January 13, 2011
On January 13, 2011, the Civic Federation sent this letter to Governor Quinn urging him to sign Senate Bill 3778. Click here to read a Civic Federation blog post on the bill.
Dear Governor Quinn:
The Civic Federation urges you to sign Senate Bill 3778, a bill that will end the Seniors Ride Free program. This program has strained the resources of public transit agencies while allowing seniors who can afford to pay their fair share the ability to ride for free. SB3778 will limit free rides to low income seniors.
The Chicago Transit Authority projects a total of 51 million free rides for seniors in FY2011, up from 49.8 million the previous fiscal year. In a study commissioned by the Regional Transportation Authority, the annualized loss from the Seniors Ride Free program across the three service boards was projected to be between $25.1 million and $76.3 million for 2009. The same study projects that the senior population for the Chicago region will double between 2000 and 2030, thereby increasing the annual revenue losses for the program to range between $58.8 million and $172.7 million, assuming no increase in fares, by 2030.
There is no sound public policy reason to provide free rides for affluent seniors who are able to pay and help defray the cost of public transit. Exempting such a large pool of individuals from paying their fair share of expenses simply shifts the cost onto other riders, many of whom are low-income workers. The program has contributed to the CTA’s multi-million dollar deficit and led to the need for higher fares for all. A far more rational approach to address equity concerns is to provide reduced fares only for low-income riders. In that way, assistance is targeted to those individuals who truly need it.
The Civic Federation recommends that you sign SB3778 into law. Allowing the free rides program to continue without question places an unfair burden on the majority of transit riders to subsidize free rides for others who could afford to pay their fair share.