RTA awaits word on end of free rides for seniors


The Regional Transportation Authority has had no word on whether Gov, Pat Quinn will sign a bill to limit free rides for senior citizens, but nevertheless is trying to calculate the revenue boost the agency would get if it does become law.

"We got no assurance from the governor," RTA Executive Director Joseph Costello said Tuesday, "no assurance one way or the other."

He said the RTA is going ahead with trying to determine how much revenue would be added back to the system if the free rides program ended for all but low-income seniors. "We think the numbers would be compelling," he added.

The exact figures are hard to project, as the end to free rides would no doubt alter the number of trips seniors take, but Costello said it would be at least $33 million a year.

"That's real money. That would go a long way," he said.

Costello told the RTA board that revenue is running behind 2010 budget projections on all three systems -- the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace -- but only Metra was failing to recoup that loss with cuts in expenses, due to higher fuel costs.

The Illinois General Assembly passed the measure last week that would cut off free rides for many of the 435,000 seniors currently enrolled. Costello has previously has called the program is "unsustainable," and pointed to how the numbers would only grow as the population ages.

If Quinn does not sign the bill, Costello said, "we will keep trying" to pass an end to the program in the General Assembly.