Illinois transit bill includes reduced fares, requires zero-emission buses


A substantial mass-transit bill signed by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker will explore expanded reduced-fare service, require transit agencies to purchase emission-free buses and provide free transit to victims of domestic violence.

HB 1342 was passed by the General Assembly in July and was signed into law by Pritzker in recent days. Rep. Kam Buckner was the lead sponsor of the legislation in the House, and Sen. Ram Villivalam helped usher it through the Senate.

One of the most-noteworthy inclusions in the bill was a provision that will require all transit agencies to purchase zero-emission buses by July 1, 2026.

In addition, the legislation will provide free fare cards for victims of domestic violence, with state agencies partnering with The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence, according to the language of the bill.

The legislation also included several provisions aimed at younger Illinois residents. Both PACE and Metra will be required to offer youth job opportunities and internship programs as part of the bill, and participants in the “One Summer Chicago” program, which provides employment opportunities for Chicago residents age 14-to-24, will also receive reduced-fares on transit.

The state will also require transit agencies to provide reports on the execution of free and reduced-fare programs. This includes year-round reduced or free transit fares for veterans, returning residents and students who aren’t included in other programs, according to lawmakers.

Another key provision in the bill will help agencies that are still working to build transit-use to pre-pandemic levels. The 50% farebox recovery ratio, which requires transit to be covered at a rate of 50% or higher by fares and other charges, will be pushed back to at least 2025, according to officials.

Finally, the RTA, CTA, Metra and PACE will all be required to furnish lawmakers with data on reliability, staffing, safety, overall system safety and on scheduled vs. delivered service under provisions of the bill.

While the bill was expansive in scope, Buckner says there is still work to be done to ensure that transit agencies across the state are doing enough to provide services to residents.

“We have plenty more work to do to ensure the region has the best mass transit systems in the U.S. by providing frequent, fast, safe, accessible and affordable service, respecting the dignity of transit employees and riders alike and leading, but this is a step in the right direction,” he said in a social media post.

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