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Loyola students have mixed reviews of Ventra U-pass

Photo by Katina Beniaris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Katina Beniaris

College students like myself can easily board Chicago’s public transportation in seconds thanks to the Ventra U-Pass. However, students already have faced many issues with the new card while Ventra deals with machine glitches that charge the wrong credit card.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) officially started to offer the Ventra Card in September. This contactless card offers a new way to pay for public transportation. Commuters can purchase passes and add transit values at CTA rail stations, at more than over 2,000 retail locations, online or by phone.

The Ventra Card, in addition, presented a new U-Pass, which provides unlimited rides for college students on the CTA. Unlike the previous U-Pass, you do not need to replace the U-Pass every semester. Students can keep their same card throughout college. Their Ventra U-Pass stays active for five years. Ventra U-Passes will be loaded automatically to the card at the beginning of each semester, as long as you are a full-time student.

This fall, more than 40 institutions started to use Ventra for their students’ U-Pass, including Loyola University. Loyola’s U-Pass price for each semester increased from $103 to $137.

The Loyola U-Pass Coordinator did not respond to my e-mail requesting comment about the university’s transition to the Ventra U-Pass.

Loyola made some changes to their U-Pass distribution due to the Ventra switch. Students still picked up their passes at the Centennial Forum Student Union. However, they were required to call a Ventra number to make sure that their card was active.

Lost, damaged or stolen U-Passes can be replaced at Loyola University. Students can stop by the Damen Student Center Information Desk to order a replacement pass. There will be a $50 fee and the new U-Pass will be ready in five to seven business days.

On Facebook, I conducted a survey (by using SurveyMonkey.com) of 76 Loyola students to see what they thought of the new Ventra U-Pass. Twenty-nine students answered that they “love” the Ventra U-Pass. Twenty-eight students responded that the pass was “good.”

“The Ventra U-Pass is simple and very convenient,” said Sara Khan, 20, a Loyola junior, who uses her Ventra U-Pass daily to commute to school. “I don’t have to stand in line waiting for everyone to find the old U-Pass slot. I just quickly swipe my Ventra U-Pass in front of the detector and go.”

Even if students are fairly happy with the new U-Pass, Ventra has dealt with some glitches since the launch. According to NBC Chicago, the Ventra machine sometimes charges the wrong credit card. Some riders may be charged with their debit card when they tap the Ventra machine with their wallet. DePaul University even tweeted to students to take the U-Pass out of their wallets to use.

In my Facebook survey, 14 students answered that the Ventra U-Pass was “all right” and 4 students “hate” the new Ventra U-Pass.

Some Loyola students have faced issues of not being able to tap their Ventra card right away. The problem usually happens when they try to board a CTA bus, as the Ventra machine tells them to tap their card again.

“It’s easy to use, but frequently requires a few “taps’ before I am allowed to proceed,” said Nick Petrus, 18, a Loyola freshman. “This is really only a problem in the mornings when there is a line of people standing behind me, waiting for my U-Pass to work.”

Despite the glitches, many students have said that the Ventra U-Pass’s card is improved over the previous card. The U-Pass no longer has the thin, magnetic strip that can easily tear. The cards are more durable and do not have to be replaced every semester. 

“The Ventra U-Pass is a more solid piece of plastic to use,” said Julie Stefanski, 21, a senior, who had dealt with two instances of her U-Pass ripping. She traveled to the CTA office on 567 Lake St., between Clinton and Jefferson streets, to replace the card. “And it’s less likely to be damaged by the machine by excessive use.”

There is a new option to purchase fare passes for the Ventra U-Pass when school is not in session. The card could be used during semester breaks. Throughout the year, college students also can add fares to use Pace buses, a transit for the Chicago-area suburbs.

Ventra distributing U-Passes to students might be a good target for business revenue. Students will be familiar with Ventra and might use it if they decide to commute in Chicago. In my survey posted on Facebook, 29 students said that they would use Ventra after college, due to the poor conditions of the previous U-Pass. Forty-one students answered that they might use Ventra. Six students said that they would not be using Ventra after graduation.

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.