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RTA Thanks Governor Quinn and Legislator for New Law to Means Test Senior Free Rides

February 4, 2011

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) thanks Illinois Governor Pat Quinn for signing Senate Bill 3778 today and previous bi-partisan votes by the Illinois General Assembly to amend the RTA Act allowing low-income seniors, aged 65 or older, to continue riding free on fixed-route service operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace. All other seniors will resume riding at reduced fare.

"Means-testing the Seniors Ride Free Program is a well-balanced approach to reforming the program,” said John S. Gates, Jr. RTA Board Chairman. “Thanks to Governor Quinn and our legislative leaders, our transit system can now generate critical revenue that can help the RTA manage long-term program costs and contribute to our future financial stability."

With the new program, seniors will first have to be registered in the Illinois Department of Aging’s Circuit Breaker Program. The Circuit Breaker income eligibility amounts range from $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. The RTA will have up to 180 days to implement the means-tested program which gives seniors an opportunity to prepare for the transition. After the new program becomes effective, seniors who are not Circuit Breaker eligible would resume paying reduced fare as they did before legislation was enacted in 2008.

CTA 85 cents $2.25
Pace 85 cents $1.75
Metra * reduced published fare Distance based fares from $2.25 to $8.50

*All published fares on Metra are exactly reduced fare except Zone

A to A which is $1.00 and the full cash fare is $2.25.

"Seniors should not be alarmed and think that as of today, their Seniors Ride Free passes will no longer be honored on buses or trains. Their passes are still good until the new program has been fully implemented," said Gates. "The RTA will follow up to provide all seniors registered in the program with detailed information about the transition but as of now, seniors should continue to use their passes for fixed-route service.”

The RTA will work with the CTA, Metra and Pace to transition the program. The RTA will handle the administration within the allotted timeframe by broadly communicating the changes and ensuring that seniors already qualifying for the Circuit Breaker Program and already holding free ride cards remain able to continue their free rides without interruption. Exact program costs and other administrative duties would still need to be determined.

Initially, the program entitled all seniors living in the six-county region to unlimited rides on the CTA, Metra and Pace regardless of their income. A UIC study commissioned by the RTA last year showed that up to $30 million in revenue would be generated with a means-tested program and 44 percent of seniors would continue to enjoy free rides. Over 435,000 seniors are currently registered in the program.

Press Information

Melissa Meyer

Communications Manager
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