Wednesday, August 27, 2008
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Free transit rides for disabled becomes law

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[August 27, 2008]  CHICAGO -- On Tuesday, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich signed landmark legislation to allow people with disabilities statewide to ride free on all fixed-route transit systems. Senate Bill 1920 requires transit systems statewide to begin providing free rides no later than Oct. 24 to people with disabilities who are enrolled in the state's Circuit Breaker program.

Statewide, approximately 275,000 low-income individuals with disabilities are eligible for this benefit. This new benefit builds on the success of Seniors Ride Free, which the governor launched in January of this year. In combination, these two programs ensure that nearly 1.6 Illinoisans can ride fixed-route transit for free, once they register with their local transit agency.

"My Seniors Ride Free program has been a success from its beginning in January," Blagojevich said. "Now, thanks to this new law, all disabled individuals eligible for Circuit Breaker in Illinois can also enjoy the benefits and freedoms that public transit provides. I am very pleased to sign this bill into law today."

Senate Bill 1920, sponsored by Sen. Susan Garrett and Rep. Kathleen Ryg, received strong bipartisan support in the Illinois Senate, where it passed 55-1-0, and in the Illinois House, where it passed 95-15-0.

"This new law will make the daily lives of individuals with disabilities easier by limiting the burden of transportation costs. I am proud to have co-sponsored this bill and look forward to seeing it take effect," Garrett said.

"I have been looking forward to this ever since I heard the governor announce the Seniors Ride Free program this winter," said Mitchell Cohen, 52, of Chicago. "He promised he would work to extend the benefit to people with disabilities, and I am excited that he lived up to his promise. I look forward to riding the buses and trains to doctor's appointments, the grocery store or wherever I need to go, without having to cut into my budget."

People with disabilities who wish to take part in the free transit benefit must enroll in the Circuit Breaker program in order to be eligible. The Circuit Breaker program provides support to senior citizens and people with disabilities to help them reduce the impact of taxes and prescription medications on their lives. When the costs of property taxes and prescription medicines begin to "overload" our seniors and people with disabilities, this program steps in to help, just as a circuit breaker prevents overloads in an electrical system.

Circuit Breaker annual household income limits are as follows:

  • $22,218 for a household of one.

  • $29,480 for a household of two.

  • $36,740 for a household of three.

To apply for Circuit Breaker, people with disabilities can visit or call 1-800-624-2459 (1-888-206-1327 TTY) to request an application.

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Those already enrolled in Circuit Breaker should contact their local transit agency to find out what they will need to do to take advantage of the free rides. For a list of local transit agencies, visit

Individuals with disabilities who are not eligible for Circuit Breaker will still be eligible for reduced fare, half-price transit rides as provided under current law. Eligibility for reduced fare service is generally determined at the local level.

"Persons with disabilities are often transit-dependent, so it is important that we improve access to transit for those who need it most to live independently," Ryg said. "I am pleased to see Gov. Blagojevich sign this legislation."

"By providing these free rides on fixed-route service, we are giving additional mobility to those who need it most and helping them to improve their quality of life," said Steve Schlickman, executive director of the Regional Transportation Authority.

"We are pleased that this new free ride benefit will be available to people with disabilities on a limited income," said Janice Stashwick, civil rights advocate for Access Living. "Public transportation is critical to the everyday lives of many people with disabilities. This free ride benefit will offer more independence to get to work, school, medical and social appointments, etc., and thus will benefit us all."

"The enactment of a free ride program for people with disabilities will help them to be more active and achieve the goals and daily necessities of importance to the entire community," said Tony Paulauski, executive director, The Arc of Illinois.

Senate Bill 1920 is effective immediately. Free rides for those who meet the eligibility requirements must begin within 60 days of the bill action or no later than Oct. 24.

[Text from file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]


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