Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by Gilbert B Norman
 
As good as certainty, by "Six O'Clock News" tomorrow, Illinois will have a new Governor. By the constitution, such will be Lt Gov. Patrick Quinn; also a Democrat but be assured no "pal" of the incumbent.

Allow me to editorialize; even though I am a holder of a Seniors Ride Free pass (age 68; reside in DuPage County), I would like to see this program repealed at first opportunity.

In its present form, it quite simply is discriminatory and further has presented the Regional Transit Authority with an unfunded $30M annual revenue shortfall. Suffice to say, the RTA is "broke', but what else is new.

First the program is available only to residents of the six counties served by the RTA. If you are from out of area but otherwise eligible, "sorry Charlie". There are no "litmus' tests to establish need, as noted I reside in "the land of the Burlingtons"; what likelihood is there that I or too many of my fellow DuPage residents have "need"?

If we the people of Illinois desire to offer free mass transit to certain Illinois residents, we have an existing program called Circuit Breaker. In order to be a participant in this program, a resident must establish "need". The guideline is age 65 and somewhere around $20K or less of annual income and financial assets of $5000. Existing benefits range anywhere from a free Driver's License to free pharmaceuticals. Free mass transit regardless of where one resides within the State could be incorporated as a benefit of the program.

If such were enacted, a needy person residing in, say, Decatur or East St Louis would benefit.

In closing, I admit I am a passholder; I simply cannot look a gift horse in the mouth. But if the existing program is to be repealed, I'll surrender my pass without any hard feelings whatever, in fact it will be with pleasure.
  by doepack
 
No doubt, the RTA could certainly find more constructive things to spend $30M a year on besides funding this somewhat wasteful program, but something I've always wondered: Does the free ride program extend to NICTD passengers between Hegewisch & Randolph? Even though it's an Indiana operation, NICTD does receive a small operating subsidy from the RTA, and charges Metra rates (zone D) to Hegewisch...
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Mr Doepack, any of the particulars that came with my card note only CTA METRA and PACE.

I was in town last evening to have Dinner at Miller's Pub with a fellow i know who resides in Worcester MA, and admittedly used my Pass on the BNSF. I could not help but remark to the BNSF Conductor 'well I wonder what the life expectancy of this is as of now?"

Just as well but "Elvis has left the building".
  by Tadman
 
I think a need-based pass is an interesting idea. But the overall concept was yet another example of the Boy King trying to fool us. I'm with GBN that the program needs to be scrapped.
  by doepack
 
I was discussing this with someone yesterday, and I mentioned my surprise that NICTD hasn't raised more of a fuss about this (or if they have, I haven't heard), it does seem unfair that the IL portion of their operation is exempt. The reply I got was that if the program were to include NICTD, it would require either 1)a renegotiation of RTA's current formula used to calculate NICTD's allocation (a formula which has been in place for over 30 years and is surely outdated by now), or 2) a reimbursement from the RTA for any free rides offered by NICTD. And I guess both are moot points, since the RTA's broke anyway...
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
From review of a blog, i have now learned that the scope of 'Seniors Ride Free" has been expanded to include Disabled persons of any age residing in the six RTA counties AND otherwise eligible for Circuit Breaker benefits.

While I find it interesting that there is now a link between the Circuit Breaker and Seniors Ride Free programs, the inequity remains in place; I, as a "perfectly comfortable' retiree residing in DuPage, do not need Seniors Ride Free, but I'll bet there is a retiree out in Rockford who does.
  by Tadman
 
Or young people anywhere in the state trying to ride downtown to an internship or college. Seniors have the highest percentage of voters. Rod knew how to sell himself, and the seniors-ride-free was a blatant attempt at vote getting. You can tell he was a showman because every time a news reporter asked his attorney about a specific issue in his corruption case, the response completely side-stepped the question and instead spoke of how many jobs the gov had created in his tenure.

I think a needs-based program is a bright way to mobilize those young and old and provide them with more opportunity to get to a job or school. An across-the-board seniors-ride-free program is simply a vote getter.
  by F40CFan
 
Tadman wrote:Or young people anywhere in the state trying to ride downtown to an internship or college. Seniors have the highest percentage of voters. Rod knew how to sell himself, and the seniors-ride-free was a blatant attempt at vote getting. You can tell he was a showman because every time a news reporter asked his attorney about a specific issue in his corruption case, the response completely side-stepped the question and instead spoke of how many jobs the gov had created in his tenure.

I think a needs-based program is a bright way to mobilize those young and old and provide them with more opportunity to get to a job or school. An across-the-board seniors-ride-free program is simply a vote getter.
While I agree that a needs-based program is better than the current plan, it is a beurocratic nightmare. How often do they review need? How many clerks etc. are required to review applications and audit current plan members? Its a great idea, just hard to administer.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Mr. F-40C, as I noted in previous references to such, the existing Circuit Breaker program requires an annual filing by participants in order to establish their recurring need and hence eligibility for benefits.

http://www.cbrx.il.gov/
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
In a recent editorial, the Chicago Tribune is "echoing" the thoughts I have held ever since the Seniors Ride Free program was inaugurated last year and expressed at this topic's originating posting:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opin ... 6420.story

Brief passage:

  • A gratifying number of seniors recognized the gesture for what it was: irresponsible pandering. To this day, the Tribune gets a letter or two every week from retirees who say they didn't ask for the freebie and don't need it. Many of them cheerfully admit they're taking advantage of the perk anyway. Who wouldn't? Only a fool would walk into a restaurant that advertised FREE LUNCH and say, "No, thanks, I'd rather pay for mine." Nearly 400,000 seniors have been issued cards that qualify them for free rides.
As I've noted here, I am within the " brief passage's" population; I don't need it, but I'm not going to look the 'gift horse in the mouth".

Now today during the 5AM hour, WBBM 780 reports that the existing Seniors Ride Free will be eliminated as part of the budget legislation now moving forth in Springfield. It will be replaced with a program limited to Seniors who have established need for such, presumably using the same guidelines set forth by the State's existing Circuit Breaker program.

I'll update this material at such time that I can find a URL link posted by a recognized news source.

addenda: here is material from ABC Channel 7 Chicago:

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?sectio ... id=6681667

To my complete surprise, Gov. Quinn is in favor of retaining this program.

Here is more Tribune opinion saying the program "gotta go":

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opin ... 6420.story
  by buddah
 
MR Norman I applaud you for going against the grain on the free ride initiative, I too believe it was a not A well thought out program and rushed into law to make the then Governor MR. B. look good. Even my own Uncle who is now 60 said he would not be in favor of the free rides as it makes seniors look dependent on others and not able to take care of themselves. He also said "do you think a state like Florida would let seniors ride FREE? Definitely not". That's too much in lost revenue, so neither should Illinois. He also said "I cant lie Id take advantage of it is I was 5 yrs older but Id be just as happy paying my reduced fare and knowing that I am contributing to the pot for future generations and improves service and reliability", "If no ones paying to ride that money has to come from somewhere else, and thats where it will be taken from." I agree I believe a reform is needed on that law and those who make under said income (example 20k) should get to ride free, those in between a said amount (20-30k) get 75% off and those seniors above that pay regular reduced 50% off fare. Seniors making over 60k a year should only get a 33% reduction on fares. That would be my Idea of a fair pricing strategy for seniors.
  by GWoodle
 
My idea of fair would be to go back to a student/senior pass that would allow travel at 1/2 of the fare. Only those under 5 traveling with a parent ride "free". Perhaps parents could get "Family Rates" for the few trips on weekends/holidays. The level of service is too valuable to give it away for free.

Something the MCS has learned is to sell special fares for special events, like Titans games, fireworks, etc.
I'm still waiting to hear if the MCS will get some stimulus money for new cars, locos, etc.
  by MACTRAXX
 
Everyone: I was comparing the RTA allowing all seniors 65 or over to ride free-compared to SEPTA's(Philadelphia) senior citizen program-which is funded by Pennsylvania Lottery revenue.
That program allows seniors to ride free at all times on transit and ride for $1 within PA on Regional Rail at all times.
Check this for those fares: www.septa.org/fares/senior_citizens.html

Will bringing back senior fares mean,say a $1 fare on CTA and PACE and half off or more on current METRA fares?
Gov.Blagojevich did the systems no favor allowing this large giveaway program but not funding it correctly as far as I noticed.
Can some Illinois Lottery proceeds fund mass transit in any way?
Thoughts from MACTRAXX