The Ventra/Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) U-Pass allows full-time students of SAIC unlimited use of CTA bus and rail transportation for the fall and spring semesters. When compared with regular CTA fares for a semester, the Ventra U-Pass can provide more than $200 in savings.

What is Ventra? Ventra is the name of the new payment system that the CTA and Pace have adopted for Chicago's elevated train and bus transportation.

Ventra U-Passes are valid up to four days prior to the start of the semester and last until two or three days after the semester ends. U-Passes are not offered during the winter and summer sessions.

The $135 U-Pass fee is mandatory for all full-time students. This fee will be charged to each full-time student's tuition and fee account prior to the beginning of each fall and spring semester. A $30 U-Pass fee will be charged to full-time students during the winter session. A one-time $5 fee, which covers the cost of the card, will also be charged to each full-time student’s account for the initial issuance of the Ventra U-Pass card.

Ventra U-Pass cards are more durable than the older magnetic stripe cards, and they feature the student's photo and name. Ventra U-Pass cards are valid for five years after initial issuance. This means students will keep their Ventra U-Pass cards from semester to semester, even if they transfer to another school within the CTA's U-Pass program. Whenever the U-Pass account is inactive or not applicable (during the summer and winter terms, or on Pace buses), the Ventra U-Pass card operates as a full-fare card.

Only full-time students are eligible for the Ventra U-pass.

Questions about SAIC's Ventra U-Pass Program may be directed to the ARTICard/U-Pass Office at 312.629.9362 or

Getting a U-Pass

Distribution dates, times, and locations will be announced approximately one month prior to the start of each fall and spring semester. After the official distribution dates, U-Passes may be picked up in the ARTICard Office.

Full-time students for fall 2016: The U-Pass for fall 2016 will be active from August 27 through December 21.

*NEW* Full-time students for winter 2017: The U-Pass for winter 2017 will be active from January 3 through January 24. Students taking at least 3 credit hours will receive the benefit. All students out of town for OXBOW or study trips will be exempt.

Full-time students for spring 2017: The U-Pass for spring 2017 will be active from January 23 through May 17.

Returning students for winter who are registered for full-time credits (3 credits) and had a U-Pass during the previous semester will find their U-Pass activated on January 3. (REMEMBER: keep the same card you had last semester.) Due to the winter holiday break, students must be registered for class no later than December 19 to have their U-Pass activated on time. Check your Ventra app to see if the U-Pass is active on your card. 

New and transfer full-time students for spring 2017 may submit a photo of themselves through MyPhoto or simply ask that their ARTICard photo serve as their U-Pass photo. Follow this link to the ARTICard page for more information on submitting your photo. New U-Passes may be picked up in the ARTICard Office beginning on January 23 during our normal business hours. You must bring your ARTICard student ID and be registered with full-time credits to pick up the Ventra U-Pass.

New and transfer students for whom we do not have a photo by the Express Registration deadline may apply for their new U-Pass in the ARTICard Office.

Transfer students: Transfer students with a U-Pass from another Chicago-area school should send an email to to have the information transferred to SAIC. Include the card number, expiration date, and previous school attended. Do this right away to ensure that a new card is not printed for you.

How to Use the U-Pass

The Ventra U-Pass uses the same contactless technology found in many of today's personal bankcards. A contactless card transmits data securely via radio waves to a card reader when the card is tapped on the reader.

To use the Ventra U-Pass, simply remove the card from your purse or wallet, "tap" the card on the Ventra reader at the bus or train station turnstiles, and you are on your way.

BE SURE TO REMOVE YOUR U-PASS FROM YOUR PURSE OR WALLET BEFORE USING. Holding your entire purse or wallet up to the reader may cause the reader to detect a different card that uses contactless technology, such as your bankcard or credit card. If this happens, your fare may be charged to this other account, and you will not be refunded.

When the fall and spring semesters are not in session, the Ventra U-Pass card can be loaded with personal funds and used as a full-fare card. For more information, please visit the Transit Chicago website.

What To Do If Your U-Pass Does Not Work

If the balance on your card falls below -$2.50, your U-Pass will be temporarily suspended. This can happen if the card is tapped twice in quick succession at the train stations. The system assumes there is a 2nd person riding, so it charges your card $2.25.

The suspension can be lifted by paying off the negative balance at any train station kiosk, online at, or using the Ventra app (see below). You can also dispute the charges by calling Ventra Customer Service at 1-877-NOW-VENTRA and speaking to an agent. The agent can look and see when and where the charges occurred, and they may decide to waive the charges if it looks like an error has occurred. 

You can check your balance any time at Enter the 16-digit number and expiration date printed on the back of your Ventra U-Pass. Here, you will see your current balance, card status, and active passes on your account.

If you get no response from the readers when you tap your U-Pass, the card may be damaged. 

Download the all-new Ventra app

The new Ventra app has arrived! Download it at
Register your Ventra U-Pass with the app, and you'll be able to see your active passes (U-Pass, 1-day, 7-day, etc.), current balance, and your transit history. Now when you get a negative balance, you'll be able to easily see when and where it occurred.
Link a credit card to your Ventra account, and you will be able to pay off your negative balance immediately with the app. You can also pay off the balance at any train station kiosk, or any store that allows you to add value (for instance, the CVS on Monroe and Wabash, where you can use your ARTICash).  

Lost or Damaged Ventra U-Passes

If your card is damaged:

Bring the damaged card to the ARTICard/U-Pass Office in the Sharp Building, 37 South Wabash Avenue, room 254. We will collect the damaged card and place an order for a replacement Ventra U-Pass.

If you wish, you may choose to get a seven-day unlimited ride transit pass to use until the replacement card is received. These passes can only be obtained at CTA's Customer Service Center at 567 West Lake Street, 2nd floor. The Customer Service Center is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If your card is lost/stolen:

Report lost or stolen cards right away to the ARTICard Office. If you have personal funds on your Ventra U-Pass, you should also report your card lost or stolen to Ventra Customer Service (1-877-NOW-VENTRA) to protect those funds.

To replace your U-Pass, bring your valid school ID and $50 (cash, check, or ARTICash) replacement fee to the ARTICard/U-Pass Office in the Sharp Building, room 254. The $50 fee is nonrefundable. Credit or debit cards cannot be accepted in the ARTICard office.

All replacement cards are sent to the ARTICard/U-Pass Office within three to five business days. An email will be sent to your account when the replacement pass arrives.


Fraud Prevention

The CTA has increased efforts at preventing misuse of Special Fare Programs such as the U-Pass. Cards being used by persons not matching the card photo and identification may be confiscated. Owners of confiscated cards can have their U-Pass benefit suspended for up to one calendar year.

Do not loan your U-Pass card to friends or family. Be sure to report lost or stolen cards to the ARTICard office right away. Report stolen cards to the police and obtain a police report.


What is the U-Pass?

The CTA established the U-Pass Program for eligible full-time students at accredited degree-granting schools within the CTA service area. The program provides low cost transportation and increases access to the Chicago metropolitan area.

Each fall and spring semester, all full-time undergraduate and graduate students are assessed a mandatory U-Pass fee entitling them to a nontransferable Ventra CTA U-Pass valid for 5 years. The U-Pass account for each card is activated each fall and spring semester for all full-time students. The fee for fall and spring semesters is $135 per semester. The U-Pass is good for unlimited use aboard all CTA buses and trains throughout the semester. When the U-Pass account is inactive, such as during the summer or winter terms, the Ventra U-Pass card can still be used as a full-fare card.

Where and when do I pick up my U-Pass?

Please see Getting a U-Pass.

Am I eligible for the U-Pass?

U-Pass eligibility is based on full-time status, which is determined by credit hours taken per semester. Minimum requirements may be different depending on Degree Program.

Credits Constituting Full-Time Status:


Unit Total

BFA 12
BFA in Art Education 12
BFA in Art History, Theory, and Criticism 12
BFA in Writing 12
Bachelor Interior Architecture 12
BA in Visual and Critical Studies 12
Undergraduate Exchange Program 12
Art Education Certificate 12
Art History Certificate 9
Graduate Certificate 9
MA in Arts Administration and Policy 9
MA in Art History 9
MA in Visual and Critical Studies 9
MA in Art Education 9
MA in Teaching 9
MA in Art Therapy 12
MA in New Arts Journalism 9
Dual Degrees: Master Arts Art History and Master of Arts in Arts Administration and Policy 12
Master of Architecture 12
Master of Design in Designed Objects 12
MFA Studio 12
MFA Writing 12
Master of Architecture with an Emphasis in Interior Architecture 12
MS in Historic Preservation 12
Post-Bacc Studio Certificate 12
Graduate Exchange 12
Continuing Studies/Spcl Prgms 12

I only need to take a few classes in order to graduate (part-time hours). Can I still get the U-Pass?

No, U-Pass eligibility is based on credit hours taken that semester, regardless of graduation requirements.

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I am a part-time student, but I also TA/participate in work-study on campus. Can I still get the U-Pass?

No, U-Pass eligibility is based on credit hours taken that semester, regardless of additional on or off-campus employment or extracurricular activities.

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I am a part-time student at SAIC, but am also taking classes at another Chicago school. Can I still get the U-Pass?

No, U-Pass eligibility is based on credit hours taken at SAIC.

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I might drop to part-time. Should I pick up my U-Pass?

It's up to you. The Ventra U-Pass card can be used with or without the U-Pass benefit. After the Add/Drop period, students who have picked up the U-Pass and then dropped below full-time will have their U-Pass account deactivated, and their card will operate as a full-fare card. All students who pick up the Ventra U-Pass card will be charged the one-time $5 fee.

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I drive to campus/I don't use the CTA. Can I get a refund?

No. Refunds will not be issued to full-time students. The mandatory U-Pass fee will be charged to all full-time students' tuition and fee accounts.

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Can I sell it or give it to a friend?

No, the U-Pass is nontransferable and has your name and photo. The CTA reserves the right to require a student to show a valid school identification card upon request. If this condition is violated, the U-Pass will be confiscated for the duration of the valid dates without reimbursement, and person using it will be subject to arrest and prosecution.

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Why is the U-Pass fee required?

The CTA requires SAIC to charge all full-time students in order to participate in the U-Pass Program.

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How do I use the U-Pass?

Please see How to Use the U-Pass.

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How do I use the Ventra full-fare system during summer and winter sessions—or, when I am not enrolled full-time?

Please visit for details about how you can use your U-Pass card as a convenient way to purchase CTA passes during summer and winter sessions.

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Where can I get more information about the CTA and its services?

Visit the CTA website at or call the CTA Customer Service Hotline at 1.888.YOURCTA (888.968.7282).

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