CTA to launch open standards fare payment system

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

The Chicago Transit Authority’s Ventra™ contactless open transit fare payment system is set to launch this summer.

Cubic Transportation Systems, in partnership with First Data and MasterCard®, are the technology and processing partners behind the program. Ventra™, says Cubic, “brings more choice, convenience, and flexibility to Chicago-area transit riders and will be a model for other cities to use as they upgrade and modernize their fare systems.”
Described as North America’s largest Open Standards Fare System (OSFS), Ventra is about to make its summertime debut with the CTA and suburban bus operator Pace. Cubic is CTA and Pace’s systems integrator and services provider for Ventra, leading a team that will provide services to both agencies through Jan. 15, 2024. Cubic’s program partners are MasterCard® and Money Network®, a First Data company.

Ventra will give CTA and Pace customers two new options to pay for their train and bus rides:

• The new Ventra Card, which features two accounts—a closed-loop account for transit payments and an optional reloadable prepaid card that can be used for everyday purchases everywhere Debit MasterCard is accepted. The prepaid card is an optional feature for cardholders who choose to upgrade and use the Money Network MasterCard Prepaid Debit Card.

• Customers will be able to pay for train and bus rides with any MasterCard PayPass or contactless payment card currently in their wallet to tap and pay at rail station turnstiles and on buses.

The Ventra Card card will eventually be sold in more than 2,000 retail stores and in more than 400 vending machines in CTA rail stations while cash will continue to be accepted in vending machines in CTA rail stations and on buses. When activated, Money Network MasterCard Prepaid Debit Account features will allow cardholders to use the same Ventra Card that pays for train and bus rides to shop online, buy groceries, pay bills, and get cash back at merchants.

“Ventra will improve the rider experience by creating convenient connections throughout the region with the latest in contactless card technology,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “Chicagoans will be the first in the U.S. to enjoy this modern system, which will meet their needs now and in the future.”

“MasterCard is the world’s fastest payment processing network, and First Data is a global leader in payment processing and electronic commerce,” said Richard Wunderle, senior vice president and general manager for Cubic’s North America operations. “They are ideal partners as we develop a world-class open fare system to serve as a model for transit agencies around the globe looking to modernize their fare payment systems. MasterCard and First Data clearly demonstrated their strong commitment to public transit, and we are proud to have them on board.”

“For more than a decade, ‘Tap and Go™’ cards have brought the convenience and speed of PayPass technology to consumers and merchants,” said Michael Cyr, executive vice president, MasterCard. “Now, the combination of PayPass technology at the turnstile with the ability to provide additional purchasing power in the prepaid card will give Chicagoland commuters less to carry in their wallet, while helping to get to their destination and the activities that matter most to them.”

“As payments and technology continue to converge in the world of universal commerce, First Data is applying our 40 years of industry experience and innovative capabilities to support new and emerging consumer use cases, including contactless payments,” said Mark Putman, senior vice president and division manager of First Data Prepaid Solutions. “This unique one-card, two-accounts program also offers Chicago transit riders financial service benefits such as online bill payment, accepting pay with direct deposit, and engaging in cashless transactions—all useful to those with and without traditional bank relationships.”

CTA and Pace combined provided more than 545.6 million rides in 2012.

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