Free rides for most senior citizens on the CTA, Metra and PACE are officially over.
And former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who created the program three years ago while still in office, isn't happy about it.
"I'm really sad to see free public transportation being taken away from our seniors," Blagojevich said in a statement. "I ruffled a lot of feathers to make this happen, but I know it was the right thing to do."
Around 80,000 low-income seniors will still qualify for free rides, and another 330,000 are eligible for reduced fare. Seniors with reduced fare must put money on their new magnetic card at CTA rail stations, grocery stores or currency exchanges.
There will be a grace period for seniors who haven't received their card, and no senior will be denied access Thursday as long as they talk to a customer service representative at stations across the city.
"We're going to try to make this as smooth as possible," said CTA rail instructor John Koldan. "Any senior citizen who needs assistance will get our assistance and full attention."
That's not enough for Blagojevich, who repeatedly hung his hat on the program during his administration and even during his corruption retrial.
One trial witness testified Blagojevich once referred to himself as "the best damn governor in the history of the U.S," citing his free rides for seniors.
Earlier this year Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation to limit the free rides.
"I wish I was in a position to do something about it," Blagojevich said this week.