CHICAGO (CBS) – Passes giving free rides to seniors on Chicago area buses and trains are, in some cases, being used to rip off the system. And the cash-strapped RTA is hopping mad. CBS 2’s Mike Parker says all the fuss could help lead to the program’s demise.

The RTA says it has found that at least 164 senior free ride identity cards belonging to now dead people are still being used.

Twenty-five thousand free rides, mostly on the CTA, have been fraudulently made. One card, for example, has been used for 1,400 of those rides.

RTA spokeswoman Diane Palmer said, “Perhaps a relative is possibly using the card fraudulently, perhaps the cards are being sold. That’s costing the transit system money at a time when we can least afford it.”

The estimated cost of all those rides is $50,000. But the RTA says its limited audit probably shows only 5 percent of the actual amount of fraud.

Bus riders we talked with did not seem shocked.

Senior pass holder Bonnie Wood said, “I think it’s just Chicago, I guess. If there’s a way to corrupt anything, I suppose they will.”

In the words of rider Diane Norwood, “Wrongdoers are going to do wrong every chance they get.”

The revelation comes just as the Illinois Legislature mulls over the idea of simply doing away with the free ride program because of its cost. The RTA says it is losing an estimate $38 million a year in revenue.

A repeal may just happen this year, to be replaced by a low-income requirement for seniors to get the rides.

Gov. Pat Quinn is promising to veto any repeal, but he’ll be under a lot of pressure from Chicago area transit officials to give in. The idea’s time may have come.

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