Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s improvements to a long-term mass transit funding bill that provides free public transportation to Illinois seniors became law today after the General Assembly accepted his Amendatory Veto to House Bill 656 Thursday. The CTA, Metra and Pace planned for drastic service cuts, fare hikes, and layoffs if a solution wasn’t passed by Sunday January 20th
. After the Governor certified his Amendatory Veto today, transit agencies now have 60 days to implement plans to offer free public transportation to seniors.
Last week, after the General Assembly approved a CTA funding bill that relies in part on a .25% increase in the sales tax in Chicago and surrounding counties, the Governor rewrote the bill to minimize the impact on seniors by allowing them to use public transportation for free.
“This Sunday can now truly be a day of rest. People won’t have to spend it worrying about how they’re going to get to work, how they’ll pay for it, or whether or not they have a job,” said Governor Blagojevich . “This is the last step in what has been a long struggle to find a long-term transit funding solution. Not only is doomsday averted, but Illinois seniors will travel for free on public transportation.”
HB 656 provides over $494 million in new, recurring funding for the Regional Transportation Authority, which includes the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace; and another $50 million for transit agencies in other parts of Illinois. With a long-term funding plan in place, the Chicago area transit agencies have said they will not cut services, raise fares or lay-off workers on January 20, as planned. The legislation also implements important pension and oversight reforms within the RTA.
The Governor’s Amendatory Veto requires transit agencies statewide to allow senior citizens, aged 65 and older, to use main line and fixed route public transit service for free. A senior who uses public transportation twice a week could save $176 a year on CTA fares, $156 a year on Pace fares and $405 a year on Metra fares. There are approximately 1.3 million seniors living in communities across Illinois that have mass transit service.