Beginning next week, many senior citizens will lose access to the program providing free rides for qualifying passengers on Metra, CTA and Pace. The free rides, now, will be available only for 65-and-older riders who qualify as low-income. Others bumped out of the program will now pay a reduced fare -- at most half the regular rate.
The change, which goes into effect Sept. 1, will pump an estimated $30 million in new revenue into the three transit authorities, according to the Chicago Tribune. But the change has also left some senior citizens feeling confused -- particularly those who rely primarily on bus transportation, who will now have to make a separate trip to load money onto their magnet-strip fare cards at a CTA rail station.
CTA President Forrest Claypool admitted, according to the Tribune that "not every senior may have gotten the word" about the change. CTA has said they will have extra customer service reps working to help ease seniors through the transition.
Over 80,000 seniors in the Chicago area will still qualify to ride for free as they meet the income requirements set by the Circuit Breaker program, ABC 7 notes. These seniors reported total income in 2010 under $27,610 (for a single household) or $36,635 (for a household of two).
But roughly four times that number will no longer qualify for the program, which was instituted by ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich in 2008 and is said to have cost the state millions of dollars of lost revenue. A 2010 Better Government Association/FOX Chicago investigation, for example, found that a number of the free-ride passes were being used after their registered holders had deceased.
Photo by Sugar Sweet Sunshine via Flickr.
WATCH seniors react to the new reduced fare program: