The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is targeting the fraudulent use of free and reduced-fare cards, as part of a comprehensive, ongoing effort the agency has undertaken to analyze the steady rise over the past year in the number of free and reduced-fare rides taken on CTA trains and buses.
Last month the CTA began performing card-verification efforts at rail stations throughout the city and suburbs, verifying individuals using any type of free or reduced-fare card were the cardholder listed on the face of the card. Regulations for free and reduced-fare programs — which include seniors, persons with disabilities, U-Pass, student fares and other categories — stipulate that those cards can only be used by the individual identified on the card and can’t be transferred.
Since October 2014, the CTA has collected more than 1,800 free and reduced-fare cards during the card-verification efforts. It estimates that the lost potential annualized revenue from the fraudulent use of those cards at $2.8 million.
Separately, the CTA is conducting an audit of free and reduced-fare card usage to better understand card use, and ensure that individuals who qualify for free and reduced-fare rides are actually the ones benefitting. The audit expands upon the agency’s regular monitoring of special fare programs, including free- and reduced-fare rides.
The results of the recent CTA analysis found that of approximately 600,000 RTA free, reduced-fare and paratransit cards, slightly more than 1% are being used at a frequency far above the typical average for similar cards. The approximately one percent of cards CTA identified in the audit were used 10 or more times a day, at least twice in a seven-day period.
The CTA is also working closely with the RTA to continue education efforts for free and reduced-fare ride customers, including reminding them that their cards are for their use only and that they should be sure to store them in a safe place and not share them.