End of Free Rides for Many Chicago Seniors

August 31, 2011

Beginning Thursday, hundreds of thousands of Chicago senior citizens will have to start paying up to ride public transportation.

September 1 marks the end of the free rides program for all seniors on Metra, the CTA and Pace; the program will now be available to only low-income senior residents.

bus that says "seniors ride free."Impeached governor Rod Blagojevich was the one who created the controversial “Seniors Ride Free” program, and more than 440,000 residents ages 65 and older were taking advantage of the free transportation.

But, the program also cost mass transit millions in lost revenue.

As Chicago struggles with a $636 billion budget deficit, this is one of the programs that was chosen to be cut.

About 80,000 Chicago-area seniors will still get to ride free because of their low income levels. The rest of the seniors will receive a reduced rate.

“There were more than 400,000 seniors enrolled in that program and the CTA Customer Service department has received 208 calls since [last week] with seniors asking for information on how it all works,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “We know how important it is to make sure our customers are given the best information possible because they rely on the CTA to take them a lot of places. We understand the significance this change will have on seniors, which is why we all are making every effort to clearly communicate what’s happening and when.”

As of Thursday, September 1, the Regional Transportation Authority’s Seniors Ride Free farecards will no longer be accepted on any CTA, Metra or Pace bus or train.

Seniors who qualify for the Illinois Circuit Breaker program and can continue to ride for free should be getting new RTA “Circuit Ride Free” cards in the mail. Those are people with income levels of $27,610 or less for an individual; $36,635 for a two-person household and $45,657 for a household of three or more.

Seniors who don’t qualify for the free rides should be receiving a new RTA “Reduced Fare Permit” in the mail.

Those who don’t have either card will be required to pay the full fare.

The RTA estimates that the end of the Seniors Ride Free program will add about $30 million in revenue.

To help with the change, there will be information specialists set up at select stations over the next week to assist seniors.

If you have more questions about the new program or haven’t received a card and feel you should, call (312) 913-3110 or visit Seniors can also get a reduced fare permit at the RTA center, 165 North Jefferson, Chicago, or at more than 200 sites throughout the state.

Categories: City of Chicago, Economy
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