The Access Program will launch on Feb. 1, and applications will be available beginning on Jan. 16.  -  Photo: METRO

The Access Program will launch on Feb. 1, and applications will be available beginning on Jan. 16.

Photo: METRO

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), Metra, and Cook County jointly announced the Access Pilot Program, which will extend reduced fares on the entire Metra system to riders experiencing low incomes regionwide.

All Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipient household members living within the six-county region (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will) are eligible.

The pilot will use the same pricing as the existing reduced fare and zone structure in Metra’s 2024 budget.

When Will the Access Program Launch?

The Access Program will launch on Feb. 1, and applications will be available beginning on Jan. 16, in person, by phone, and online.

The pilot will last for 18 months, ending July 31, 2025. It is made possible through a partnership between the RTA, Cook County, and Metra.

Cook County will contribute $6 million with RTA and Metra also contributing funds to cover the administrative costs and any lost operating revenue.

The pilot will help RTA and the transit agencies better understand issues of affordability and structure a permanent program if funding becomes available, according to RTA's news release.

“Fully funding and expanding regional reduced fare and ride free programs increases access for those residents who need it most,” said RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden. “The Access Pilot is a big step forward for our region to allow equitable and affordable transit access to SNAP recipients. This pilot expands upon RTA’s existing reduced fare and ride free programs and provides a seamless transition from the Fair Transit South Cook pilot. Making transit payments more seamless and affordable is a commitment RTA made in our regional transit strategic plan, ‘Transit is the Answer,’ which was co-created with input from thousands of riders, advocates and stakeholders.”

The Access Program also directly supports one of the goals of the Cook County Transit Plan, which advocates implementing an income-based reduced fare program. 

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