The Ventra/CTA U-Pass
The Ventra/Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) U-Pass allows eligible SAIC students unlimited use of CTA bus and rail transportation for the fall, winter, spring, and summer semesters. When compared with regular CTA fares for a semester, the Ventra U-Pass can provide more than $150 in savings.
The CTA will allow eligible students to opt in or out of the U-Pass program. Eligible students are those who are registered with six or more credit hours for each fall, spring, and summer term, and three credit hours for the winter term. To opt in or out of the U-Pass, you must respond to the official email that will be sent to your SAIC email address every semester. If we do not receive your response by the deadline listed in the email, then your CTA U-Pass will not be activated, and you will not be charged.
- The fall 2023 opt in/out email will be sent weekly beginning on June 29.
- The winter 2024 opt in/out email will be sent weekly beginning on November 30.
- The spring 2024 opt in/out email will be sent weekly beginning on January 4.
- The summer 2024 opt in/out email will be sent weekly beginning on May 2.
All eligible students who opt in for the U-Pass will be charged the CTA U-Pass fee. The fee will be charged to the student’s tuition and fee account prior to the beginning of each semester.
- Fall and spring semesters: $155
- Winter session: $35
- Summer session: $115
- Cost of the card: $5 (one-time fee)
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. 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, the Ventra U-Pass card operates as a full-fare card. The U-Pass is active during the following dates:
- Summer 2023: active through August 20. Students taking at least six credit hours will be eligible for the benefit. All students out of town for study trips will be exempt.
- Fall 2023: active from August 26 through December 20. Students taking at least six credit hours will be eligible for the benefit.
- Winter 2024: active from January 2–January 23. Students taking at least three credit hours will receive the benefit. All students out of town for study trips will be exempt. Returning students for Winter 2024 who are registered for full-time credits (three credits) and had a U-Pass during the previous semester will find their U-Pass activated on January 2. 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.
- Spring 2024: active from January 22 through May 15. Students taking at least six credit hours will be eligible for the benefit.
Get Your U-Pass
Distribution dates, times, and locations are announced approximately one month prior to the start of each semester. After the official distribution dates, U-Passes may be picked up in the ARTICard Office.
New and transfer students may submit a photo of themselves. Check your SAIC email for a personalized link to submit your photo. New U-Passes may be picked up in the ARTICard Office during normal business hours. Once you opt in for the U-Pass, bring your ARTICard student ID to pick it up. New and transfer students for whom we do not have or can not upload a photo may apply for their new U-Pass in person, in the ARTICard Office.
Transfer students with a U-Pass from another Chicago-area school should send an email to email@example.com 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.
Use Your U-Pass
- Activate your card: When you first receive your Ventra U-Pass card, you must activate the card by calling 877-450-5328. You will be prompted to enter the Ventra U-Pass card number found on the back of the card. Next, you will select option 2 for “college or university card.” For the last step, you will enter your seven digit SAIC student ID number. Once completed, your U-Pass card is activated and ready for use.
- Scan your card at the scanner on the bus or El turnstyle: Remove your U-Pass from your purse or wallet before using. If you get no response from the readers when you tap your U-Pass, the card may be damaged.
- Check your balance and transit history: Download the Ventra Chicago app.
When the 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 Transit Chicago. If the balance on your card falls below -$2.50, your U-Pass will be temporarily suspended. The suspension can be lifted by paying off the negative balance at any train station kiosk, online at ventrachicago.com, or using the Ventra app. You can check your balance any time at ventrachicago.com/balance.
If your card is damaged:
The replacement fee for a damaged card is $5. Bring the damaged card to the ARTICard 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. Cards can not be ordered unless the fee is paid.
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.
If your card is lost/stolen:
Report lost or stolen cards right away to Ventra Customer Service (877-NOW-VENTRA) and to the ARTICard Office.
The U-Pass replacement fee is $50 payable by ARTICash only. To replace your U-Pass, bring your valid school ID and ARTICash payment to the ARTICard Office in the Sharp Building, room 254. The fee is nonrefundable.
All replacement cards are sent to the ARTICard Office within three to five business days. An email will be sent to your SAIC email account when the replacement pass arrives.
The CTA has increased efforts at preventing misuse of the U-Pass card. 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.
- Report lost or stolen cards to the ARTICard office right away.
- Report stolen cards to the police and obtain a police report.
Eligible students are those who are registered with six or more credit hours for each fall, spring, and summer term, and three credit hours for the winter term.
No, U-Pass eligibility is based on credit hours taken that semester, regardless of graduation requirements.
No, U-Pass eligibility is based on credit hours taken that semester, regardless of classes taken over the summer/winter. Credits for classes taken over the summer/winter will not be applied towards your enrollment eligibility for the fall or spring semester.
No, U-Pass eligibility is based on credit hours taken that semester, regardless of additional on or off-campus employment or extracurricular activities.
No, U-Pass eligibility is based on credit hours taken at SAIC.
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 opted in and then dropped below the required credit hours will have their U-Pass account deactivated, and their card will operate as a full-fare card. The U-Pass semester fee will also be removed from your tuition account. All students who pick up the Ventra U-Pass card will be charged a one-time, non-refundable $5 fee.
Yes. The Ventra card is valid until the date printed on the back. Do not throw this card away. The Ventra card operates as a regular full-fare card when the U-Pass account is inactive so you can load funds and use the card for regular CTA transportation. If you return to SAIC, you will use the same Ventra card until it expires. If you do not have the valid Ventra card when you return to SAIC, you will have to pay the $50 replacement fee.
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 the person using it will be subject to arrest and prosecution.
When the U-Pass is not active, you can add personal funds or purchase passes. Please visit ventrachicago.com for details about how you can use your U-Pass to purchase CTA passes.
No, the U-Pass entitlement will not work on Metra or Pace. You will need to purchase Metra or Pace passes to add to your Ventra U-Pass card.
Visit the CTA website at transitchicago.com or call the CTA Customer Service Hotline at 888.YOURCTA (888.968.7282).
If you meet the enrollment requirements, the U-Pass will be activated within 2-3 business days after you submit an opt in response for the semester.