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2011 Edition: Senior Transit Discounts

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If your spring and summer travel plans call for a stop in a big city, check out the local transit system for senior discounts and travel passes. Among the largest cities, a few let visiting seniors ride free and many others offer discounts of 50 percent or more. Not much has changed since my last report, two years ago, although some fares are up a bit.

Unless noted, the minimum qualifying age for all of the deals I post is 65 years. Most systems accept a Medicare card as ID; some also ask for photo ID. I list fares for a single one-way ride and a one-day pass if available, some systems also sell multi-day, weekly, and other senior passes that are even better deals than a one-ride discount. Senior deals often do not apply to such special services as “express buses” and transit to special events.

More and more systems are moving to stored value fare cards, now often the only way to pay your fare, and some require special senior ID cards. Most buses require either some sort of fare card or exact change.

Pennsylvania remains the most senior-friendly state for transit: Seniors ride free at all times, with just Medicare ID.

  • Philadelphia: free on subway, light rail, bus; $1 per ride on regional rail within state, 50 percent off for trips into Delaware or New Jersey
  • Pittsburgh: free on subway, light rail, bus

Some big cities make it easy for visiting seniors to ride on discounted fares: Just show ID at the station or to a vehicle driver and pay reduced cash fare.

  • Baltimore: 55 cents per ride, $1.20 all-day pass, on subway, light rail, bus; half fare on MARC regional rail
  • Cleveland: $1 per ride, $2.50 all-day pass, on rail, light rail, bus
  • Dallas: 85 cents per ride, $2 all-day pass, on light rail, bus, heavy rail to Ft. Worth
  • Denver: $1.10 local, $2.50 regional per ride on light rail, bus
  • Honolulu: $1 per ride on bus
  • Minneapolis: 75 cents per ride at non-rush hours on light rail, bus; 1/3 of regular fare, weekends only, on heavy rail
  • New York City: $1.25 per ride on subway, bus; bus discount requires special ID; varying discounts on regional heavy rail
  • Orlando-Central Florida: $1 per ride, $2.25 all-day pass, on bus
  • Phoenix: 85 cents per ride, $1.75 all-day pass, on light rail, bus
  • Portland: $1 per ride on light rail, bus
  • Salt Lake City: $1.10 per ride on light rail, bus; $1.10 to $2.60 per ride on regional heavy rail
  • San Diego: $1.25 per ride on light rail, bus; $1 to $2 per ride on regional heavy rail, minimum age 60
  • San Francisco: 75 cents per ride on light rail, bus; 62.5 percent discount on BART regional rail; 50 percent discount on CalTrain regional rail
  • San Jose/Silicon Valley: $1 per ride, $2.50 all-day pass, on light rail, bus
  • Vancouver, BC: $1.75 CAD to $3.50 CAD per ride on light rail, bus. U.S. Medicare card is accepted as senior ID

Several other cities require that visiting seniors buy special ID or tickets, issued on the spot at a few offices during limited business hours; check website or call for locations.

  • Atlanta: 90 cents per ride on rail, bus
  • Boston: 60 cents per ride on subway, light rail, bus; half fare on regional rail
  • New Orleans: 40 cents on light rail, bus
  • Seattle: 75 cents per ride on, light rail, bus; $1.50 to $2.25 per ride on regional rail; half fare for foot passengers on state ferries

Some cities offer senior discounts only to local residents; visiting seniors pay regular adult fares. Among them: Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, St. Louis, and Washington. No major Canadian cities other than Vancouver offer senior discounts accessible to U.S. residents.

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