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Aldermen Demand Answers From CTA Bosses On Ventra Problems

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Many CTA riders are still experiencing big problems with their transition to the new Ventra card, and two aldermen want to hold City Council hearings to get answers from CTA officials.

The biggest complaint with Ventra has been poor customer service – long hold times on the phone.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said he's been unable to activate his Ventra card, despite repeated calls to the customer service line.

"I've tried three times to activate my card, going through the customer service," he said. "If hundreds of thousands of people don't have a card, and we're supposed to be completing it with this rollout within the next few weeks, well it's a failure for so many people."

Fioretti said his constituents are frustrated by similar trouble with Ventra, and he wants to get to the bottom of it.

The alderman said he wants CTA President Forrest Claypool and CTA Board Chairman Terry Peterson to answer questions at a City Council Transportation Committee hearing.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) also wants a hearing due to all the problems.

He told the Chicago Sun-Times his constituents have been double charged by Ventra, and then couldn't get a response when calling to complain.

Many CTA riders have had similar complaints.

"The overall experience going from CTA to Ventra has been nothing short of awful," commuter Rebecca Isola said.

Asked about her experience with Ventra customer service, Isola said. "They're short, and it's kind of like, 'Well, you should have read the fine print.'"

Ashley Copton said "so far so bad" for the switch to Ventra.

"I don't think that we were ready to switch over to Ventra. It, in concept, sounds like a great idea, but overall, I don't think that anyone was ready; especially the workers," she said. "I bought a card, and I put a 7-day pass on it, and it never showed up. I called customer service. It never went through. I could never use it anywhere, and ended up having to put more money on it."

"It's been pretty bad," she added.

However, some CTA riders have said their experience hasn't been too bad.

"I had a couple times where I would beep it, and it wouldn't go, but they would just slide me along anyway, passing along through the bus or the train, just they didn't want to deal with it, but more recently I haven't had any issues with it, so it's starting to work pretty well," Megan Rensink said.

She said she'd give Ventra a score of 8 out of 10.

Crystal App said she's had no problems with her Ventra card.

"I activated it, and it's worked ever since. I haven't had an issue. It reloads itself," she said.

Claypool already has called on Ventra to dramatically increase its customer service staff, and provide increased accountability.

The problems with Ventra have been so bad, early last month Claypool had no choice but to bring back the sale of the old fare cards, because there were so many issues with Ventra.

Claypool said, to date, only about a half of CTA riders have switched over to Ventra cards from the previous cards.

So far, though, CTA officials have said they plan to stick to the Nov. 15 deadline to stop accepting the Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus, as well as the Dec. 15 deadline for a full switchover to Ventra.

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