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updated: 6/10/2011 5:48 AM

Seniors Ride Free tips

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Here's a look at some changes to the Seniors Ride Free program administered by the Regional Transportation Authority. To qualify, riders must be 65 or older and live in Illinois.

• This month, the RTA will start reviewing the more than 440,000 Seniors Ride Free permits and issue replacements -- either Reduced Fare permits or new Circuit Ride Free permits (for low-income riders). The replacement cards will be mailed starting Aug. 1. Existing Seniors Ride Free cards expire Sept. 1.

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• If you aren't enrolled with the RTA program and want a reduced fare card, call the RTA at (312) 913-3110 for an application or visit the Website RTAchicago.com for a list of 200 local registration centers. You can also visit the RTA customer service center at 165 N. Jefferson, Chicago. You'll need to bring government identification and a 1-inch-square photo. Some centers will take a photo for free, but it's best to call first.

• Seniors with reduced fare cards can use them on CTA or Pace buses and at CTA stations. To add value to the cards, they must be taken to a vending machine at a CTA station. Or Pace customers can dip the card into the farebox and pay a reduced fare in cash. Metra riders need to display their reduced fare cards to purchase tickets from station agents or conductors.

• If you earn $27,610 a year or less, you qualify for a Circuit Ride Free card. This also applies to couples making $36,635 or less or a household of three or more people earning $45,657 or less.

• If your income meets the free rides criteria, you'll need to fill out a Circuit Breaker application with the state department of aging. The quickest way is online at the Website cbrx.il.gov, which takes up to six weeks. Or call the department at 1-800-624-2459 for an application to be mailed out. A mailed application takes about four months to process. Once that is done, you'll need to register with the RTA for a Circuit Ride Free permit.

• If you're a senior enrolled in the RTA program with an income that qualifies you for free fares but you aren't registered with Circuit Breaker, you will need to fill out an application. Once enrolled in Circuit Breaker, you'll need to contact the RTA for a permit.

• Many local senior centers offer help with the transit card process. These include the Northeastern Agency on Aging serving DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties and the Arlington Heights Senior Center.

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