Can City Continue To Afford Free Senior Bus Service?

CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s a program loved by all who use it.

But its users primarily come from one small section of the city.

That’s why some wonder whether the North Park Village shuttle bus service is a program whose time is up, CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports.

For the past two decades, residents of the senior housing complex in the sprawling North Park Village, 5801 N. Pulaski Rd., have been lining up to board buses that zip them around the 150 acre complex that is home to 550 residents in the Senate and Prete senior housing developments, and more than a few deer.

Residents say the shuttle is a lifeline because the buildings can be as much as 3/4 of a mile from the nearest CTA stop.

“It’s good. It’s very good,” resident Pat Jones said of service that shuttles senior residents from building to building in the sprawling complex five days a week for eight hours a day.

And what’s even better: It’s free.

“I’ve been here for seven years and it’s always been free,” said resident Vally Carr.

Whether it’s summer, winter, fall or spring, the senior shuttle is always there making its short loop around North Park Village over and over again.

Over the past 13 years, Lucille Hickey has come to depend on the service.

“It’s great. When it snows and it’s icy, we wouldn’t be able to go out,” said Hickey.

But what’s free for the low-income residents comes at a considerable cost for the city.

CBS 2 estimates that the service has cost taxpayers more than $1.5 million over the past two decades when you add up salary, fuel, maintenance and equipment costs.

CBS 2 asked Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th) for comment but she wasn’t available. But some of the users credit her for supporting the program.

“She’s the one that keeps the bus going,” said Jones.

A city spokesman responded with a written statement that said in part that the shuttle bus at North Park Village is consistent with the city’s mission to enhance the quality of life for Chicago’s seniors.

Still, tax watchdogs aren’t sure the city can afford the senior shuttle.

“This is a laudable program but can we maintain something like this at this scale?” wondered Illinois Campaign for Political Reform Executive Director Cindi Canary.

Canary said she thinks this is one of the many programs that mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and the new city council will have to look at as they attempt to fill a massive budget hole.

She predicts that there will have to be widespread cutting and scaling back of programs that have long been cherished by those who use them.

CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall contributed to this report.


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    You should be ashamed of yourself for this misleading story. The cost that you describe is over 20 years and as such should have been listed as the cost per year. You make the money expended seem large when in fact it is not. 75,000 dollars per year is more appropriate based on your estimate. Sensationalizing it with 1.5 million is evil. If I had not hear the two decade part I would have thought how bad that was. Your barely touched on how small the cost was and how effective the service was or the fact that it serves mainly seniors. This is an example of sensationlist journalism mixed with real reporting, let’s trump up the report to make it sound like something. And Journalists wonder why the public distrusts them so much, because stories like these stretch the truth by use of sensationlist tactics. I will never watch you stories again without wondering how you stretched or misstated the truth to gain some traction. YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED AND CONSIDER YOURSELVES DISHONEST FOR REPORTING THE STORY AS IF IT WAS A HUGE TAXPAYER WASTE. THE BIIGGER WASTE WAS THE ALDERMAN WHO HAD A DRIVER AND A MAID ON THE PAYROLL EACH FOR MORE THAN THE COST OF THE BUS SERVICE. GET REAL IN YOUR REPORTING!!!!!

    • Tom

      75000 a year is still expensive so get over it. We are over taxed in chicago and for what? because Daley wanted the senior vote. Let everyeone pay their fair share!

  • justforchuckles

    Thank you Lindsay. I have to agree. There is legitimate waste in the city and wasting time creating scenarios does nothing to address these issues. Deadline or not. Need a story idea. How about the random fencing in Chicago parks which serves no purpose. The landscaping in the loop which local businesses agreed to fund upkeep for but have never actually payed. The stacking of buses along the 146 and 151 in the morning idling.

  • Just a thought kinda guy

    There would be no problem at all if:
    Eliminate helping any/all illegals in any matters at hand for once and for all.
    Cut waste where 5 workers watch one worker doing the job citywide..
    Offer volunteers in service “free” varying services in exchange for their efforts.
    Make drug companies treat seniors like a group, and not a lone entity to solve the overcharging they are currently enjoying.
    Create some sort of volunteer group from senior centers making these folks feel wanted and needed instead of neglected as they do feel.

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