Reduced Fare & Free Ride Programs
A "full fare" is the regular fare for riders on the CTA. Full fare is typically paid when you first board a bus or train as part of a trip.
Some riders, such as students and people with disabilities, qualify for reduced fares. There are also some free ride programs for those who qualify.
Seniors: Looking for info on how to use an RTA Reduced Fare Permit to pay your fare? Learn how here.
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Reduced Fare Program Details
Quick Reduced Fare comparison:
- Reduced Fare Transit Card or Reduced Fare Permits (buses)
$1 Reduced Fare + 15 cents for up to two transfers within two hours
- Reduced Fare Transit Card or Reduced Fare Permits (rail)
$1.10 Reduced Fare + 15 cents for up to two transfers within two hours
- Reduced Fare with cash on buses
$1.10 Reduced Fare
See our Complete Fare Chart to determine how much a full fare or reduced fare trip costs (and note that, in order to make paid transfers, you'll need to pay with a farecard).
Children, 7 through 11 years of age
Each child pays a Reduced Fare. Tell bus operator or see Customer Assistant or security guard for assistance at train stations.
Note: Children under 7 ride free with a fare-paying customer.
Student Reduced Fare
The student reduced fare is valid on school days only between 5:30am and 8:30pm. The following groups are eligible to pay a student reduced fare on CTA:
- Children ages 20 and younger with valid CTA Student Riding Permit
$0.75 Student Reduced Fare (cash or with farecard)
+ 15 cents for up to two transfers within two hours (with farecard)
Student Riding Permit
Student Riding Permits, which entitle students to a Student Reduced Fare on school days between 5:30am and 8:30pm, are available for students 20 and younger. This permit is obtained through the elementary or high school where a student is in attendance.
Beginning with the regular 2013-2014 school session, the Student Riding Permit is being issued as a hard, plastic, reusable card that works with Ventra: CTA and Pace's new contactless fare system. Students pay fare by tapping their card to the Ventra reader. For information about Ventra, call 1-877-NOW-VENTRA.
Fares used with the card are stored in a Ventra Transit Account, to which value can be added from vending machines in any CTA station or hundreds of retailers around town (you'll be able to walk into stores and add value at the register with these new cards). Parents are encouraged to register the card so fares are protected against loss of the card, and can add cash value directly online using a credit card.
Separate Student Reduced Fare Transit Cards (the magnetic strip cards that are inserted into fare equipment) are being discontinued and will no longer be accepted starting in December. Students will only need to hold on to their new contactless card.
Students who pay cash for one way trips on the bus can still do so, though must show their permit (even if not using it to store fares) to be able to ride at the Student Fare.
Student Riding Permit Ventra Cards cost $2.
Non-CPS School Student Riding Permit Application Forms
Students who attend Chicago Public Schools should get the permit through their school. Contact your school for information on how to get a permit.
Order form for non-CPS schools
Non-CPS schools can use this form to apply for permits:
Printable order form for schools/administrators (.pdf)
Order form for parents
If you're a parent of a child who attends a non-CPS school, you can use this order form:
Printable order form for individuals (.pdf)
See also: Ventra letter to non-CPS schools
College students do not qualify for the Student Reduced Fare. The CTA U-Pass for college/university students, however, is available through participating institutions.
RTA Reduced Fares
- RTA Reduced Fare Permit
- Visit the RTA's Web site or call (312) 913-3110 to apply for the RTA Reduced Fare Permit.
- If you are aged 65 or older, you are eligible for reduced fare through the RTA Reduced Fare Program.
- All Medicare cardholders are eligible to apply for the RTA Reduced Fare Permit.
- If you have a disability, you may also qualify for this program. (More information...)
- ADA Paratransit Reduced Fare Permit allows the permit holder and an attendant to each ride at the reduced fare on fixed-route services.
- Reduced Fare Permit entitles the holder to travel at reduced fares on CTA, Pace and Metra.
Reduced Fare Permits can store value to pay fares on CTA and Pace. Value can be added at vending machines located at CTA rail stations. Vending machines accept one, two, five, ten, and twenty-dollar bills, and all coins except pennies and half dollars. Maximum value on the card can not exceed $100.
- Most Reduced Fare Permits are for the use of one person only.
- Reduced Fare Permit entitles the holder to travel at reduced fares on Pace and Metra.
- Learn how seniors can use the RTA Reduced Fare Permit here.
Free Ride Program Details
Military Service Pass
- Active U.S. military personnel in full uniform and presenting their United States Armed Forces ID may ride free on CTA buses and trains.
- Active U.S. military personnel and qualifying disabled veterans with a CTA Military Service Pass may ride free on CTA buses and trains.
- To obtain a CTA Military Service Pass, visit an authorized CTA service center on select days of the month.
- See Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for locations, dates and times to visit a service center, and more.
The Seniors Ride Free Program Ends Thursday, September 1, 2011
Due to a new law passed by the State of Illinois, the Regional Transportation Authority’s (RTA) Senior Ride Free Program will end and all RTA Seniors Ride Free Permits will be deactivated on Thursday, September 1.
Effective September 1, only qualifying seniors with a valid RTA Circuit Ride Free Permit will be eligible to ride free on the CTA. All other seniors will be eligible to ride the CTA at a reduced fare with a valid RTA Reduced Fare Permit.
People with Disabilities Ride Free
The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) system began allowing free rides on fixed-route transit to riders issued a “Circuit Permit” as part of the People with Disabilities Ride Free Program enacted under Senate Bill 1920.
The legislation requires free rides on fixed-route transit (regularly scheduled CTA, Metra, and Pace buses and trains) to be made available to any Illinois resident who has been enrolled as a person with a disability in the Illinois Circuit Breaker program.
Learn more about the program at the RTA's website.