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updated: 9/1/2011 7:09 PM

Officials: Senior free ride program ends smoothly

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SPRINGFIELD -- Local transit officials said the first day of eliminated free rides for most seniors generally went smoothly.

While new fare cards created some confusion, officials at Metra, the commuter train operator, and Pace, the suburban bus division, said they avoided denying seniors service if they didn't have the right card.

Many seniors received new fare cards in the mail, with the poorest seniors still getting to ride free and others eligible for half-priced fares on Metra, Pace and the CTA.

"We're not giving anyone the cold shoulder," Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot said. "We're not throwing anyone off the bus."

Metra spokesman Tom Miller said the trains ran similarly.

RTA spokeswoman Diane Palmer directed people with questions to call (312) 913-3110.

The program that gave free rides to seniors was a legacy of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But the high cost prompted lawmakers, led by former state Rep. Suzie Bassi of Palatine, to revoke the program.

Before Thursday, about 440,000 people were in the free-ride program. Now, only 80,000 fall below income ceilings to qualify.