San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

What Is Going on With Senior Citizen Bus Passes?

Could you please clarify the situation on free bus passes for senior citizens? Both Costa Rican citizens and permanent residents have been eligible for the tickets issued monthly to ride the buses free, but there seems to be a change without notice and perhaps legal validity.

Peter Martin

Sabanilla, San José

The Social Security System (la Caja) has since 2002 been “temporarily” in charge of handing out tickets that allow senior citizens to travel for free on short bus routes and at a discounted fare on longer routes.

This system is supposed to be replaced, possibly as soon as December, by a permanent ticketless system that would allow seniors to simply show their Costa Rican ID (cédula), permanent resident cédula or passport.

Some bus routes, such as from San José to the eastern suburb of Sabanilla, are taking part in a pilot project testing a device that scans cédulas and deciphers the passenger’s age.

However, it is not clear whether that specific device will be chosen by the Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) as the standard device for all buses. One problem with these devices has been that they are unable to read the old resident cédulas, which will gradually be phased out in the coming years.

This and other problems with the system’s implementation, however, do not permit bus drivers or bus companies to deprive seniors, be they citizens or permanent residents, of free and discounted bus fares.

The country’s laws are clear on the matter. Law 8500 of 1996 awards seniors the right to special treatment if they show a valid form of identification. Law 7936 of 1999 awards seniors the right to ride the bus for free on routes that span less than 25 kilometers, 50 percent off on routes between 25 and 50 kms and 25 percent off on routers longer than 50 km.

Unfortunately, it is common, as many passengers will attest, for bus drivers to reject senior citizen’s tickets and become hostile if a senior protests.

Although the Caja operates the current system of tickets for seniors, it has no jurisdiction over public transportation and, therefore, cannot act upon complaints.

Seniors affected by this type of behavior and witnesses are encouraged to report these drivers and their employers to MOPT’s Public Transportation Council by calling 2586-9000, or going to ctp. The council awards, manages and revokes route concessions and can fine bus companies for violating the country’s laws.

At least until December, the Caja will continue issuing tickets. To acquire them, seniors need to visit any of the Caja’s administrative offices and show a valid form of identification. Tickets are valid for one month and are issued during the first two weeks of each month.


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