Ventra is almost here, Chicago.
The Chicago Transit Authority's new payment system will begin its slow, steady and somewhat confusing rollout on Aug. 5 when students at some area universities -- including Rush Medical College, Northwestern University School of Law and Westwood College of Technology -- will receive U-Passes in the form of Ventra cards. From there, the schedule is as follows:
- All CPS students will receive Ventra cards during an orientation preceding the first day of school on Aug. 26.
- Current Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus users who have already responded to e-mails Ventra is reportedly sending -- often multiple times -- to validate their transfer to the new system should receive their cards during the week of Aug. 19. Anyone who goes online and orders a card beginning Aug. 12 will also receive their cards during the same week.
- Everyone else will need to wait until the week of Sept. 9 to purchase cards at either a station or other retail site where they'll be available.
The cards, which are also usable on Pace, will cost $5 apiece out of pocket, but that $5 cost will be credited to your Ventra account after registering the card by phone or online. Anyone paying with cash for their rail trip, rather than a registered Ventra card, will be charged a $3 fare rather than $2.25.
By December, the temporary magnetic-strip cards will be completely phased out and all card vending machines at CTA stations will be replaced by Ventra machines. Any remaining balance on such passes will be transferrable to a Ventra card through March 2014.