Friday, March 28, 2008

Free Transit for Seniors

What a great idea!

Illinois becomes 2nd state to offer free rides for 65-plus crowd: Transit agencies waiting to see impact on budgets
Richard Wronski, Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune (Illinois)
March 17, 2008

Mar. 17--Monday marked the start of free rides on mass transit for senior citizens, but transit agencies said it was too early to tell if the new transit benefit would produce any significant changes in ridership.

The program makes Illinois the second state in the nation to provide free mass transit rides for those 65 and older at all times of day. Pennsylvania, which funds its senior rides through the state lottery, was the first.

A random sampling of Metra conductors and CTA drivers said they noticed more riders than usual with RTA ID cards, which allow people 65 and older to travel for free.

One conductor aboard an early morning Metra BNSF Railway train said he saw two senior citizens with RTA cards in one train car which, he said, was two more than he usually saw that early on a workday morning.

The real impact on mass transit was likely to be evident later in the day when retired people take advantage of the free rides to shop, see the doctor or travel Downtown to visit a museum or the Art Institute, experts said. There are 850,000 seniors in the RTA service area.

To ride free, those 65 or older must have either a reduced-fare card or one of the new RTA free-ride ID cards. At last count, about 30,000 seniors had signed up for free-ride cards since January, with 15,000 applications coming in from March 7 to Wednesday alone, the RTA said.