As of September 1, the Regional Transportation Authority—the organization that oversees the CTA, PACE and Metra public transit systems—will alter the Seniors Ride Free program. Governor Rod Blagojevich initiated the program in 2008, offering free rides to people over age 65; however, it has proven expensive and difficult to sustain.
Gilbert Feliciano, manager of public outreach at the RTA, gave a presentation at Weiss in early August to explain the program changes. “There are almost half a million seniors in this program,” Feliciano said, adding that many of them struggle financially and will continue to qualify for free rides through the Department on Aging; others will receive a special card in the mail that qualifies them for discounted rides.
“The discounted rides will be approximately half the cost of a one-way full fare,” Feliciano said.
Reduced fare examples include:
- CTA one-way: standard $2.25 / discount 0.85
- PACE one-way: standard $1.75 / discount 0.85
- Metra one-way:
- Zone A standard $2.25 / discount $1.00
- Zone M standard $8.50 / discount $4.25
All seniors currently enrolled in the Seniors Ride Free program will receive the new reduced fare cards. To be eligible for free rides through the Department on Aging’s Circuit Ride Free program, seniors must meet specific income eligibility standards:
- Individual household: $27,610 or less annual income
- Two-person household: $36,635 or less annual income
- Three or more-person household: $45,657 or less annual income
To apply for the Circuit Ride Free program, seniors must submit applications either online or through the mail. “It’s a lot of pages, a lot of instructions, but don’t worry: there’s not something to fill out on every page,” Feliciano says.
While the Department on Aging is taking four to five months to respond to people who mail in their forms, the online process is much faster. People typically wait six weeks for a response. Many senior centers and libraries offer internet access and assistance to those in need.
Find the IL-1363 application form online at cbrx.il.gov. You can also call and request an application at (312) 913-3110, or visit the RTA at 165 N. Jefferson St. between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Seniors currently enrolled in the lapsing Seniors Ride Free program should look for their new discount cards in the mail; delivery of the cards began August 1. If you have not received your card by August 20, please contact the RTA. In addition to the contact information above, you can email the RTA at communications@RTAchicago.org.