Ventra Meltdown: 15,000 CTA Riders Ride For Free After Card Reader Servers Crash At Rush Hour

Just in time for the rush hour commute Wednesday evening, Ventra card readers at almost half of the CTA's 145 rail stations citywide crashed -- and remained shutdown for up to 90 minutes, the agency admitted to the Chicago Tribune.

The crash -- blamed on a Ventra "server failure" -- resulted in long lines at many stations before the agency opted to wave an estimated 15,000 commuters through the turnstiles for free ride, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Don't worry though, Ventra operator Cubic Transportation Systems will pay the tab for the "free" rides, CTA said Wednesday.

Riders took to social media to document the hot-mess express that ensued:

The card readers were reportedly back online and ready for the Thursday morning commute and with no further issues anticipated, according to NBC Chicago, but some outages appear to be persisting:

The Wednesday meltdown comes on the heels of the CTA's budget meeting being essentially taken over by protesters venting about the fare system's glitch-plagued rollout. The system's many issues prompted the agency last week to suspend all Ventra switchover deadlines indefinitely and refuse to pay the vendor until the remaining issues are fixed.