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CTA, Pace announce full transition to Ventra by July

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The electronic payment system Ventra will soon be the only way to pay for tickets on two popular Chicago-area transit systems as they begin a planned phase out of magnetic strip cards.

The Chicago Transit Authority and Pace Suburban Bus announced this morning that they would make a full transition to the Ventra payment system in the next few months. Customers will be unable to buy new magnetic strip cards on May 1, and cards will no longer accept monetary reloads by June 1. The phaseout of the old payment system will culminate on July 1, with magnetic payment cards no longer being accepted at either transit agency.

Ventra, which launched in August, encountered its fair share of problems including glitches and system outages that have cost thousands of dollars to the transit agencies. Many of the problems have been resolved, according to CTA President Forrest Claypool, therefore both agencies would resume the full transition, which had been suspended indefinitely in November.

The Ventra payment system, which uses prepaid debit cards or contactless bank cards issued by some banks, is currently used in about 80 percent of all CTA rides and around 60 percent of Pace riders. The commuter rail service Metra plans to include Ventra in its payment options, with a pilot program expected in 2014.