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Ventra still a problem for social service providers

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Transportation is often one of the biggest obstacles to job access for Chicagoans looking for work, and public transit should be a convenient and affordable solution.

Unfortunately, the transition to Ventra has made it more difficult for many low-income residents to ride transit to job training, housing, medical appointments, childcare and other critical destinations.

Three years after the transition started, it’s still more costly and burdensome for social service providers to provide transit assistance to their program participants.

A recent Chicago Jobs Council (CJC) report, The Hidden Cost of Ventra, highlights the key issues and recommends specific changes that would remove unnecessary hurdles for providers and boost ridership and revenue for the transit agencies.

Active Trans supports the policy recommendations in the report and is working with CJC and social service providers to advocate for the changes to be implemented.

The report details the challenges providers face in ordering transit passes in bulk for their program participants. The transit agencies use paper order forms and checks rather than online stores with credit card payment options.

Once a bulk order is placed, providers wait as long as two months to receive the passes while demand for transit assistance from their clients grows.

One service provider laments an instance when she had someone walk for two hours to get to her program because the person’s homeless shelter couldn’t afford to offer transit assistance.

Priority recommendations in the report include:

  1. Eliminate the 50 cent “limited-use media fee” for single-use tickets for social service providers
  2. Facilitate bulk purchases of Ventra tickets online rather than by mail only
  3. Install high-capacity vending machines for in-person bulk purchases at select locations

Chicago social service providers spend more than $1 million on Ventra passes each month. They are already major public transit customers providing a vital public service, and they could generate even more revenue for CTA if the bulk purchasing policies are revised.

It’s a win-win for the providers, agencies and everyone in Chicago who cares about maintaining an equitable and affordable transit system.