Skip

What Fresh El is This?
March 21, 2013 7:55 AM   Subscribe

As part of a public-private partnership intended to defray badly-needed capital improvements, the Chicago Transit Authority will peddle predatory debit cards to its riders.
posted by Iridic (119 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just read about this on Chicagoist. I am displeased. It's the parking meter debacle all over again.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:02 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


CTA head Forrest Claypool in 2006:
It's a view influenced, at least in part, by the teachings of writer-philosopher Ayn Rand, whose picture Claypool keeps on the wall of his county office next to a poster of Martin Luther King Jr.

"Ayn Rand was similar to Martin Luther King in the sense that she taught the power of an individual who stands up to popular convention ... in order to advance a cause which is noble or purposeful," Claypool said. "And that individuals are the ones in society who tend to advance society--not groups, not the collective, not the state."
The perfect kind of Democrat for Rahm "Fuck the UAW" Emanuel, who never met a privatization deal he didn't like.
posted by enn at 8:05 AM on March 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


And I apparently can't even keep my Chicago Card Plus? *grumble*
posted by shakespeherian at 8:07 AM on March 21, 2013


Every time someone calls us a "world-class city" it's in the context of us not having or being able to do something that a "world-class city" should.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 8:13 AM on March 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


I have not studied this, but if I am reading correctly, all of the bad fees are associated with a debit card option that people can choose that would serve as both a transit card and a debit card that can be used for shopping, etc. The non-debit option does not have all the crappy fees.

So, while predatory debit cards stink, they aren't a mandatory feature of the system.

(I don't like predatory debit cards, but I sense that people who are not following the story closely think that they are going to be required to incur these fees, which does not seem to be true.)
posted by Mid at 8:15 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I just hope these Ventra cards have a longer lifespan than the Chicago Cards. I've had at least five of them die on me in the last five years, which is inconvenient to say the least. (Only once has a bus driver made me leave the bus.) The CTA's *supposed* to replace them for free if they're defective, but I've had to shell out $5 for a replacement every time.
posted by ndg at 8:18 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, the primary benefit to the CTA is saving 50 million over 10 years to get out of managing the fare payment system, but the contract with Cubic was for 454 million? Do they mean 50 million a year for ten years or what?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:19 AM on March 21, 2013


My favorite thing about this is how the official talking point from the CTA is that it needs to "get out of the fare-collection business." (You will see this phrase verbatim in essentially every story on the change). This, apparently, is supposed to be self-evidently good, as though "the fare-collection business" were some ridiculous folly wholly unrelated to its core function, like running CTA-themed water parks or something.

But it's not! Fare collection is integral to providing mass transit. How you handle pricing, transfers, and, yes, the physical fare collection, makes a huge difference in the quality of service, and now the CTA is going to sign control over all of that to a company in San Diego with zero accountability to anyone.
posted by enn at 8:20 AM on March 21, 2013 [51 favorites]


My Chicago Card is great, but there are some things I'm unable to buy with it, like an extra-large Hawaiian pizza or four hours of mariachi band. I'm glad Ventra is stepping in to fix this problem.
posted by theodolite at 8:21 AM on March 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


So, while predatory debit cards stink, they aren't a mandatory feature of the system.--
Mid

And that's also not the point. The point is that a public service company wanted to do a public-private partnership deal, and they did this deal by offering a predatory debit card to their customers. They could just as well have offered a non-predatory debit card. They chose the sleazy route. Now we've come to expect nothing less from private companies these days, but we should expect a little more from a public organization. There are plenty of non-sleazy ways to make money. They do have a choice.
posted by eye of newt at 8:22 AM on March 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


while predatory debit cards stink, they aren't a mandatory feature of the system.

They'll be essentially mandatory for those who don't have high-tech credit cards once the system changes to a card based system (if you want the commuter rate). In other words, they target the poorest CTA riders.

From one of the articles:
Some riders will decide not to use any type of Ventra card when it is introduced this summer and CTA and Pace begin to phase out existing fare cards through early 2014. Personal credit cards with the most up-to-date technology, called radio-frequency identification, will also be accepted as fare payment and to purchase multiday passes, and no convenience fees will be charged, officials said.
posted by pokermonk at 8:24 AM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


I have not studied this, but if I am reading correctly, all of the bad fees are associated with a debit card option that people can choose that would serve as both a transit card and a debit card that can be used for shopping, etc. The non-debit option does not have all the crappy fees.

Yeah, but I'm unclear on what that option looks like when you look at The CTA's own website. The card that appears to be a direct replacement for the Chicago Card has a MasterCard logo on it and the word Debit. I can't figure out whether opting out of the predatory debit thing means I'll have to start using the disposable paper tickets, which I am loathe to do.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:25 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the three or four uses of "card" at play here are pretty confusing, which I gather is the entire point.
posted by Iridic at 8:26 AM on March 21, 2013


From the article:

CTA officials said the Ventra prepaid debit account fees are in the middle of the pack and in some cases lower than other debit cards.

That's like saying, "While I'm punching you in the face I want to remind you that there's another guy out there that would punch you in the face even harder so you should be glad I'm only punching at, like, maybe half my strength."
posted by komara at 8:27 AM on March 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


I completely agree that pushing crappy debit cards on the poor is bad. I am additionally interested in how easy/hard it will be to avoid the crappy debit card option. I agree that has not been made totally clear, but the CTA seems to be saying that there will be a pathway to do this.
posted by Mid at 8:27 AM on March 21, 2013


They'll be essentially mandatory for those who don't have high-tech credit cards once the system changes to a card based system (if you want the commuter rate). In other words, they target the poorest CTA riders.

The point is that they're coercing people into switching to Ventra, not coercing people into switching to Ventra debit.
posted by hoyland at 8:28 AM on March 21, 2013


I just heard about Oakland's new city ID card which doubles as a debit card with outrageous fees (like $0.75 per purchase and a $2.99 monthly fee). So, I guess this is a thing now?
posted by mhum at 8:28 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also curious as to how long Ventra will be in place before the price per ride jumps to $14.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:30 AM on March 21, 2013


I am additionally interested in how easy/hard it will be to avoid the crappy debit card option.

I understood the article to mean that your card had two balances, a fare balance and a debit balance. So presumably one would just not carry a debit balance. (You'd probably have to never have put debit money on there to be safe.)

What is interesting is that Japan has cards like this, but, as I understand it, it's one pool of money, there aren't stray fees and it's all owned by whatever rail company. But, of course, Japanese rail companies are in all manner of businesses on top of trains.
posted by hoyland at 8:30 AM on March 21, 2013


disposable paper tickets

You mean the plastic fare cards? This sent me back in time when transfers were literally paper.
posted by marimeko at 8:30 AM on March 21, 2013


Mid, I think the only pathway is to (a) have an existing RFID credit card (none of the several Chicago banks I've banked with have offered this as an option; probably it is more common at big national banks) or (b) get the debit card, but don't put any money on the "debit" part, just use it for CTA stuff. I think that's kind of a crappy option. People are going to end up using it, even when better options are available, because they'll already have it because it is necessary to get around on the CTA.
posted by enn at 8:30 AM on March 21, 2013


The lesson here is that the Kardashian sisters should have partnered up with up a metropolitan transit system.
posted by Iridic at 8:30 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also curious as to how long Ventra will be in place before the price per ride jumps to $14.

Hey, but on the upside it might promote more bicycle ridership!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:34 AM on March 21, 2013


As shakespeherian sort of mentions... Some of the articles on this subject mention a "transit-only card" which sounds like it ought to be just like the current Chicago Card. But if you go to the CTA and Ventra websites, they don't seem to mention it, everything seems to be described as either the debit card or the individual tickets. I don't know if they're just trying to downplay it to try and coerce more folks into the fee-laden debit option, or if it doesn't really exist.

Hiding in the details is the fact that if you have a RFID chipped credit or debit card, you can link that to a Ventra account and avoid all these fees. I looked and my everyday Chase debit card does have the RFID symbol on it, so I may go that route.
posted by dnash at 8:34 AM on March 21, 2013


You mean the plastic fare cards? This sent me back in time when transfers were literally paper.

The CTA site calls the Ventra ones paper.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:35 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's so weird the direction that Chicago is going in, not wanting to run or administer any part of its own city services. Parking meters got outsourced, schools are in the process of getting outsourced (shutting down public schools and transferring kids to private charter schools), and now this. Friggin Ayn Rand. I don't think it's so horrifying for a city to have basic services running out of its own buildings by its own employees.
posted by bleep at 8:35 AM on March 21, 2013 [19 favorites]


And of course every time something gets outsourced it's a big payday for the city and a huge loss for the most vulnerable residents. I mean, I get why - the city is valuable and anything that's valuable gets sold. It still boggles the mind.
posted by bleep at 8:37 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Normally I'm not a big title person, but +10 to Iridic for this one.

If my station is any indication, this whole Ventra thing is just an excuse to use up extra "out of service" stickers.
posted by phunniemee at 8:38 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


People are going to end up using it, even when better options are available, because they'll already have it because it is necessary to get around on the CTA.

I'm kind of of two minds about this. On the one hand, cities shouldn't be getting into the sleazy pre-paid debit card business, which is only one step up from the payday loan business. On the other hand, people aren't stupid. People who are unbanked know they're getting screwed by payday loans and pre-paid debit cards. The reason you'd pay the fees on the Oakland debit card isn't that you don't know any better, it's that you think it keeps your money more secure than dealing primarily in cash or pre-paid cards and that security is worth the extra cost. Same here, I think. The issue is a government agency getting into this business, not that people are going to end up using it (which low-income people won't do just for convenience).
posted by hoyland at 8:39 AM on March 21, 2013


Yes, it's been really hard to get information about the transit-only card (e.g. the FARE CARD). I want a fare card, not a credit card to use as a fare card. I've said this in lots of conversations about this new system and I'm saying it again:

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES do I want to be FLASHING MY CREDIT/DEBIT CARD around to get on the bus. Using my credit/debit card as a fare card means keeping my credit card in a pocket, or the exterior pocket of my purse, or fishing my wallet out of my purse to get onto the bus. It means constantly transferring my CREDIT CARD from its secure place in the interior of my wallet in the interior of my bag to somewhere I can reach it three times quickly to get from my house to my destination.

Using a credit card as a fare card means I will no longer have it available to give a house guest to use while I'm biking to & from work. Or to the house/cat sitter while I'm out of town. Or to my sister when she can't find hers and needs to go somewhere.

We've had three credit card numbers compromised in the last six months--including one that was printed as a counterfeit card and used in a number of "card presented to merchant" frauds. It's a pain in the ass to go through replacing one--being without credit cards for days, having the credit card issuer trigger-happy with the holds, having to deal with getting charges reversed.

It's not that I think using a credit card as a fare card will cause the number to be stolen (I don't really know. maybe it will; maybe it won't) It's that I handle my farecard significantly more causally than my credit cards, for rational reasons.

There seems to be some vague suggestion that I don't have to use a Ventra credit/debit card--that I can just buy a new fare card (which, of course, has fees if I don't use it often enough), but I haven't seen a clear statement from the CTA that there is a fare-card-only fare card.

God, I love you Chicago, with all sorts of firey passion but, dear god, the people running your life are fucking out to get you.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:51 AM on March 21, 2013 [19 favorites]


"Predatory debit cards"

Is that a term of art? Or just inappropriate editorializing? I'm assuming it's the latter.

What's the purpose of this post other than to raise outrage? Can there be a rational discussion of whether this is a good decision or not when you have framed the discussion as being either for or against a predatory action?
posted by dios at 8:52 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Which is to say, even if I don't have to use predatory MetaBank's Ventra credit/debit card, I don't want to use a credit/debit card as a fare card. Ever. No matter who issues it.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:53 AM on March 21, 2013


Also, the verb choice of "peddling" probably has a negative connotation.
posted by dios at 8:54 AM on March 21, 2013


Disputing the charges could get expensive, too. Card owners are subject to a $10-per-hour "Account Research Fee.'' That's on top of a $2 fee for making a phone call to Ventra's customer service center, which is classified as an "Operator Assisted Telephone Inquiry.''

The fuck?

Not only are you getting fucked up front, you get the added bonus of a Louisville Slugger to the back of the head. This truly is a City That Works! Between this, the parking meter shit and red light cameras we're quickly becoming indentured servants to this shit-hole. The nickel and diming days are long gone. We're talking tens and twenties here folks. Unbelievable (but not really).
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:07 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's true, Dios, that I may have portrayed the CTA's decision (which is, again, to enter the debit card business and then charge fees for inquiry, disputation, inactivity, reloading, ATM withdrawals, and cancellation at rates that its presumable low-income target market can ill-afford) in a less than positive light.

To be clear: the CTA is not literally predatory. It will not cull out the weakest Chicagoans, pull them down, and eat them. It will only attempt to maneuver them into poor financial decisions for its own profit.

The CTA will also not wander canting and mewling from door to door, "peddling" the cards out of a bindle. It will only offer them amidst a number of, as others in this thread have attested, confusing and unattractive options, to people who are just trying to ride the goddamn train.
posted by Iridic at 9:13 AM on March 21, 2013 [36 favorites]


like an extra-large Hawaiian pizza or four hours of mariachi band.

I have encountered both these things on the CTA, so maybe this is not such a bad idea.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:15 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Using a credit card as a fare card means I will no longer have it available to give a house guest to use while I'm biking to & from work. Or to the house/cat sitter while I'm out of town. Or to my sister when she can't find hers and needs to go somewhere.

You don't have it available for these purposes today. This is what authorized-user cards are for.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:16 AM on March 21, 2013


You don't have it available for these purposes today.

Huh? Sure you do. What are you talking about?
posted by enn at 9:18 AM on March 21, 2013


"Ayn Rand was similar to Martin Luther King in the sense that she taught the power of an individual who stands up to popular convention ... in order to advance a cause which is noble or purposeful," Claypool said. "And that individuals are the ones in society who tend to advance society--not groups, not the collective, not the state."

This just about has to take the biscuit as "dishonest use of MLK's name", since of course if there were ever people who cared deeply about community, solidarity, mutuality, the whole idea of the beloved community, it was people like King, Baldwin, Parks, Rustin and in general the people doing radical civil rights organizing. Those were not "individuals who stood up"; those were people who worked very consciously and intentionally as a community. Although I expect that listening to this clown would make some of them consider a brief veer away from non-violence.
posted by Frowner at 9:19 AM on March 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


Huh? Sure you do. What are you talking about?

You can get them a card with their name on it, but having to have the card with your name on it with you is not a big deal, as your neighbor isn't allowed to use that physical card. That's what authorized-user cards are for; they grant other people access to your account.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:23 AM on March 21, 2013


You mean the plastic fare cards? This sent me back in time when transfers were literally paper.

Ahaahaha.

/torontonian
posted by saturday_morning at 9:27 AM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Don't worry, your credit card won't be compromised; it's not as if Chicago has any organized crime groups that would be interested in that sort of thing.

Disputing the charges could get expensive, too. Card owners are subject to a $10-per-hour "Account Research Fee.'' That's on top of a $2 fee for making a phone call to Ventra's customer service center, which is classified as an "Operator Assisted Telephone Inquiry.''

Hypothetical situation: Crime Org starts a credit card business, and steals from its own clients bit by bit here and there. To get more clients, Org finagles a deal to make its cards essentially mandatory. To cover up for the rampant fraud, Org makes sure that the aforementioned deal is for something where clients are constantly flashing their card around where it could be compromised by sight alone. To cap it all off, Org charges clients to report fraud--and probably upsells them into some bullshit monthly "fraud insurance" fee when they sign up, from which Org can pay off the clients who do complain.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:34 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Screw this, where's my Octopus card?
posted by roquetuen at 9:38 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't worry, your credit card won't be compromised; it's not as if Chicago has any organized crime groups that would be interested in that sort of thing.

Sys Rq, writing direct from 1929.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:41 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not following you, one more. . . .. If I have to literally give my credit card to someone else so they can use it as a bus pass (which they will be able to do without proving their name is on it), I do not have my credit card in my wallet for use while the other person is using it as a bus pass.

And my bank isn't going to give me a spare credit card without adding an authorized user to my account. And who will I add as an authorized user to my account? "Houseguest"? Which brings me back to the whole "I treat my fare card more casually than I treat my credit cards." for (obviously, "what I believe are") rational reasons. I don't want a credit card that acts as a fare card; I want a fare card.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:45 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can get them a card with their name on it, but having to have the card with your name on it with you is not a big deal, as your neighbor isn't allowed to use that physical card. That's what authorized-user cards are for; they grant other people access to your account.

OK, but the current CTA cards don't have anyone's name on them. You can just give or lend them to somebody, like cash. There is no need to have a separate card issued in their name or to have them added as an authorized user of the card in your name, because no such card exists.
posted by enn at 9:46 AM on March 21, 2013


This SUCKS.
posted by tzikeh at 9:48 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right, as enn says, with the current fare card, I can just hand lend it to someone, who can use it (of course, I can't use while I've leant it to someone, but it's just my fare card. I'm not going to need it if I'm biking, unless I run into mechanical trouble, in which case, I have emergency cab fare). If I drop it, anyone who picks it up can use it (until I realize I've dropped it and cancel it). It's just a fare card.

My credit card is not like this. I need it at times other than getting on and off the bus. And, among other things, if I drop a credit-card-as-fare-card, which I do sometimes with the fare card, and someone else picks it up, it's a bigger problem than losing the $10 balance on my fare card.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:52 AM on March 21, 2013


Sys Rq, writing direct from 1929.

Indeed.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:53 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can just give or lend them to somebody, like cash.

Right, exactly my point. Credit cards aren't like this, so there's no functionality lost from not allowing other people to use a credit card that doesn't belong to them.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:55 AM on March 21, 2013


To be clear: the CTA is not literally predatory. It will not cull out the weakest Chicagoans, pull them down, and eat them. It will only attempt to maneuver them into poor financial decisions for its own profit.

Nice snark, but I don't get from the linked material how the card is even figuratively "predatory." There are various fees associated with the card, and from what your own links suggest those fees are pretty much in the middle of the pack of industry norms for debit cards. To call it a "predatory" debit card suggests that some particular, egregious outrage is being perpetrated here, but the facts of the story don't seem to back that up. It appears to be a run-of-the-mill debit card.
posted by yoink at 9:56 AM on March 21, 2013


You can just give or lend them to somebody, like cash.

Right, exactly my point. Credit cards aren't like this, so there's no functionality lost from not allowing other people to use a credit card that doesn't belong to them.

Sure there is, right now, I lend people my fare card all the time, as I often don't need it and they do. I lose the functionality of my fare card if I can't have a fare card and must instead use a credit card as a fare card.

Where are we talking past each other?
posted by crush-onastick at 9:58 AM on March 21, 2013


Streetsblog Chicago has done some good reporting on this, and it seems like they actually went from "What the heck is this?" to "Maybe this isn't so bad" over time. (And I know the guys doing most of the reporting there and they are not ones to be cowed by anyone - I trust they are coming to this conclusion on their own.

That said, the information about this switch has been horribly deficient, being leaked out in drips and drabs without decent explanations about what this means. When I first heard about it, all the complaints were about Ventra having a terrible BBB rating. I want to hear, FROM THE CTA DIRECTLY an easy to understand explanation of each option available to riders, what each option costs, and maybe how or why this is better than the current system. The fact that Streetsblog has the best explanation I've seen of it so far is a real problem.

This is going to be super confusing (as would any switch) to users when it first comes out. Anyone who rides public transit knows that there are a lot of low-information users who either can't speak english, or don't read transportation blogs or only get tidbits of information from the evening news here and there, who are going to be really confused the first day they get on a bus and it costs them $3 or whatever. Hell, I'm on the internet all day and a huge transportation and urban planning nerd and STILL am kinda confused about what this means for me. The CTA needs to do a much better job of getting the word out about the change. How about using some of the banner ad space on the buses and trains? All I've seen are tiny "coming soon" stickers on the new scanners.
posted by misskaz at 10:01 AM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


There are various fees associated with the card, and from what your own links suggest those fees are pretty much in the middle of the pack of industry norms for debit cards.

My debit card has no fees. I have never paid a bank fee in my entire life, because that is straight bullshit. If my debit card-issuing bank attempts to drop a fee on me, I give them hella static because I have other options, and they know it.

Offering a card with a fee and not having options* for a vital service that many, many people rely on is predatory. Not making every single possible fee extraordinarily clear is predatory.

*I haven't had a chance to read through all the articles yet, but based on the comments here this seems to be the case. If I am mistaken, please please correct me.
posted by phunniemee at 10:02 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


yoink: Metabank is the bank which will issue Ventra branding credit/debit cards for people who don't have existing debit/credit cards which will work with the system. It is a banking institution which has previously been fined and ordered by federal bank regulators to halt use of the lending program associated with some pre-paid MetaBank debit cards for engaging in deceptive trade practices. It has a rather shady history.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:03 AM on March 21, 2013


Where are we talking past each other?

I thought you were talking about not being able to lend people your credit card, not your fare card. Oops.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:03 AM on March 21, 2013


a lot of low-information users who either can't speak english

This is an extremely good point, and I would like to add that when the beginning of 2013 fare increase happened, all of the informational signs posted at my station (Kedzie Pink) in a neighborhood that is predominantly Mexican where the vast majority of the population speaks and reads Spanish only were in Polish. I couldn't even find one in English. WTF is that, CTA?
posted by phunniemee at 10:05 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also fun
posted by shakespeherian at 10:08 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also think there is a confusion about the difference between a debit card connected to your bank account, which typically has no or few fees associated with it, and a prepaid debit card. The Ventra debit card option that can be added to the transit card is the latter. The prepaid cards are typically used by lower income populations who don't have checking accounts, and having all kinds of shitty fees associated with them is par for the course.

Just because those fees are common doesn't make them good, and certainly we should consider whether something like that should come from a government entity. We wouldn't want the City of Chicago getting into the payday loan business either.
posted by misskaz at 10:17 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is an extremely good point, and I would like to add that when the beginning of 2013 fare increase happened, all of the informational signs posted at my station (Kedzie Pink) in a neighborhood that is predominantly Mexican where the vast majority of the population speaks and reads Spanish only were in Polish. I couldn't even find one in English. WTF is that, CTA?

CTA probably hasn't updated their ethnicity maps since 1930
posted by theodolite at 10:19 AM on March 21, 2013


all of the informational signs posted at my station (Kedzie Pink) in a neighborhood that is predominantly Mexican where the vast majority of the population speaks and reads Spanish only were in Polish. I couldn't even find one in English. WTF is that, CTA?

Really, they should just look at which languages "Cold Beer" is written in under the Old Style signs in the neighborhood, and make sure each are represented.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:20 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


A priori, I'd expect that "CTA needs to get out of the fare-collection business" means "our rich friends want the fare collection business for themselves", enn.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:22 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


shakes: I tweeted that story and CTA replied: "Ventra is new fare sys+card offering name, not a company; report was re: bank behind opt'l debit fnctn & was mis-rated—now has B+." which I can't quite parse.

I imagine Metabank's ratings have improved since their run-in with regulators, but it can't possibly have been the best choice.

And boyhowdy are kaz & phunnie right about the lack of good information. I've also gotten the clearest information from streetsblog, but I am still really unclear about the fare-card-only fare card option.

Streetsblog says "A new plastic, reloadable card. At the Ventra machines, you will pay a $5 fee for this card (with cash or credit/debit). Do not discard it! The fee will be returned to you in the form of a cash balance when you register the card (this is a one-time fee). Registration also protects your investment in case the Ventra Card is lost or stolen. You can apply a 1-day or multi-day pass to the card after registration at train stations and retail outlets with cash or credit/debit."

Apparently, this mean the "fare card only" option is at most a 7-day pass (? or maybe 30-day? I don't know). Which is not a substitute for the current pay per use card which lets me put $50 on the card and use it until my balance drops below $10, at which time I add more.

Streetsblog writes: "I have a Chicago Card Plus, and I pay per ride instead of having the 30-day pass option. If my bike breaks down and it’s going to take a bike shop five days to fix it, I’ll log in to my Ventra account and apply a 5-day pass. The next time I use my Ventra account – via a Ventra Card or my bank card – the CTA will see that I have a pass and use that to pay my fare instead of my cash balance."

Well, that's fine if you only pay per ride during recognizable (if not predictable) discrete blocks of time. What about people who pay per ride unpredictably and not in discrete blocks of time? Like you expected to carpool home from work, but your carpooling friend had to leave early for a sick kid? Or you planned to walk home from the hair salon, but now it's sleeting? Or you work from home and sometimes you meet friends for drinks after work or need to run downtown for a meeting? Or you don't ride the CTA every day because you live in Hinsdale and you sometimes come into the city on the Metra to visit your grandkids and don't want to take cabs?

Or any other reason that you can't predict when you'll need your fare card or don't expect to need it for more than this one trip today without knowing when you'll use it again? I cannot possibly be the only person who pays per ride somewhat randomly.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:30 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


My debit card has no fees. I have never paid a bank fee in my entire life, because that is straight bullshit. If my debit card-issuing bank attempts to drop a fee on me, I give them hella static because I have other options, and they know it.

Yes, because your debit card came from a bank. The world of bank-issued debit cards and the world of pre-paid debit cards are totally different. yoink is talking about pre-paid debit cards exclusively. Which we can take it as read are exploiting people without bank accounts, which alters the context a little.
posted by hoyland at 10:31 AM on March 21, 2013


This thread is like the angriest Chicago meetup ever. And I love it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:34 AM on March 21, 2013 [17 favorites]


NOBODY TELL NEW YORK ABOUT THIS.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:38 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


It appears to be a run-of-the-mill debit card.

A run-of-the-mill prepaid debit card. Prepaid debit cards, for the most part, are nothing if not predatory. This isn't journalism 101 where all sides must be given equal space, even if their arguments are specious or their positions untenable. The editorializing isn't that bad considering how awful this privatization of the fare system is shaping up to be.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:44 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am, like the rest of everyone here, so confused about this.

The Streetsblog post says that there will be two "purses" (see last paragraph), a "transit purse" and a "retail purse," and you can choose to "activate" the credit/debit functions of the card. So it sounds like if you, like me, only want to use it for transit, you would:

- Not activate it as a credit/debit card
- Not load any money into the "retail purse"

There is also this chart from the Chicago Tribune which compares "what you pay now" to how you would pay with Ventra. (In a possibly bad sign, I can't actually load the original PDF -- this is a Google cache.)

But I'm not holding my breath here, given the remarkable paucity of details.
posted by andrewesque at 10:45 AM on March 21, 2013


There is also this chart from the Chicago Tribune which compares "what you pay now" to how you would pay with Ventra. (In a possibly bad sign, I can't actually load the original PDF -- this is a Google cache.)

So, according to that, base fares are going up if you don't buy passes. What a crock.

Just three months ago the Trib reported that: "The CTA base fare will remain $2.25, except for Blue Line riders who pay with cash or buy a ticket from a machine to depart from O'Hare International Airport. "

What they should have said is "the base fare will stay the same until Ventra is implemented, at which point, the CTA will continue to gouge the poorest of its users."

Yay, paper tickets for 75 cents more! It's like this city is an SUV with a drunk driver at the wheel.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:51 AM on March 21, 2013


Chicago, I love you, but you're bringing me down.
posted by daniel striped tiger at 10:54 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


On the upside: this map.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:58 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


They'll be essentially mandatory for those who don't have high-tech credit cards once the system changes to a card based system (if you want the commuter rate). In other words, they target the poorest CTA riders.
I was going to say, is this the sort of thing where they're screwing over all of us, or just screwing over the underclass? Sounds like it's the latter. From the article:
While the companies are hopeful that commuters who have the MasterCard debit account incorporated into their Ventra card will use the card every time they make a purchase, there doesn't seem to be any marginal value added for commuters who already own credit or debit cards to obtain a Ventra card. Those personal credit or debit cards will be accepted for transit fares without the possibility of incurring any convenience fees, officials said.
I use the Chicago Card Plus wired to my debit card to automatically take $10 out of my account and reload it whenever I'm below a certain threshold on my CTA account. (I bike year-round and only use the CTA if it's sub-freezing or raining heavily.) If I am reading this correctly, those of us with debit and/or credit cards won't have to really change much, right? Just register with Ventra, wire it to your existing card, and swap your Chicago Card for a Ventra card? Is that how the shell game works, or am I missing something?

I hope these rat bastards don't get away with this.
posted by deathpanels at 11:03 AM on March 21, 2013


That's how I'm taking it: you can use the Ventra Card like the Chicago Plus and not activate the debit feature at all.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 11:06 AM on March 21, 2013


Sadly, I would expect nothing else from the CTA. The Chicago Card Plus has its issues out on the fringes of operations, too.

I moved out of Chicago a few years ago. During that time my CCP expired and they sent a new one. Not living in Chicago, it was never used.

I moved back to Chicago last week. Before flying into town, I tried to update my credit card that was linked to the card (the old one had long expired) so I could get right back into the swing of things. The customer service webpage said that account info couldn't be modified until I had confirmed reciept of the card, by using it.

So I get to O'Hare, use my new CCP, and within an hour get an e-mail that my Chicago Card Plus had been cancelled. Using the card triggered a reload, which naturally was rejected since it tried to pull from an expired credit card, which they wouldn't let me update until I used the card.

And of course, according to two customer service agents, a cancellation is an ultimate action. I now have to get a new Chicago Card Plus. Which will be obsoleted by the summer.

Man, I hope the moving van gets here with my bike soon.
posted by hwyengr at 11:07 AM on March 21, 2013


actually, deathpanels, I'm not sure it will work that way. There does not seem to be a pay-per-use option with the new card, regardless of whether you activate the debit function. There only appears to be a "purchase a multi-day pass" option. Which I ranted about a few comments above.

Like you, I bike commute (mostly) and my husband works from home. Both of us have random, unpredictable uses of our pay per use CTA cards which multi-day passes don't suit.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:10 AM on March 21, 2013


According to the CTA website:

Using Ventra Cards, you can either pay per ride (at no additional cost) or load unlimited-ride passes in 1-day, 3-day, 7-day and 30-day increments).
posted by theuninvitedguest at 11:15 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe by the time they're slated to totally phase out the Chicago Card Plus (2014), this whole Ventra thing will have collapsed on itself and I get to keep on keepin' on. Maybe. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.


In theory, if you want the pay-per-use option, couldn't you get a brand new RFID credit card and use it only for transit and nothing else? Obviously not ideal, but at least that way if it ever got used for something other than transit you'd be able to tell pretty immediately. I've never lost my Chicago Card, so the fear of actually losing the credit card is pretty low, but still.

This sucks.
posted by phunniemee at 11:15 AM on March 21, 2013


actually, deathpanels, I'm not sure it will work that way. There does not seem to be a pay-per-use option with the new card, regardless of whether you activate the debit function. There only appears to be a "purchase a multi-day pass" option. Which I ranted about a few comments above.

That's not what it appears from andrewesque's PDF. The blog he linked to also says you'd be able to carry a pass and stored value for fares simultaneously. (This is currently possible in Minneapolis and there is no debit card angle here.)
posted by hoyland at 11:17 AM on March 21, 2013


Yeah, I'm fairly certain you can still do the "load up an amount and pay per use" thing. That said, if we - generally middle class, educated, well-informed people - are this confused... it means CTA is doing a bad job of explaining the new system.
posted by misskaz at 11:21 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


That said, if we - generally middle class, educated, well-informed people - are this confused... it means CTA is doing a bad job of explaining the new system.

I'd agree, though I think there's some stunningly poor reading comprehension being displayed in this thread.
posted by hoyland at 11:22 AM on March 21, 2013


this whole Ventra thing will have collapsed on itself

I hope so. I reluctantly accepted everything the other day when I first heard what Ventra was about. Reading this thread, though, I'm hoping rider response is overwhelmingly negative. Maybe enough to change something.
posted by marimeko at 11:29 AM on March 21, 2013


The more I think about the debit card thing, the more disappointed I am. I understand the differences between a prepaid debit card vs. one connected to a bank account, and the nature of the former includes various fees that back account customers don't have to worry about. I understand that those fees are how the industry makes profit, and public-private partnerships don't work if the private sector doesn't make some money off the arrangement.

My disappointment is that the CTA had an opportunity to provide a service for their low income and disadvantaged users. They could have negotiated for the debit card portion to have industry-leading low fees and good terms, allowing Ventra/MetaBank to still make money while giving folks that already use prepaid cards a BETTER option. Instead they just offer a "middle of the pack" service. So people already being gouged by pre-paid debit card fees aren't any better off, and there's a chance that people that have avoided such cards for now will be paying fees they didn't before.

Basically, CTA is saving $5 million a year on the backs of their low income users, and that pretty much sucks.
posted by misskaz at 11:39 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whoever designed this program and wrote the advertising copy should have taken for granted that few people can or will read anything and then simplified stuff accordingly. There's no reason this should be so complicated as to be incomprehensible. I also figured the pre-paid debit feature was optional.

Also, not all banks issue RFID debit cards and I'm sure as shit not opening a new Bank of America account or switching over just to deal with their bullshit and their insane fees just to get to work.
posted by bleep at 12:13 PM on March 21, 2013


I wrote to the CTA and linked to this thread, to show them just how confused/angry everyone is about this system. This is the e-mail I received:

Thank you for your comments. CTA is planning an extensive outreach and education campaign in the coming weeks to inform CTA customers about all the features of the Ventra fare payment system, including the optional prepaid debit card feature. CTA will have representatives in communities throughout Chicago to provide information on the new system and how it works.

More information can be found at the following link:

http://www.transitchicago.com/ventra/

We appreciate and value your comments.

posted by theuninvitedguest at 12:55 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


CTA will have representatives in communities throughout Chicago to provide information on the new system and how it works.

I swear to fucking god if they put up Polish signs in my neighborhood for this one, too, I'm going to cut a bitch. They had better send a Spanish-speaking person into my neighborhood on foot to explain this to people.

Hell, I have the contacts to get them a space to hold a meeting and everything.
posted by phunniemee at 1:11 PM on March 21, 2013


Taking a completely different approach, there's a Portland company called GlobeSherpa developing a completely mobile-driven approach. I was at a conference last fall and saw a demonstration of the TransitSherpa system, which was pretty slick.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:13 PM on March 21, 2013


> What Fresh El is This?

...offers Iridic the low bow usually reserved for four-engine pilots.
posted by jfuller at 1:23 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


a completely mobile-driven approach

I'm not particularly interested in a fare-payment system that I have to pay $60 a month to use.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:24 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


seconding the kudos for the title!
posted by runincircles at 1:29 PM on March 21, 2013


Supposedly the Ventra system is supposed to allow people to start using their phone as a payment method in the future, but I'm not sure how well this jives with the CPD constantly telling people to put away their "$500 computers" if they don't want them to be stolen.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 1:30 PM on March 21, 2013


So, does anyone know what problems of the Chicago Card & Chicago Card Plus system this switch is intended to solve? Is it entirely just to outsource maintenance of the fare card system? Is it because the Chicago Card/Plus system could not be changed to allow people to use their credit/debit cards?

From my perspective (which is fairly narrow, admittedly), the Chicago Card/Plus system worked extremely well and was such an amazing improvement from the old system (as a side note, I was telling someone about buying L tokens the other night and they did not believe that tokens were still in use in my lifetime). It seems to me that the only thing this system adds (other than the ability to use a credit/debit card, which I fear will become a requirement) is to allow the CTA/Metabank

--> to penalize people who use the card infrequently (fining you for holding an unused balance after 18 months)
--> to charge people to research uses of their card/dispute uses of their card
--> to charge people who use the internet to add funds to the card (rather than, you know, be forced to use their credit card as a fare card. yes that really bothers me)
--> collect the $5 card purchase fee from tourists who have minimal information about the system and just buy a card as a multiday pass while they are in town
--> to charge people to refund the balance on their card

and, it's been speculated above,
--> set the stage for using phones as a fare card (see some of my objections about using my credit card as a fare card, as well as the CPD's concern for our phones and safety from those who would mug us for our phones, although I guess I'd be less worried about using my smartphone than my credit card, but HELLO LOTS OF POOR/WORKING CLASS/NON WELL OFF PEOPLE not having smartphones).

How does this serve the rider in any way shape or form? What problem for current CTA users is this solving? If outsourcing is going to save so much money, is it necessary to switch systems?
posted by crush-onastick at 1:40 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, does anyone know what problems of the Chicago Card & Chicago Card Plus system this switch is intended to solve?

If I had to guess, nobody was paying a concession fee to CTA for the Chicago Card system.
posted by hwyengr at 2:18 PM on March 21, 2013


So, does anyone know what problems of the Chicago Card & Chicago Card Plus system this switch is intended to solve?

Based on what I've read, this is intended to solve the problem of not being able to use the same fare system for both Pace and the CTA.
posted by phunniemee at 2:23 PM on March 21, 2013


I believe you can already use Chicago Cards (or maybe only Chicago Cards Plus) on Pace. You can't use them on Metra, however, and there is now a mandate in place that the CTA/Pace/Metra have to implement a single fare card within a couple years.

However, (a) Ventra will not work on Metra right away anyway, and (b) it's not clear to me why Ventra is more compatible with Metra than the existing Chicago Card Plus.
posted by enn at 2:39 PM on March 21, 2013


I haven't heard a thing about Metra planning to change its olde tymme guy-with-CONDUCTOR-hat-and-hole-punch system. Do you have a link about that?
posted by theodolite at 2:54 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Last I read Metra had no plans to work with Ventra, since contra CTA and Pace, Metra is pay-by-distance rather than pay-per-ride and they were saying there was no way to integrate the two systems.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:06 PM on March 21, 2013


However, (a) Ventra will not work on Metra right away anyway, and (b) it's not clear to me why Ventra is more compatible with Metra than the existing Chicago Card Plus.

So it's not actually totally obvious that you could convert the Chicago Card system to handle both the CTA fare structure and Metra's fare structure. Right now, Chicago Card Plus can't (I don't think) simultaneously have stored value and a pass. Minneapolis transitioned to allowing both basically without fanfare and it's such an obvious feature that part of me wonders if there's a technical consideration making that (never mind Metra) not possible with the Chicago Card Plus. The Chicago Card system is just that much older than the Minneapolis system that it could make a difference.

The problem of multiple fare structures on one card is well solved. The Clipper Card in the Bay Area covers 8 transit agencies, some of which use a per-ride structure and some of which use a zone or distance-based fare structure. But this is a relatively recent development (I seriously never saw a Translink card, which was the predecessor, and no one seemed to use them at all until Clipper worked on BART), so again there may be some technical consideration not allowing it to be applied directly onto the existing Chicago Card system.

But, really, the CTA probably just sees it as financially advantageous.

theodolite, here's a mention of Metra at the bottom of a Tribune article.
posted by hoyland at 3:09 PM on March 21, 2013


It would be cool if the Metra conductors had a hand-held thing to read ChicagoCards with. But I'm afraid one more heavy thing on those poor guys' belts will make their pants fall down.
posted by bleep at 3:15 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here is an article about the move toward a single regional fare system:
Last July, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation giving the RTA until 2015 to develop a fare card usable on all three transit systems....

Since RTA is grappling with very different fare models—for example, Metra fares are distance-based while CTA and Pace fares are fixed—months of surveys and analysis are required to determine ridership and revenue impacts.

“It’s a complicated issue, obviously, because the fare systems for the three agencies are different,” Metaxatos said. “They have to agree how the revenue will be shared and develop an instrument that will accommodate their agreement.”

The regional fare model will be built in modular fashion, with stand-alone CTA, Metra, Pace and interagency modules, which will allow each service board to use its stand-alone module for internal budgeting and planning.
I don't know to what extent Ventra is really meant to address the unified fare problem, to what extent the unified fare mandate is being used as an excuse to push a system that the CTA wants for other reasons, or to what extent they're just unrelated to one another, but a single fare-collection system is definitely on the radar over the next several years.
posted by enn at 3:23 PM on March 21, 2013


So Minneapolis has a bee in its bonnet about ticket control. The looked at any number of German cities and decided to build the light rail without fare gates. But they don't seem to believe everyone else's calculations about how much ticket control you need to do because they seem to do it far more than anywhere else. The cops have a cell phone that is somehow equipped to do ticket control. Not a smartphone (which is what Amtrak is using these days for fare collection), but something that looks like a crappy clamshell flip phone. I have no idea if it's actually a phone that's been modified or a purpose-built device. But it's far smaller than a Metra conductor's ticket pad, say.
posted by hoyland at 3:25 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the opposite of what the behavioural economists who wrote Nudge were hoping for. Instead of Nudge we get Pickpocket.
posted by srboisvert at 5:09 PM on March 21, 2013


Although the weird thing about Metra is that monthly tickets just have to get looked at - greatly reducing how much reaching and doing has to get done for each passenger on what are mostly double decker trains. They'd have to keep the idea of that in place somehow to not slow the process down significantly.
posted by bleep at 5:43 PM on March 21, 2013


Leaving aside all the valid and important criticism of CTA's choices in this case, does anyone happen to know of a good summary of who the customers actually are for prepaid debit cards and what they use them for? A cursory search turns up surprisingly little that smells like legit research and includes actual data from either interviews or transaction statistics.

As someone who hasn't had close friends among the unbanked for a long time, the most compelling reasons I can come think up to explain debit cards are that they allow people without bank accounts or credit to (1) buy things and pay bills online (2) rent hotel rooms, cars, and other things for which a card deposit is expected. Clearly those are really important for some people. But, are there actually enough users to support such a large industry? I'd naively expect a lot of the people who need to make either kind of transaction would also have the resources to obtain a bank account or credit card.

If I had cash in my pocket, and you offered to put it on a card for free with no transaction costs at all. . . I'd keep the cash. To me, it's less useful on a card. The idea that I'd pay *you* to loan you money and turn my cash into something less useful seems absurd. But, that must be different for the people who use these cards, or they wouldn't do it.

Is the advantage that your friends and relatives don't know how much you have on the card, so they don't expect you to share? Is there some prestige associated with making the transaction using a card instead of cash? Am I radically underestimating how many people without bank accounts want to buy things online?
posted by eotvos at 7:50 PM on March 21, 2013


Streetsblog writes: "I have a Chicago Card Plus, and I pay per ride instead of having the 30-day pass option. If my bike breaks down and it’s going to take a bike shop five days to fix it, I’ll log in to my Ventra account and apply a 5-day pass. The next time I use my Ventra account – via a Ventra Card or my bank card – the CTA will see that I have a pass and use that to pay my fare instead of my cash balance."

Well, that's fine if you only pay per ride during recognizable (if not predictable) discrete blocks of time. What about people who pay per ride unpredictably and not in discrete blocks of time? Like you expected to carpool home from work, but your carpooling friend had to leave early for a sick kid? Or you planned to walk home from the hair salon, but now it's sleeting? Or you work from home and sometimes you meet friends for drinks after work or need to run downtown for a meeting? Or you don't ride the CTA every day because you live in Hinsdale and you sometimes come into the city on the Metra to visit your grandkids and don't want to take cabs?

Or any other reason that you can't predict when you'll need your fare card or don't expect to need it for more than this one trip today without knowing when you'll use it again? I cannot possibly be the only person who pays per ride somewhat randomly.


Because they described that as an extra feature in addition to the cash balance (pay-per-ride) option, I am ASSUMING (VERY OPTIMISTICALLY) that this means you will have the same sporadic reload Chicago Card Plus functionality, but you can also buy a 1, 3, 7 &c. day pass on your Ventra card. One hopes.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:21 PM on March 21, 2013


eotvos, the people I know who do that heavily are mostly just poor. They don't open checking/savings accounts because they have long histories of going below their balance, paying fees, overdrafting, having to close and open accounts regularly, and otherwise getting into trouble they wish to avoid. They don't want credit cards because that's trouble, too.

I guess there are a lot of poor people. But it is useful to convert cash into card without having the whole back-end to contend with if it's mostly caused you distress, and if you have an unpredictable income flow or otherwise know you're always going to be falling into the red. So yeah, "that many people" is maybe just really a lot of poor people.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:25 PM on March 21, 2013


I suppose I said what you'd already said, but the psychological motivation is strong, is I guess my point, and there are a lot of people living hand-to-mouth. Oh, and having checking/savings balances is something that can bite you in the ass when applying for public assistance or filing taxes. (Not to say it's kosher to lie about pre-paid debit cards, but I know a lot of poor people who don't want to sock away money into banks because to them it means the govt. will tell them to spend all their savings on a few months of health insurance.)

Anyway, I recently moved back to Chicago and I just am waiting to finally understand all the nuances of this situation.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:29 PM on March 21, 2013


actually, deathpanels, I'm not sure it will work that way. There does not seem to be a pay-per-use option with the new card, regardless of whether you activate the debit function. There only appears to be a "purchase a multi-day pass" option. Which I ranted about a few comments above.

Like you, I bike commute (mostly) and my husband works from home. Both of us have random, unpredictable uses of our pay per use CTA cards which multi-day passes don't suit.
If the CTA makes it inconvenient or exorbitantly expensive to commute once in a while, I might end up canceling my account and taking a cab to work on those days when I have no recourse. Why not? I mean, a taxi will get me to work for $7 plus tip, which, considering the superior service is not a bad deal. I've often contemplated this while packing onto a crowded train. Why pay the CTA $2.25 for poor service, especially if I'm going to be screwed due to my infrequent use?
posted by deathpanels at 10:59 PM on March 21, 2013


This thread is like the angriest Chicago meetup ever. And I love it.

so are we gonna ride the christmas train together next winter or what
posted by liketitanic at 7:03 AM on March 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


that's an excellent proposed meetup, liketitanic.
posted by garlic at 7:26 AM on March 22, 2013


Re: prepaid debit cards, according to the sign in my local Currency Exchange, you can get your paycheck direct deposited to a prepaid Visa card. I can see where the convenience + not having to cary lots of cash around is of value to those who can't or won't get a bank account. I don't think it's for renting cars and hotel rooms (which typically put a large hold of $500 or so if you use a debit rather than credit card), though being able to buy things online is certainly a possibility.
posted by misskaz at 7:27 AM on March 22, 2013


This thread is like the angriest Chicago meetup ever. And I love it.

so are we gonna ride the christmas train together next winter or what

that's an excellent proposed meetup, liketitanic.


I also agree that this would be fun, which opens the door for me to comment on why this whole thing makes me so angry. I fucking LOVE the CTA. I always have. I defend it when it is slow because at least it is there. When my truck finally died, I was almost joyous to be able to be 'only' a public transportation user. I know a lot of this love is from a place of "country mouse in the big city" way -- that the L, even as a little kid visiting, has always represented the coolest parts of Chicago. So something that seems pretty much all around disappointing feels very personal.

(Also, I have been a broke-ass, counting-change-to-get-on-the-train person once upon a time in Chicago so that might have something to do with it too.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:51 AM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


that's an excellent proposed meetup, liketitanic

I would just propose it now and let it sit on the IRL "proposed meetups" list for the next 8 months but that seems like showing off.
posted by liketitanic at 8:09 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh Mike, I totally agree! I didn't just end up living in Chicago - I made a conscious choice to move here, and available transit was a huge part of that decision. I still remember, the first year I lived here, reading Devil in the White City and riding the Brown Line around the loop and just being so amazed that I LIVE HERE. I love the CTA and as an urban planner type, appreciate the challenges of running an agency that politicians want to scapegoat and/or de-fund. I too am profoundly disappointed as one can only be about something you love.
posted by misskaz at 8:41 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most states distribute unemployment benefits (and maybe other state-supplied benefits?) via prepaid debit cards. Some states/cards will let you then transfer that money into a bank account to avoid fees, though that of course causes delays in getting your money. All of the prepaid unemployment assistance cards, as far as I remember reading, have all sorts of fees associated with them if you leave your money on them and use them as credit/debit cards.

Some info here.
posted by jaguar at 9:01 AM on March 22, 2013


Most states distribute unemployment benefits (and maybe other state-supplied benefits?) via prepaid debit cards.

My sister works as a server for a national restaurant chain, and they do the same thing with her paycheck. She's never seemed to have had a problem with it, but it's always sounded incredibly shady and troublesome to me.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:38 AM on March 22, 2013


does anyone happen to know of a good summary of who the customers actually are for prepaid debit cards and what they use them for?

eotvos - this study from the Philadelphia Fed might be a starting point; it's based on transaction data and relatively recent.
posted by yarrow at 2:37 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


2 fees dropped, but CTA's Ventra card still pricey

I have to say that I'm actually impressed that the newspapers seem to be sticking with this story (for all the good it will probably do), even if the headline for this part is misleading. (The fees haven't been 'dropped' as much as they weren't there already and had been misreported by the CTA revenue director. Yes, this means that even the CTA revenue directordoesn't understand how the fee structure works.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:51 AM on March 26, 2013






« Older "It was on stun... now it's on kill."   |   The Dreams Of Big Data Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post