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RTA Announces Changes, Timeline for Seniors Ride Free Program

June 3, 2011

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) today announced changes to the Seniors Ride Free program scheduled to occur later this summer. Most importantly, over 440,000 seniors that already possess Seniors Ride Free Permits do not have to re-apply to receive either a new Circuit Ride Free Permit or a Reduced Fare card based on their eligibility. From now through August 31, seniors can continue using their Seniors aRide Free Permits. The RTA will start mailing the new Permits the first week of August. Existing Seniors Ride Free Permits will be deactivated on September 1.

Joseph Costello, RTA Executive Director, described the upcoming program changes at a morning press conference. He was joined by T.J. Ross, Executive Director for Pace, and Paul Stepusin, Deputy Director with the Illinois Department on Aging.

“We are providing information and dates several months before the changes happen to ensure that all seniors are properly prepared and adequately informed,” said Costello. “It is our hope that the program’s transition will be smooth and clearly understood to help avoid any inconvenience.”

In February of this year, Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation that requires means testing for the Seniors Ride Free program. Only low income Illinois residents ages 65 or over that are enrolled in the Illinois Department on Aging’s Circuit Breaker program will be able to continue riding for free. Income levels are $27,610 or less for an individual; $36,635 for a two-person household to $45,657 for a household of three or more people. Seniors should only apply for the Circuit Breaker program if they meet age, income and other eligibility criteria. All other seniors qualify to ride at a reduced fare which in most cases in approximately half fare. Costello reiterated that seniors do not need to re-apply to the Circuit Breaker program or for the new Circuit Ride Free permit if they already have a Seniors Ride Free permit because the RTA will automatically mail the appropriate permits in August.

As a result of the new legislation, the RTA will now have two programs: the Seniors Circuit Ride Free program and the Seniors Reduced Fare program. In early April, the RTA began sending correspondence to all seniors who are currently enrolled in the current Seniors Ride Free program advising them about the program changes. Extensive communications and outreach efforts are ongoing.

Important Dates to Remember

June 1

The RTA will automatically start sending all first time free rides program applicants either a new Circuit Ride Free or Reduced Fare permit based on their eligibility.

Mid June

The RTA has worked with the Illinois Department on Aging to identify over 150,000 Circuit Breaker enrolled seniors that are not currently Seniors Ride Free Permit holders. The RTA will mail a letter and an application explaining how they may obtain a Circuit Ride Free Permit.

Weeks of June 6 and 13

The RTA will host 12 public hearings during the weeks of June 6th and 13th throughout its six-county region to explain the program’s changes. Visit for a complete schedule.

July 1

  • The RTA will stop processing replacement permits for the current Seniors Ride Free program to avoid sending duplicate cards that includes lost, damaged or stolen permits.

August 1

  • The RTA will begin mailing new magnetic stripe permits for fixed-route service for all seniors currently enrolled in the Seniors Circuit Ride Free program. Depending on their eligibility, seniors will receive either a Circuit Ride Free or a Reduced Fare Permit.

September 1

  • Existing Seniors Ride Free Permits will no longer be accepted on any CTA, Metra or Pace bus or train.
  • Only the new Senior Circuit Ride Free or Reduced Fare Permit will be accepted on CTA, Metra or Pace buses or trains. If you have not received your new Permit by August 15, please call 312-913-3110. The RTA’s Customer Service Center hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For updates on the RTA Seniors Circuit Ride Free/Reduced Fare programs, visit To learn more about the Illinois Department on Aging Circuit Breaker program or to request an application, visit or call 800-624-2459. Seniors are strongly encouraged to apply online because this application process is approximately six weeks compared to about four months when submitting paper applications.

Press Information

Melissa Meyer

Communications Manager
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