Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Free rides for all seniors to expire on Thursday...

Very early in this blog's history I was very concerned about the state of transit in our city. There was a "doomsday" scenario back then with issues of financing transit in the Chicago region that was only averted with the help of a gubernatorial amendatory veto.

Rod Blagojevich who was Governor back in late 2007/early 2008 amended some legislation that bailed out Chicago region transit authorities, but the AV forced transit agencies to offer free rides to all senior citizens. The legislature accepted that and well transit still have their issues to the point where at least CTA was forced to raise their fares within the past two years.

Well this year we see another transition. On September 1, free rides for all seniors will end. Details from Tribune:
Under a new law that takes effect Thursday, only low-income seniors who meet requirements of the state's Circuit Breaker program will continue to receive free transit rides that were mandated for all seniors by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2008. The free rides have cost the cash-strapped transit agencies tens of millions of dollars.

All transit riders age 65 and older who do not meet the income-eligibility limits will pay about half or less of the normal regular full fare. Actual fares will vary based on a number of factors, including whether the seniors pay fares with the new magnetic-strip senior transit cards and permits, or with cash.

All reduced-fare programs require seniors to present a new RTA photo-ID reduced-fare permit, which the RTA mailed out this summer to about 420,000 seniors (about 83,000 free-ride cards and about 337,000 reduced-fare permits), according to the RTA. Information about obtaining cards is posted on or by calling 312-913-3110.

The new cards are similar to the magnetic-strip fare cards that many seniors used before the free-rides program.

But many seniors are unhappy with the cards, saying they would prefer the ease of using a smart card that could be linked to a credit card or bank account, eliminating any fuss about how much money is on the cards. Smart cards reload value automatically.
Well this change is the subject of this post by The CTA Tattler which lists the many difficulties in this change for seniors especially as mentioned in the above excerpt the lack of a smart card option. Although I understand transit agencies chose to go with a more convenient option of using what they have available. And it's noted that there weren't enough smart cards to offer senior citizens.

Here's the [VIDEO] produced by the RTA that offers you instructions on how to use your new reduced fare permit

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