In a letter released today, social service providers joined with policy advocates to ask CTA for improvements to the Ventra fare system. For years, providers have waited for improvements to basic functionality of the Ventra system, and continue to wait today. Social service providers in Chicago spend almost $1.5 million on Ventra tickets every month, in order to provide rides to critical destinations like job interviews, summer youth programming, medical appointments, and housing services.
Despite being regular customers who reliably spend millions on Ventra products, CTA offers no online bulk order system for providers to purchase transit fare simply and efficiently. Instead, providers must send in a money order or check with a paper order form, and wait for weeks or months before receiving their Ventra tickets. For their trouble, social service providers do not get a bulk discount–in fact a $0.50 fee on disposable paper tickets (which is new to Ventra) costs providers nearly $300,000 every year. That’s the equivalent of about 112,000 more rides to job training, housing, or medical appointments.
Below is a letter to the CTA President and Board, signed by providers with first hand knowledge of the system, as well as policy advocates who support our recommendations. For more details about this issue, see our report “The Hidden Cost of Ventra: The Impact of the Ventra Fare System on Chicago Social Service Providers,” released in May.
For information about CJC’s Ventra advocacy, or to join in the efforts, contact Eric at eric(at)cjc.net.
To the President and Board of the Chicago Transit Authority,
On behalf of the organizations listed below, we write in support of CTA and Ventra policy changes promoted by the Chicago Jobs Council to make public transportation more affordable for social service organizations and the Chicago residents they serve. We appreciate the efforts of the CTA to enhance the accessibility of transportation and modernize aging infrastructure, including the recent transition to the updated Ventra fare system. The social service providers listed below are high-volume consumers of CTA fares, providing clients and job seekers with Ventra tickets and cards to travel to job interviews, attend job training, travel to and from work, travel to housing, and access other services. We purchase thousands of CTA fares each month in various forms (tickets, cards, multi-day passes). In support of these social service organizations, the advocates listed below also endorse these recommendations as important steps towards a more equitable, accessible transportation system in the Chicago region.
Over the past 2 ½ years, providers have integrated the use of Ventra tickets and cards into our daily practices. In that time, we have observed ways in which the Ventra system could be improved to better serve high-volume users, specifically social service providers whose transit support budgets are funded through limited and ever-decreasing local, state, and federal grant dollars. We appreciate the opportunity to share our top priorities with you and encourage your support of CTA making these changes to the Ventra system:
- Eliminate the $0.50 “Limited-Use Media Fee” for tickets for Social Service Providers – Since the Ventra system was implemented, a $0.50 fee has been levied on paper Ventra tickets, which are critical to our programs. As a result, our annual transportation budgets have been hugely affected, as the cost of a single ride increased by 25 percent. This means that we have had to reduce the amount of transit fare we purchase and serve fewer people.
We understand the CTA’s interest in transitioning riders to use Ventra cards to eliminate waste and administrative challenges associated with tickets. However, as organizations who provide short-term transit support to individuals, it is not always feasible to use Ventra cards. Our organizations are funded largely through government funds, which must be carefully allocated and tracked. It is not feasible from a fiscal or administrative perspective to purchase and register a Ventra card for every one of the thousands of customers we encounter each month. Also, because a significant portion of the funding our organizations receive is allocated by or passed through City of Chicago agencies, the $0.50 fee is essentially paid to CTA through other City funding.
Waiving the $0.50 fee will enable social service providers to re-invest that money into more CTA fares, enabling all of our organizations to serve more people in need.
- Facilitate Online Bulk Purchases of Ventra Tickets – We are unable to purchase Ventra tickets in bulk online. Instead, bulk purchases must be made via money order or check through the mail, which is a weeks-long process. At the rollout of the Ventra system, CTA and Cubic staff noted that the capacity to make bulk purchases online would be available. We hope this service will be offered soon, as it would save a great deal of time and decrease the administrative burden on our organizations.
- Implement High-Capacity Vending Machines for Ventra Purchases – For social service organizations who do not receive bulk orders in a timely manner, many of us resort to spending hours at Ventra vending machines, purchasing hundreds of tickets in sets of 8. The introduction of high-capacity vending machines that allow users to purchase large quantities of tickets or cards per transaction would be a great resource for organizations that utilize large quantities of Ventra products.
We appreciate your consideration of these requests and would be happy to offer additional information about who we serve and how we use transportation support to assist our customers. Each of the providers listed below has experience using Ventra and can offer specifics on how the additional fees and administrative challenges of the system have affected our operations and budget. We hope that working in collaboration with CTA, Cubic, and other stakeholders will lead to solutions that make the system as accessible and affordable as possible.
Your support in furthering these requests would be a great boost to our collective efforts.
Social Service Providers
African American Christian Foundation
AIDS Foundation of Chicago
Allied Health Care Career Network
Calumet Area Industrial Commission
Charles A. Hayes Family Investment Center
CJG Communications, Inc.
Community Assistance Programs
Community Partners and Development
Employment and Employer Services
Erie Neighborhood House
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights
Instituto del Progreso Latino
Jane Addams Resource Corporation
Life Skills Reentry Program at Roosevelt University
North Lawndale Employment Network
Phalanx Family Services
St. Leonard’s Ministries
Symbol Training Institute
The Night Ministry
Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities
Unity Parenting and Counseling, Inc.
Active Transportation Alliance
Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition
Chicago Jobs Council
Community Renewal Society
Dori Wilson Public Relations
Health & Medicine Policy Research Group
Illinois Asset Building Group
Latino Union of Chicago
Policy Planning Partners
Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law