Lots of free-riding seniors earn more than $55,000 a year

Three interesting tidbits about the Tribune’s report on free CTA rides jumped out at me:

  • About 2.5 million more free rides were taken on the CTA through June this year than last year — 37.6 million total.
  • A study by the Urban Transportation Center at UIC found that about a third of seniors who ride free earn more than $55,000 a year.
  • The same study had predicted an increase of “just” 1 million more free rides than last year for the entirety of 2010. We’re on pace for 5 million more than 2009.

The Legislature needs to put means-testing into place for seniors at the very least.



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  • Maybe I'm a Pollyanna, but I think it's a good thing that more and more seniors are taking advantage of the free rides. Public transportation should be more available, better and cheaper for users. Means testing that program is a step backward, IMO.

  • I'm going to go farther than Chris--transit should be fully subsidized by the state and free for everyone.

    Not that we can afford this right now, but that should be the goal.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    I would love to see a day where the bus pulls up, and everyone just walks through and sits down, but as long as customers do have to pay, I really think it's a slap in the face to paying customers to watch a 65 yr old in a fur coat board the bus on Michigan Ave with bags from all the fantasy stores down there, but not cough up anything to ride.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    The way that demographic and job trends are going in this state (i.e. the article that Navistar is moving some operations from Illinois to Texas), that goal might be reached sooner than you think, without any legislative amendment, regardless of whether the transit agencies can afford it.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    I agree. Have said this from the start. And its nothing at all against the elderly. They get free transit, everyone should get free transit. Or at best have free transit zones like some smaller cities have (Trimet!). Ehh its a pipe dream.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Means testing would have been nice, but I think that ship has sailed. However I really do think we could get a "non-rush" type thing pushed through. If you can do all you travel between the hours of 10am-3pm and 7pm-5am then it is free; otherwise goes back to 1/2 price you paid before.
    Because really, half-price is OK, especially since, to my knowledge, it remains 1/2 price to buses - whether you're riding the bus or train. 85 cents isn't really that much even if you are only going say, 3 train stops.

  • I would prefer that seniors take transit because their accident rates (folks 70's-80's) are statistically a problem so 'means testing' could bring more trouble to our over-crowded streets since those w/ the option to drive (but shouldn't) will if they have to pay for transit. On the other hand if there is a way to get something for free or pay less, people will use it regardless of their fixed income situation which is exactly what the survey and common sense indicate.

    A proposed compromise to the elected folks in Springfield: Seniors pay reduced fare during peak weekday hours and it's free the rest of the time. The money saved from not giving away the service at peak can be spent to modify and reload the software in the card swipe/dip machines to calculate peak/off-peak fares. If it's money saved that the CTA doesn't have in the first place, then a capital expenditure should be authorized to create the two-fare system and it should be used across all riders - our fares will always increase over time so maybe two fare system could soften the impact going forward. The infrastructure seemingly could be reprogrammed to take a two fare system - just a matter of doing it.

    Of course this could backfire by changing enough non-senior riders to ride transit off-peak but that is a good problem to have considering the off-peak riders could be new to the system and might have relied on their cars under the one-fare structure.

  • Let's not forget that before rides were free, senior citizens rode for half-price. I'm OK with going back to that. But free rides should only be for those who really need free rides.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Kevin, you may have seen me on here before, and seen that I'm a CTA bus operator. Here are two things I hear constantly from the senior free riders.

    #1. "I'm going such a short distance, I wouldn't even bother riding if it wasn't free."

    Which is very nice for all the paying customers who are actually trying to get somewhere, but are having there commute painfully slowed thanks to Blago.

    #2. "You know we understand that CTA is short on funding, you should tell your bosses at CTA that we'd be willing to pay at least something."

    Then, as if they weren't allowed to pay even a dime, they scan their free rider card and walk off as if CTA management or state politicians have been waiting for me to tell them to start charging the elderly for their rides.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    Yes CGT, I've seen you around here before. Thanks for visiting and sharing your unique perspective.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    My father has reinstated his own reduced fare program since the service cuts in February. He got himself a Chicago Card and uses it one way and uses his RTA senior card on the return trip.

  • In reply to marthat3:

    That's awesome Martha! Good for him.

  • I have to agree with Kevin, not just because I'm a (laid off) employee. CTA could not afford this perk, and the result was service cuts and layoffs. Until a permanent and secure funding system is created, we cannot be giving out free toys. There's an old saying, "If you want to dance, you got to pay the band".

    Unfortunately, our dearly beloved Ex-Gov. Blagojevich wanted to give everyone the keys to the milkshake shop, but didn't have any money to pay for it. Therefore, constituents get stiffed.

    That's all I have to say....just my opinion.

  • Echoing what Kevin said, means testing to establish a threshold for who gets free rides and who pays half fare. I doubt anyone says do away with free rides completely.

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