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Activists Ask Port Authority To Implement 'Logical' Changes To Help Low Income Riders

Kathleen J. Davis
90.5 WESA
Laura Wiens of Pittsburghers for Public Transit speaks Friday morning.

At a rally Friday morning, transit activists called on the Allegheny County Port Authority board to change policies that they say hurt low-income riders. A letter was delivered to the Authority's board with 2,500 signatures asking for free transfers, no penalty on cash fares and fare capping.

Fare capping is a system where individual purchases add up on a rider's card and automatically turn into a weekly or monthly pass when the equivalent amount is paid. This system has been implemented in London and Dallas, Texas.

Teireik Williams lives in south Oakland, and he said he can't afford to spend almost $100 at a time for a monthly Port Authority bus pass.

"I think fare capping would be a logical and equitable way to increase access to the benefits of public transit currently being denied to low income people like myself," he said.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit Director Laura Wiens said paying with cash should cost the same as paying with a Connect Card. As of now, riders paying with cash are charged $2.75 per ride, versus $2.50 per ride for Connect Card holders.

"People are not choosing to pay with cash simply because they're stubborn," Wiens said. "It's because they don't have access to a Connect Card vendor."

According to the Port Authority, there are more than 100 places to buy a Connect Card, but there are geographic gaps outside of Pittsburgh city limits, such as in the North Hills and the Mon Valley. Pittsburghers for Public Transit says these gaps exist mainly in low-income communities.

At the Port Authority board meeting later in the morning, Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman said she agrees that fares should be affordable, and that she's glad there's so much local passion around equitable transit.