A House committee Thursday made the first move in restricting free rides by OK'ing a bill to give a free pass only to those senior citizens who would qualify for the state's circuit breaker program.
If the measure passed both the full House and Senate, it's unclear how much more money would flow into the CTA's coffers. But the CTA has reported that free rides this year in total will mean at least $30 million in lost revenue.
According to the Tribune's Clout Street blog:
Under the bill, senior citizens 65 and older would keep riding for free
if they qualify for the state's circuit breaker program. A one-person
household with an income of $27,610 would be eligible
under the guidelines. A two-person household could have
a maximum income of $34,635. The circuit breaker program is used to set
income guidelines to give seniors property tax relief and aid to buy
Interestingly, the measure is being pushed by a Democrat and a Republican who won't be running in the general election in November. State Rep. Julie Hamos, D-Wilmette, who chairs the House Mass Transit Committee, didn't run for re-election in the primary; she lost in her primary battle to be the Democratic nominee for U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk's seat.
On the Republican side, Rep. Suzanne Bassi of Palatine lost in the Republican primary last week to retain her seat.
Yes, this is an election year. That's why I predict this bill will not pass this year. As I've said before, senior citizens encompass a large voting bloc. They are involved. They go to the polls. Politicians know it, and don't want to piss them off in an election year.
Late last year, the Chicago Reader's Michael Miner had an interesting piece in his blog about just how much "those freeloading seniors really cost us". As he says, it's hard to pin down. The Clout Street story notes that Rep. Bassi thinks "applying means testing to the free ride program would generate between $37 million and $50 million."
I figure she means for the RTA in general, not just the CTA. But even if it were $15 million to $20 million more for the CTA, that could be a few restored express buses or later end times for other routes.