Near North Side before Cubs games. The Belmont stop on the Red and Brown lines gets very crowded before and after the Pride Parade.
  • Gather your old fare cards. Check to make sure your balances transferred to your Ventra card. Some old fare cards can be mailed in for balance transfer. Go to transitchicago.com/transition for a mail-in form.


If you haven't transitioned

  • Get your Ventra card at retail stores before July 7. The $5 sign-up fee is being waived when riders get a card in stores. A list of retail locations can be found at ventrachicago.com.
  • Register your card at ventrachicago.com to track your fare card balance online. If you don't want to register your card or check your balance regularly, carry $2.25 in cash so you don't get stuck boarding a bus with insufficient fare.


Art attack

Mayor Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool on Monday unveiled artwork that will be installed at eight South Side Red Line stations that saw upgrades last year as part of a $425 million project. Installation of the art, at stops from Cermak-Chinatown to 87th Street, is expected to begin later this year. The art budget is $590,400, the CTA said.


Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Linden Purple Line
Talk about owl service. A few owl ornaments hang over station signs on the platform of this Wilmette stop. The Purple Line used to have late-night (owl) service until 1998, when it was cut to save money, the Tribune reported at the time. These days, the Blue and Red lines are the only rail routes to run 24 hours a day. The owls don't represent owl service at Linden, but they may help scare away other birds since they hang near pigeon spikes.

Next up: California Pink Line

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