CHICAGO (CBS) – The Chicago Transit Authority’s transition to Ventra may — after months of hiccups — have finally started to work for the majority of CTA riders, but there’s one group Ventra does not seem to be benefiting: low-income Chicagoans seeking jobs.
That’s what a recent survey conducted by the Chicago Jobs Council (CJC) claims.
For low-income Chicagoans seeking jobs and the organizations that help them, the move to Ventra has created multiple problems.
The $0.50 fee on Ventra tickets has caused 54% of the agencies included in the survey to reduce the level of travel assistance they provide, leading them to purchase 1,780 fewer tickets per month, which amounts to 559 fewer individuals obtaining assistance per month.
Survey respondents reported that the transition process to Ventra’s hard cards has led to 550 fewer passes purchased per month and 285 fewer individuals served per month. The extra effort and time it takes to register and load Ventra cards has caused a strain — helping to lead to the drop in purchased passes. The inability to immediately use the $5 refunded card fee and the fact that Ventra cards are able to accrue a negative balance have also contributed to this drop.
Organizations also complained that buying Ventra cards in bulk is both inefficient and expensive, the length of time it takes to order in bulk limiting their ability to help those they serve. Contributing to Ventra’s inefficiencies are the lack of an online option for bulk purchases, the lack of the ability to register and load cards in bulk and the lack of a pick up option.
According to U.S. Census Data, many neighborhoods in the South and West sides have 40 to 60 percent of residents living below the poverty level — a fact that highlights the need for affordable transportation.
For the CJC, affordable transportation is an important issue. It’s their mission is to assist Chicago organizations, civic groups and businesses in helping unemployed individuals living in poverty find employment.
Conducting their online survey from May to June of this year, the CJC collected information from a range of organizations serving low-income job seekers to determine whether the Ventra fare system is working for Chicago’s impoverished. The majority of these organizations work with individuals struggling with homelessness, who have criminal records that make finding a job difficult, or are veterans. Though most of the support goes to help participants gain access to employment opportunities (training, interviews, new job), many also need transit assistance to help maintain stability (securing housing, getting counseling and drug abuse treatment, attending medical appointments) and education (GED or other literacy programs).
In their survey, the CJC offered a number of suggestions to help solve the problems that have risen with the CTA’s transition to Ventra.