Friday, December 11, 2009

Seniors Ride "For Half" Most Anywhere - FREE in Chicago

Impeached and removed from office, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich certainly left 'we the people' of this politically disgraced state a piece of baggage. During March 2008, as part of mass transit appropriation legislation, he insisted with the power of a veto, that any person age 65 and over, be allowed to ride any services, namely METRA Rail, PACE (suburban) Bus, and CTA, offered by the Regional Transportation Authority without charge.

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though I am a holder of a Seniors Ride Free pass (age 68; reside in DuPage County), I would like to see this program repealed at first opportunity.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 a recent editorial, the Chicago Tribune is "echoing" the thoughts I hold:

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.

In its present form, this program quite simply is discriminatory and further has presented the RTA 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 or less. 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.

1 comment:

  1. There appears to be movement towards reform of this, for all too many especially here in DuPage County where I reside, needless "perk":

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-free-rides-for-seniors-0225-20100224,0,2774257.story

    It appears that the Illinois House has passed legislation limiting the scope of free rides to what I outlined above - namely to Seniors eligible for benefits under the State's existing Circuit Breaker program.

    This legislation must also be passed by the Illinois Senate and signed into law by Governor Quinn, who, incidentally, is in the "fight of his political life' for election (he succeeded Blago when he was removed).

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