Lawmakers talk about taking free transit rides from seniors

SPRINGFIELD -- A proposal to take free mass transit rides away from Illinois seniors might be finding some new life among lawmakers.

State Rep. Suzanne Bassi's plan to only give free rides to the state's lowest-income seniors found some support previously, but had stalled.

On Monday, a House committee approved limiting free bus and train rides to seniors who make less than $27,600 a year. More affluent seniors would pay the federally mandated half price for rides.

A recent study showed Chicago-area transit systems lose as much as $30 million a year on the deal.

Bassi, a Rolling Meadows Republican, said that as Illinois' population ages, that number could get bigger, making it harder for the cash-strapped transit systems to operate.

“There's no free ride if you don't have a bus,” she said.

State Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, was among lawmakers hesitating to take the perk away. He said it might be difficult for seniors to adjust to the change.

“I was so against free rides for seniors when it first came up,” he said.

The plan now moves to the full House for further debate.