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The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has intensified efforts to stop the fraudulent use of free and reduced-fare cards on trains and buses, the agency announced yesterday.CTA officials began card-verification efforts last month at rail stations throughout Chicago and nearby suburbs. Regulations for free and reduced-fare programs — which include seniors, persons with disabilities, UPass, student fares and other categories — stipulate that the cards can only be used by the individual identified on the card. Since October, the CTA has collected more than 1,800 free and reduced-fare cards during the verification campaign. The agency estimated that the lost potential annualized revenue from the fraudulent use of those cards is $2.8 million.The CTA also is auditing free and reduced-fare card usage to better understand card use, and ensure that the people who qualify for free and reduced-fare rides are the ones actually benefitting. The audit goes beyond the agency's regular monitoring of special fare programs, including free and reduced-fare rides. The audit was launched following a 20 percent spike in free rides so far this year. "Free and reduced-fare rides are intended for seniors, persons with disabilities and others who rightfully qualify for these important programs," said CTA President Forrest Claypool. "We take any incident of fraud seriously and are taking steps to protect innocent customers from being taken advantage of, as well as protecting all other fare-paying customers from having to subsidize improper use of these programs."
The CTA provides state-mandated free rides and federally mandated reduced-fare rides totaling more than $100 million annually. The agency receives a small reimbursement from the state — $28 million last year — and the remaining cost is funded by CTA's annual operating budget.
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