Free CTA rides for seniors? Tell us what you think

I got a notice last week about Monday’s regular meeting for Citizens Taking Action, at 7 pm Sept. 13 on the 4th floor of the Chicago Temple, Clark & Washington streets.

In the email, the group’s secretary, Charles Paidock, noted the recent Trib story,
More free rides taking toll on transit agencies.”

Paidock opined:

According to the article “ridership is way up this year among senior citizens and low-income people.” The
program should be expanded, perhaps on an intermittent basis initially,
in order to attract riders from other demographic groups.

Regular readers know that I’ve always been critical of free rides for all senior citizens. It’s costing us too much money to sustain. I think we should go back to half fare for all seniors. But what do you think? Take this click poll.


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  • As usual, the activist group doesn't say how to pay for it, or how to expand capacity.

    I suggested before that ATU members work for free. Let's see if these activists convince Darrell Jefferson of that.

    Supposedly, even Fidel Castro said yesterday that communism was a mistake.

  • I don't like the "free rides below a certain income" idea. Anyone can lie, or claim that they're old, retired, living off SS, when indeed they may have a pension, 401k, savings, etc. Make 'em pay!

  • In reply to MareSwallow:

    No you can't lie!
    You have to fill out the Circuit Breaker form to get it if you're low income disabled & the same would apply to low income seniors.
    It's tax fraud to falsely file!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Right, because nobody would ever lie. And the CTA does an extensive investigation to uncover undisclosed assets, I'm sure.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    all free rides should be discontinued.

    I am frequently a rider on the northbound #22 and #36 buses, and of the dozen passengers on board am the only passenger who has paid a fare. all of the other passengers are freeloaders, e.g., seniors, city employees, county employees, OEMC, CPD, active and retired, CFD, active and retired.

    the CTA can easily return to a positive cash flow simply by charging ALL riders the applicable full fare.

  • In reply to MareSwallow:

    The Regional Transportation Authority estimates that if the free rides for seniors were eliminated, revenue would increase by $68 million per year. The RTA further says that if the pass was restricted to households with less than $55,000 to $57,000 and converted to half-fare for others, the revenue increase would be $38 million. These are gross overestimates, my opinion.

    Seniors like me are probably mostly retired or unemployed, who would sharply cut back on CTA and Metra rides if the fares were increased. Indeed, we are already riding for the most part at off-peak hours when the marginal cost of carrying a few extra seniors is close to zero. The reason is that the price of riding in rush hours is the sum of the cash fare and the cost of standing in a crowded train or bus. Since seniors have more flexibility with their time, they tend to avoid rush hour travel with its higher total price. Seniors are old, but they are not dumb about when to travel.

    This way of looking at the total price of transit rides suggests a real solution to the financial problems of the CTA and Metra. Fares during rush hour ought to be higher, say twice the current fare. And the fares for off-peak riders ought to be lower by, say, half. That would encourage those with more flexible schedules to travel at other times and leave more standing room and more seats for those paying the higher fare. It would also give off-peak riders a lower fare.

    Higher rush hour fares and lower off-peak fares would benefit the rush-hour riders, the off-peak riders, and increase RTA revenue. It would also allow us seniors to keep our free rides. That is not all bad.

  • In reply to MareSwallow:

    I'm so glad somebody made this point. I'm sick of sympathizers of this program using the excuses that (a) seniors ride mostly during off-peak hours and (b) seniors would cut back otherwise.

    Argument (a), as MK points out, is totally disconnected with the senior free-ride program. Suggest a differential fare system based on peak/off-peak and argue that on it's own merits. However, if there is a strong argument for such a system, then that system should apply to all riders, and (most importantly) the higher peak fares should apply to seniors as well. This is certainly not what Citizens Taking Action is advocating.

    Argument (b) is even more absurd. Basic economics tells me that pretty much EVERYONE would cut back on CTA use if the price went up and would use the system more often if it were free. This doesn't justify giving away rides in any way. More people on a bus slows down the ride, costs the CTA extra money, and makes all other riders worse off. If these additional riders are paying their fair share, then they compensate other riders and the CTA for the service. Otherwise, I'd rather not have them use the system at all.

  • The headline here is a little misleading; the free rides program doesn't exist at the will of the CTA- it's a state law that was created by amendatory veto by our dear friend Rod Blagojevich. The CTA- nor any other transit agency in Illinois- has no power to change or get rid of it.

  • In reply to chicagopatrick:

    I disagree Wes. To me the headline is saying where the free rides for seniors are occurring - on the CTA. I've written many times that the CTA is not to blame for this.

  • In reply to chicagopatrick:

    I'd like to see it go back to the all seniors pay half price.

  • In reply to chicagopatrick:

    Free rides for Senior is great. Its like getting some of my tax money back. Saves me at least $120 / month.

  • In reply to dockster:

    That's great dockster! Except...I pay my taxes AND my full fare. And more importantly, your free rides are depriving an already grossly underfunded system of badly-needed revenues.

    I'm glad that you get to save $120/month at the expense of the next generation of Chicagoans, who might not have a transit system in the future due to the lack of funding. The fact that some Chicagoans can be so self-centered astounds and disgusts me.

  • In reply to dockster:

    If you're rich you don't need help regardless of age.

    Low income seniors need and deserve our help as a society. But it's unfair to make ONLY other CTA users pay for their help. It's society's duty to care for citizens that cannot help themselves so it's all of society that should pay. Spread it out amongst all of us and the burdon drops to nearly nothing.

  • In reply to mitruth:

    O.K. Since Illinois is supposedly $13 Billion in the hole, not to mention that all the myriad units of local government are crying, how much is your little increment really going to cost?

  • In reply to dockster:

    Actually, I think that the system should be "everybody pays". Were it up to me, I would even do away with the half fare.

  • In reply to chicagopatrick:

    I'd rather let them ride the bus for free instead of driving around the neighborhood.

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