Senior citizens sure have clout in this state. They stared down lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn when it came to the possibility of losing their free mass transit rides. Sturdy legislators turned to Jell-o when facing the voting booth wrath of Illinois geezers denied gratis bus and train rides. Quinn, too, waffled after transit agencies thought they had an agreement to restrict the free rides to low-income seniors and half fares for other seniors.
For all of you who thought there was no free lunch, talk to Illinois pols. They fear seniors mainly because they vote. A lot. While the nation's youth vote may have propelled then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama into the White House, they only come out when they're energized on an issue or candidate. Seniors don't care. They just vote. A lot. Which is why seniors get so much free stuff and reduced rates for everything from hotel rooms to national park entrance fees.
A group of seniors storming Springfield sends shivers down the spine of normally unswayable pols. Which is why the two-year-old free rides for seniors 65 and older is still running. When faced with re-election prospects, pols err on the side of seniors and their growing numbers (see, Boomers, Baby).
Chicago Transit Authority officials believe the free rail rides instituted by former Gov. Rod "The Apprentice" Blagojevich has cost them some $60 million. They were hoping to recoup that. Guess again. Now the CTA is looking at service cuts and fare increases.
We like what one lawmaker unconcerned with geezer rage said: "There is no free ride on a bus that doesn't exist." Who said seniors are in their golden years? Not The Hound.