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No More Free Rides On Mass Transit For Many Seniors

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CTA Bus (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

CTA Bus (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

(Credit: Lisa Fielding) Lisa Fielding
Lisa Fielding is a news anchor and reporter for Newsradio 780....
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UPDATED 2/15/11 8:33 a.m.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – There will soon be no more free rides on public transit for most seniors in Illinois.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Lisa Fielding reports, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill Monday that ends a policy of letting all senior citizens ride free on mass transit systems. Now, elderly people above a certain income level will have to pay.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Lisa Fielding Reports

For a single person, that income level is $27,610 a year. In a two-person household, it will be $36,635.

The Regional Transportation Authority has six months to implemetn the change.

Quinn’s office says nearly 60 percent of seniors currently riding for free will still qualify. The change is supposed to save $30 million.

The RTA lauded the decision.

“Means-testing the Seniors Ride Free Program is a well-balanced approach to reforming the program,” said John S. Gates Jr., RTA board chairman, in a news release. “Thanks to Governor Quinn and our legislative leaders, our transit system can now generate critical revenue that can help the RTA manage long-term program costs and contribute to our future financial stability.”

Seniors will still pay a reduced fare on the CTA, Metra and Pace. On the CTA and Metra, that fare is 85 cents.

Then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich demanded a law allowing seniors to ride free in exchange for passing a state transit funding bill at the beginning of 2008. Active members of the U.S. Armed Forces and the disabled also ride free on the CTA.

The CTA later said the free rides for seniors program resulted in more $20 million in losses last year.

Projections in a University of Illinois at Chicago study released last year indicated that the revenue gained from eliminating some of the free rides could be anywhere between $33 and $112 million a year.

Quinn had previously favored keeping the free service, and last fall repeatedly threatened to veto the bill if it landed on his desk.

The bill passed the Illinois House 95-15 and the Senate 54-2.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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