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U-Pass FAQs

What is a U-Pass?

CTA University Pass (U-Pass) is a discounted fare card that replaces cash/other transit cards for all CTA fares. It does not require a transfer or surcharge for unlimited rides all day, every day. It is offered as part of the Activity Fee charged to full-time enrolled students.

What funds the U-Pass?

Students enrolled full-time pay an Activity Fee, which funds the U-Pass.

Am I eligible for a U-Pass?

Students enrolled full-time in The Graduate School (TGS) are eligible for a U-Pass. 

Please note: those enrolled in TGS 512 (continuous registration), 514, or a co-op internship are not eligible for a U-Pass during only the quarter in which they are enrolled in any of these.

I am not eligible for a U-Pass. Can I buy the U-Pass?

No, students cannot pay the TGS Student Activity Fee if it has not been charged to their account.

Can I use my U-Pass on Pace suburban buses and Metra commuter train lines?

Pace fares are not included as part of the U-Pass program. However, U-Passes may be used as fare cards on Pace buses. Students may load money onto their U-Pass and use it to ride Pace. Metra commuter train lines do not accept U-Passes.

What is the difference between activating and registering the U-Pass?

Registering your U-Pass and activating your U-Pass are not the same thing. Activating your U-Pass is required and you must activate it by calling 1-877-450-5328 upon receiving your card. Registering your U-Pass protects purchased passes and transit values. This is optional.

If you used the U-Pass before it was activated, your U-Pass will have a negative balance, which will need to be paid in order to use your U-Pass. You can do this online at ventrachicago.com or by using the kiosks available at the CTA train station. Once the balance is paid in full, then the semester’s unlimited balance will be transferred to your card. If you have any additional questions about your U-Pass or paying your balance online please check the CTA website or call the CTA at 1-888-YOUR-CTA.

What if my credit card or debit card is erroneously charged for a fare?

Some students have discovered that their credit or debit card with Blink technology has been charged after tapping their wallet on the Ventra card portal. To avoid this issue, remove your U-Pass from your wallet or separate it from other credit/debit cards when tapping it on the Ventra portal. If your credit or debit card is charged by the CTA, you have several options to address the situation:

  • Contest the charges with your bank.
  • Send an email to customerservice@ventrachicago.comand attach a statement with all your personal information blacked out. Request that the funds be returned to your U-Pass’s Ventra account. In order for your funds to be returned, they must show as “pending” and not posted to your credit/debit account. These funds can be used when you are no longer enrolled full-time at TGS. Include your contact information in the message.
  • Contact the CTA at 1-888-YOUR-CTA.

What if my U-Pass has a negative balance?

Negative balances can occur for a number of reasons:

  • The student has used PACE buses and not loaded money to pay for the fare
  • The student has used their U-Pass to pay for a guest and not loaded money to pay for the fare
  • A Ventra system error

Any U-Pass with a balance under -$2.50 will be temporarily deactivated.  Once the balance is paid off, the card will automatically reactivate. 

The Graduate School cannot reimburse students for negative balances related to their Ventra U-Pass.  If you have a negative balance and your card is suspended please contact Ventra directly at 1-877-NOW-VENTRA for assistance. A Ventra representative will be able to determine the cause of the balance and assist you in bringing your balance back to zero. 

To avoid acquiring negative balances:

  1. Load money onto your U-Pass if you are using it to pay for PACE buses or guests
  2. Check your balance regularly at VentraChicago.com or the Ventra App.
  3. Contact Ventra immediately if you notice suspicious charges on your account

What if my U-Pass is lost or stolen?

If your U-Pass is lost or stolen:

  1. Visit TGS’ Evanston Office (Rebecca Crown Center, 633 Clark Street, North Tower, Room 1-502). Please bring your WildCARD.
  2. TGS will assist you with ordering a replacement U-Pass. A $50 replacement fee will be added to your Student Account as part of the process.
TGS will send you a confirmation of your order and email you when your card is ready for pickup. Upon request, cards can be sent to the Chicago Depository Services Office (345 E. Superior - Mezzanine Level (former RIC building) for pickup.

What if my U-Pass is captured in CTA fare equipment?

The U-Pass is a contractile card – tap it to the Ventra reader to pay your fare. (DO NOT insert it into fare equipment – you will lose it and need to pay a replacement fee for your lost card.)

What if my U-Pass is damaged?

If your U-Pass is damaged due to abuse and misuse, then it will be treated as a lost or stolen U-Pass. In order to replace it you will need to:

  1. Visit TGS’ Evanston Office (Rebecca Crown Center, 633 Clark Street, North Tower, Room 1-502). Please bring your WildCARD.
  2. TGS will assist you with ordering a replacement U-Pass. A $50 replacement fee will be added to your Student Account as part of the process.
TGS will send you a confirmation of your order and email you when your card is ready for pickup. Upon request, cards can be sent to the Chicago Depository Services Office (345 E. Superior - Mezzanine Level (former RIC building) for pickup.

What if my U-Pass is defective?

If your U-Pass is not working and you suspect it is defective (as opposed to damaged), contact TGS and we will verify your enrollment and that your U-Pass should be active. You will then be asked to go with your U-Pass to Ventra Customer Service at 567 W Lake St., Chicago IL, 60661, where they will determine whether the U-Pass is damaged or defective. If the U-Pass is deemed “defective,” you will be provided a voucher and a 7-day Ventra pass and Ventra will request for a new U-Pass for you. You will be contacted once your new U-pass arrives on campus.

What if my name changes?

The first replacement for a name change is $5.00. TGS can assist you with ordering a new Ventra card with your new name.

  1. Visit TGS’ Evanston Office (Rebecca Crown Center, 633 Clark Street, North Tower, Room 1-502). Please bring your WildCARD and your U-Pass.
  2. TGS will email you when your new card is available.

I’ve requested a replacement U-Pass – how long will it take to arrive?

Please allow up to 5 business days for the card to arrive at The Graduate School. You will be emailed when the card is ready for pickup.

When are U-Passes deactivated?

U-Passes will be deactivated for any given quarter you do not meet the eligibility requirements. You can check the exact date the current U-Pass will end by visiting VentraChicago.com or using your Ventra App.

If you become ineligible for the U-Pass at any point during the quarter, your U-Pass will be deactivated. If you become eligible for the U-Pass during the quarter, please contact TGS at tgs-u-pass@northwestern.eduto confirm the change.

How often can I use my U-Pass per day?

You may use your U-Pass as often as desired. However, students can't reuse their card at the same station or on the same bus line for 10-15 minutes.

Can I share my U-Pass with my friends?

No. The U-Pass is not transferable and will be confiscated if the CTA suspects misuse of the U-Pass. CTA maintains the right to inspect the U-Pass used by a student and to ask the student for another form of identification to ensure that the pass is being used by the person to whom it is issued. Furthermore, CTA maintains the right to deny a student access to the CTA system at the U-Pass reduced fee if the student does not possess both the U-Pass and a current School I.D.

I rarely use the U-Pass. Can I opt out?

No. The activity fee is mandatory for all full-time eligible students. The CTA contract requires that all full-time students participate in the U-Pass program.

How can I voice my views on the U-Pass and the other activity fee-related services?

We encourage you to participate in Graduate Leadership and Advocacy Council's (GLAC).

Annual Survey (conducted during summer quarter) if you have strong feelings about the U-Pass program or the other Activity Fee-related services. The GLAC provides TGS with data from the survey each year and advises administrators to continue or discontinue these programs based on program usage and survey feedback.

How much is the activity fee?

As of Fall Quarter 2018, the activity fee is $125 per quarter for full-time eligible students.

How do I pay my activity fee?

Students can access their bills and bill history via CAESAR, > For Students > Financial Services > View My E-Bill & E-Payment. Payments may be made online or by check (U.S. bank accounts only). Students may also go to Student Financial Services at 555 Clark Street on the Evanston campus.

What does the activity fee cover?

The activity fee funds:

How do I qualify for an Activity Fee Waiver?

The only students who are eligible for an activity fee waiver are students who are studying abroad or students who will be off-campus and away from the Chicago area this quarter. 

Please submit an activity fee waiver form as soon as your Activity Fee posts to your account, and no later than 3 quarters (or 9 months) after your quarter spent off campus. TGS will contact students should the waiver be approved. Waivers submitted beyond 3 quarters after your time off campus will be denied. Activity Fees may not be waived for future quarters. Once the fee is waived, students will not be eligible for the services it provides, including the U-Pass.

I will not be enrolled this quarter. Will I be charged for the activity fee?

If students are not enrolled, they will not be charged the activity fee and they will not be eligible for the services it provides, including the U-Pass.