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RTA Urges Governor Quinn to Sign Senior Free Rides Legislation

January 25, 2011

The RTA is urging Governor Quinn to sign legislation that overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate last week to means test the seniors ride free program. Currently, the program entitles all seniors living in the region to unlimited rides on the CTA, Metra and Pace regardless of their income. Approximately $30 million in revenue would be generated with a means tested program that assumes 44 percent of seniors would continue to ride for free and others would resume paying a reduced fare, according to a UIC study. Over 434,000 seniors are now registered in the program.

“If the senior free rides program can be means tested, it would bring desperately needed revenue to our system and reduce the potential for future fare increases or service cutbacks,” said RTA Board Chairman John S. Gates, Jr. He commended the CTA, Metra and Pace for all balancing their 2011 budgets without any proposed fare hikes or service cuts this year, but noted the ability to sustain these changes is contingent on the transit system’s financial outlook improving. State law in the RTA region requires that half of the transit system’s operating costs be covered by fare revenue.

Seniors would resume paying the following reduced fares if the legislation becomes law:

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

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

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

The last time the CTA’s reduced fare was raised was in 2006, and the Pace reduced fare last increased in 2009 from 75 cents to 85 cents.

If the free rides legislation becomes law, the RTA would have up to 180 days to implement the means tested program. Chairman Gates assured that the agency will capably handle the administration within that 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. 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.

Meanwhile, a new public opinion poll on mass transit users found that Chicago residents care greatly about transit service, including those who don’t ride the system. Eighty two percent of likely voters in Chicago who participated in the poll said that the availability of good mass transit is an “important concern.” Gates was encouraged by the findings. The poll was commissioned by the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Press Information

Melissa Meyer

Communications Manager
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