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September 9, 1999

Illinois FIRST Funds RTA Discounts For Seniors, Disabled And Students

CHICAGO -- Governor George H. Ryan today announced a $40 million Illinois FIRST grant to subsidize the Regional Transportation Authority's fare discount for disabled persons, senior citizens and students.

This grant is a key component of the $4.1 billion statewide mass transit aspect of Illinois FIRST that Ryan announced last spring.

"These discounts are important for students, seniors and people with disabilities because many times mass transit is the only way they can get to the store, the doctor's office, to school or to visit their families," Ryan said. "My goal is to make mass transit more accessible and this grant for the fare subsidy accomplishes that."

In 1989, Gov. James R. Thompson first pledged state assistance to cover the cost of the fare subsidies. Cut-rate fares for seniors and the disabled are mandated by the federal government. At the time, the total cost of the program to the state was $36 million. Facing a recession and fiscal hard times in the early 1990s, Gov. Jim Edgar cut back the state's share of the subsidy to $20 million. The Illinois FIRST allocation in Fiscal Year 2000 will subsidize the total cost of the discounts.

The half-price discounts that the RTA offers are available to qualified disabled individuals, students and to senior citizens over age 65 with proof of age. For example, without a transfer, discounted riders on the CTA pay only 75 cents, while the regular fare is $1.50. Fares on Metra trains vary based on the length of the trip, but all subsidized fares are half of the ticket price.

"I hope that with the state subsidy, the RTA will be free to use other funds in ways that will benefit all of the passengers in Chicago and the collar counties," Ryan added.

Illinois FIRST is Ryan's $12 billion, five year infrastructure enhancement and improvement program designed to upgrade, repair or expand roads, bridges, water systems, schools and other public building needs.


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