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Access Pilot Program

The RTA, Metra, and Cook County are partnering to extend reduced fares to Metra riders experiencing low incomes regionwide through the Access Pilot Program. Beginning January 16, 2024, all recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, living in the counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will are eligible to apply for more affordable transit at The program will run from Feb. 1, 2024 to July 31, 2025.

The Access Pilot Program is an 18-month expansion of the RTA's current Ride Free and Reduced Fare programs, which will continue to be available to older adults and individuals with disabilities. 

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Apply online to join the Access Pilot Program and begin receiving reduced fare transit access on Metra.

Learn more and get Access

Who is eligible?
How do I get Access?

Frequently Asked Questions

How is this different than the current RTA Reduced Fare program?

The RTA’s current Reduced Fare program is a federally mandated program providing approximately half-priced fare across all three regional transit operators – CTA, Metra, and Pace – for people with disabilities and adults 65 and older. The Ride Free program is a State of Illinois-mandated, means-tested program providing free public transportation for people with disabilities and adults 65 and older who qualify for the Illinois Department on Aging’s Benefit Access Program. The RTA operates the eligibility process for both fare programs.

The Access Program is only offered on Metra and eligibility is determined based on a person being a member of a household that receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits.

How is this different than the Fair Transit South Cook program, which ends January 31, 2024?

The Fair Transit South Cook Program provided a reduced fare for all passengers along the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines, regardless of income level or need. The Access Pilot Program expands this benefit to the entire Metra system, while constraining eligibility to those with the lowest incomes, as defined by SNAP eligibility.

Any existing Metra Electric or Rock Island passenger currently receiving a reduced fare made possible by the Fair Transit South Cook program will be able to continue receiving this benefit under the new Access Pilot Program if they currently receive SNAP or are SNAP-eligible and apply and receive the benefit.

Is the program available on CTA and Pace?

This pilot only extends to Metra at this time. All the agencies are eager to see Access expand to CTA and Pace and are seeking the funding needed for that expansion.

Who is paying for the Access Program?

This pilot is made possible through a partnership with Cook County and Metra. Cook County is contributing $6 million with RTA and Metra also contributing funds to cover the administrative costs and lost operating revenue. 

Will this increase the transit agencies’ budget gap/fiscal cliff? By how much?

The pilot is not anticipated to have an impact on the budget gap. One goal of the pilot program is that new Access users will be new customers that would not have otherwise ridden Metra, bringing less revenue than a full fare ticket but overall a net gain.

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Why Access?

Fully funding and expanding regional reduced fare and ride free programs increases access for those residents who need it most. Making paying for transit more seamless and affordable is a commitment RTA made in Transit is the Answer.

Central to expanding free and reduced fare programs is first understanding the program administrative cost and lost operating revenue borne by the transit agencies. Through partnership with Cook County, Metra, and RTA, the Access Pilot will answer these questions, while providing a reduced fare Metra ride to residents of the Chicago region experiencing low incomes that is a direct benefit to the qualified riders, minimizes the burden to participate and administer from a rider and agency perspective, and can be quickly implemented.

Recent news about the Access Pilot Program

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First Transit is the Answer Coalition meeting tackles reduced fare and ride free program expansion

More than 100 riders, elected officials, advocates, and other stakeholders met virtually with the RTA on May 9 for th...

RTA begins exploring reduced fares for riders with low incomes

Transit is the answer to connecting the most vulnerable people in our region to jobs, healthcare, and other opportuni...

Transit is the Answer calls for seamless transfers, affordable fares for region’s transit system

This post is one in a series exploring the Agenda for Action and Advocacy in Transit is the Answer, the RTA’s new reg...

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