Free Rides for Most Seniors End Aug. 31

Starting in September, only seniors who qualify for state's Circuit Breaker program will qualify

free rides for seniors

The end of August marks the end of free rides for most senior citizens on the CTA, Metra, and Pace, officials said on Wednesday.

This comes after Gov. Pat Quinn's February signing of new legislation that limits free rides to only low-income senior citizens who are age 65 or older.

About 25,000 senior citizens are expected to qualify for free rides under the new legislation, down from over 440,000 who are currently employed. Those who no longer qualify for free-rides will be able to receive reduced fares.

The only seniors who will qualify for free rides under the new law are those who qualify for the Illinois Department on Aging Circuit Breaker program.

The annual income of a single senior, in order to qualify for the program, must be below $27,610. A household of two would need to have an annual income below $36,635. In a household of three or more, the annual income must be less than $45,657.

For senior who will continue to receive free-rides, as well as those who will be receiving a discounted ticket, replacement permits will be issued.

"Seniors do not have to reapply for either permit if they are currently in the free-rides program," said Joseph Costello, executive director of the Regional Transportation Authority.

Last year, the free rides program cost the CTA, Metra, and Pace between $38 million and $116 million, according to a report from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

According to Costello, CTA, Metra, and Pace are projected to see fare revenues increase by about $30 million per year, because of the change.

The new program will cost more than $1 million, according to the RTA.

The RTA will have to not only send out new free-ride permits, but also issue new photo identification cards to those seniors who do not qualify for free rides, so they can receive the reduced fare.

The free-rides program was created by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich three years ago, when he agreed to legislation that would increase sales tax to fund mass transit.

Contact Us