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New Transit Fare Cards Arriving For Seniors

CHICAGO (CBS) -- New fare cards have begun to arrive from the RTA for more than 427,000 Chicago area senior citizens in the next few days.

As WBBM Newsradio 780's Bob Roberts reports, transit officials hope to minimize confusion among seniors.

The cards are live the moment they arrive, even though the old cards won't be shut off until Sept. 1.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780's Bob Roberts reports


"If they want to start paying half fare right away, we certainly welcome that," said RTA Executive Director Joe Costello, with a laugh.

Some seniors have resisted the free ride cards since then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich insisted upon granting them as part of 2008 RTA bailout legislation, saying they do not need the perk. But now, most senior citizens will have no choice but to pay half fare.

Anyone who already has a "Seniors Ride Free" card will get one of the two types of new cards without reapplying. RTA spokesperson Diane Palmer said that the state and RTA compared eligibility lists to assure that those still entitled to free rides get the appropriate card.

The newly-issued cards are different from their predecessors, in that they can actually be used to pay fares. Costello said that, with the exception of the 52,000 seniors who meet income ceiling requirements and will continue to ride free, seniors can store fares on the new cards -- up to $100 worth.

The cards will be rechargeable at 'L' stations, Jewel and Dominick's stores, Walmart and currency exchanges.

How seniors use the cards will depend on where they use them.

Palmer said that seniors riding CTA will simply put the magnetic stripe cards through turnstiles and bus fareboxes; those who must pay half-fare will see it deducted. Pace will allow seniors who must pay half-fare to show their cards and pay with cash. On Metra, those seniors presenting half-fare cards to ticket agents and conductors will be charged accordingly.

RTA is issuing half-fare cards to more than 375,000 Chicago-area senior citizens. It hopes to generate $30 million a year in revenue through the switch back to half-fare for the majority of senior citizen riders. It also expects a big drop in the number of rides taken by seniors.

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