An Open Letter to the CTA

Dearest Chicago Transit Authority,

I have never been more annoyed in my life than I am right now with you. And that’s saying a lot being as I’m the Often Annoyed Designer. Here. Let me explain.

This new Ventra system? Yeah…about that. If you’re going to transition someone over to it from the existing Chicago Card that they currently use, you should probably wait to deactivate their card until you send them their new card. But wait, that would make too much sense, now wouldn’t it?

Here. I’ll give the backstory, although I’m sure you’re aware from my tweets, emails, phone calls, and three separate trips to your customer service offices today. Yes, I had to come in three times…and you still haven’t been able to help me. Hence my open letter to you.

Back on September 5th, you sent me this lovely automated email.


During the month of October, the CTA and Pace will be transitioning the Transit Benefits program to Ventra, the new easy way to pay for train and bus rides. With Ventra, customers will be able to use a single fare card for transit throughout the Chicago region.
In an effort to make your transition smooth, please confirm your contact information within THREE WEEKS of receiving this email.

When you confirm your contact information, we will start the process of creating your new Ventra Card. You will receive an email from Ventra 7-10 days before your card is shipped with instructions for activating your card and transferring your current Chicago Card Plus balance.

We look forward to getting you on board with Ventra!
The Chicago Card Plus team

Consider it done. Same day. Within 5 minutes later actually. I even received your second round of automated emails letting me know it had been received with the following line:

In August, you will receive an email from Ventra with instructions for activating your card and transferring your current Chicago Card Plus balance. To ensure delivery to your inbox, please add to your Address Book or Safe Sender List.

First of all, being as it’s September 5th you might want to update your automated email seeing how August has come and gone. Just a suggestion. Second of all, I still have yet to receive this email you mention I’ll be receiving…not even into my Junk Mail folder. Trust me, I’ve checked obsessively.

I’ve even verified on your website that I’m switched (or at least in the process of being switched) to your new system. Please observe the following message that my account displays:

Your shipping address has been confirmed

We are in the process of migrating your account information to the new Ventra System. Please be on the lookout for an email from Ventra regarding timing for the shipment of your new card(s).

Jackpot! That should mean my card should be coming, or at the very least, an email telling me when said card will be arriving.

Just to be safe, I sent an email to the Chicago Card helpdesk to make sure I don’t need to do anything to switch over with my employer. Nope, good to go. “Your account information has been confirmed and is in the process of being migrated to Ventra. Once the transfer has been completed, Ventra will issue a new card and information on how to proceed.” Great! Thanks! I’m all set, right?

Ha. Ha. Ha. That’s a wonderful joke. You could give Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, and Chelsea Handler combined a run for their money. Please, don’t hesitate to contact Comedy Central and see about getting your own stand-up show because you…are…hilarious!!

Lo and behold, I receive an email last night that my Chicago Card has been deactivated, nearly immediately followed by another from my payroll that my deductions for said Chicago Card have been authorized to come from my paycheck again as usual. All evening, my card continues to work fine.

Still nothing in the mail by the way. 

This morning…guess what won’t work. My Chicago Card. Spectacular.

The gentleman working the Thorndale stop kindly informs me the error code I’m receiving means that my card has no value (strange, since my paycheck was missing the money from it as it always does) and thankfully swipes his employee card so I can get to work.

Here’s where the fun really begins.

Since my office is on the same block as your headquarters, I stop in to speak with customer service to find out what’s going on with my card. Sure enough, it’s deactivated and has been switched to a pay-as-you-go card and now has a negative balance…since you switched it several days ago. Wonderful. Thanks for the notice.

Since it’s also been deactivated, I have to have a new one activate and linked to my account…which requires going to a different desk…where I’m informed that, sure enough, there’s nothing she can do and that I’m pay-as-you-go until my employer makes another deposit this week. Hmm…where’s my missing money from last week?

Oh, and where do I need to go to find out where my Ventra card is? A different office. Granted it’s next door on my way to the office, so it’s not the end of the world. If it were raining though I’d be even more annoyed with this.

So I march my unhappy little ass down the street to the next office. Wait in line. Oh, wait, guess what…you can’t find me in your system and have no record of my existence. Awesome. I supposed I’ll just call my HR and find out what’s going on with my pre-tax deductions.

Ring ring. Hold for 15 minutes. Bing!

Informed that they’d been notified by the CTA that I’d been switched as well and that they simply send the money to the CTA who processes the payment and takes care of switching me from the Chicago Card to the new Ventra system. Simple enough….except someone apparently dropped the ball.

Cue a second walk back over on my lunch break…only to find out that you have no record of this and still can’t find me.

Call back to HR…nope, there’s nothing they can do. I have to take this up with the CTA and/or Ventra.

Commence the third trip to the Ventra offices where I am informed this time that I have to pay out of pocket until my card comes….even though I’m supposedly being withheld money from my paycheck to pay for your service that is currently being rendered useless.


So I suppose now I’ll fork over even more of my money and purchase a Ventra card so I can get home from work, back to work, and everywhere else I need to go this week – or however long it is until you send me my new card.

Call me frustrated. Call me annoyed. Call me pissed off. Just read the email I sent you and call me period, because I’m (once again) not a happy camper in the city…and I’m tired of sitting on hold for your customer service department.

Not so lovingly,
The Often Annoyed Designer

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