Audit: Free Rides Rampant Among Non-cardholders

Steven Bobson, Europe & Americas Editor
November 29, 2010 /

The Regional Transportation Authority’s audit, which will be released soon, has discovered several abuses in the free rides provided to senior citizens in Illinois.

The report from WFLD-TV in Chicago and the Better Government Association noted several instances where non-cardholders are using the free passes that provide free rides to senior citizens after the legitimate cardholders had died. Some evidences even showed that a number of cards have been sold.

RTA spokeswoman Diane Palmer said the transportation authority is already working to address what she described a “travesty.” Palmer added that RTA has been aware of the free rides transit card misuse.

Based on the review conducted by RTA, 3,000 of the 400,000 senior citizens using the free rides card had already deceased. And about 160 of the 3,000 cards are still being used up to 1,400 times by illegitimate users anywhere. Palmer said the misuse happened when the transit systems are “in dire straits.”

Most of the beneficiaries of the free rides insisted on by then Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2008 are coming from the Chicago metropolitan area.

Transportation agencies lamented that the free rides misuse could only aggravate their financial problems.

Metra trains, Chicago Transit Authority and El trains could generate millions of dollars if only the free rides system would be abolished, the RTA said.

The Chicago Transit Authority’s audit reported that about 37.5 million free rides have been taken by senior citizens, low-income individuals, and active and disabled military veterans from January to June this year, saying these exceeded the figures it only expected.

The audit showed this free rides figure is 2.5 million more than that of last year.


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