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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

RTA Seniors Ride Free Program in Illinois To End Labor Day « April 20 2011« CBS Chicago

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Seniors Ride Free To End Labor Day
Bob Roberts Reports; April 20, 2011

CHICAGO (WBBM)– The free ride will come to an end late this summer for more than 260-thousand Chicago area senior citizens.

WBBM has learned that the RTA will transition from the three-year-old system under which all senior citizens ride free to a half-fare system for the majority of senior citizens “around Labor Day.”

RTA spokesperson Diane Palmer said Wednesday that all 440,000 of the Seniors Ride Free smart cards will be replaced by three batches of magnetic-stripe cards currently on order.

Palmer said RTA could not procure enough smart cards on such short notice, so seniors instead will be issued one of two magnetic-stripe cards similar to the older, flexible plastic cards used by CTA and Pace, which must be inserted into turnstiles.

Those who qualify for free rides under guidelines established by the state of Illinois Circuit Breaker program will continue to get free rides. Other senior citizens will revert to paying half fare, the maximum allowed under federal law.

Palmer said the new cards will go into the mail around Aug. 1, and that the RTA will allow a month for everyone to receive them.

The cards are intended as a stop-gap until the CTA, Metra and Pace convert to a universal fare card system, most likely based on credit cards, that could occur as early as next year.

The new restrictions on the Seniors Ride Free program will be tied to an extensive public relations campaign expected to run most of the summer.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the change in the law, which former Gov. Rod Blagojevich added at the last minute to the 2008 revision of the RTA Act. The RTA expects to generate more than $30 million a year in additional revenues by resuming half-fare collection.

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