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Port Authority To End Card Discount, But Ease Transfer Policy Next Year

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA

The Port Authority of Allegheny County is calling it not a fare hike but the end of a discount. But either way, riders who use the ConnectCard will see a 25 cent hike in their fares beginning next year. Card users will pay $2.75 per ride — the same as passengers who use cash — instead of the current $2.50.

The Port Authority board unanimously approved that change alongside a 2022 operating budget of $494.3 million, which is nearly 2% more than the agency has budgeted for 2021.

The news isn’t all bad for riders, though: The board also approved a more generous transfer policy.

ConnectCard users previously had to pay $1 to transfer to another route. (Cash riders had to pay a full second fare.) But next year those riders will be permitted free transfers for three hours, which means that a ride with transfer will be 75 cents cheaper than under the current approach.

The agency is also recalibrating its weekly and monthly pass programs, so they are good for 7 and 30 days, rather than until the end of the week or month in which they are purchased.

Activists have long complained about the additional cost for passengers who pay cash rather than use a ConnectCard. The extra fare, they said, was a penalty on people who may not have easy access to a ConnectCard machine, or for people whose circumstances make it difficult to pre-load money onto the card.

But raising the cost of card use isn’t the solution they had in mind.

“It’s a fare increase on what was already one of the highest base fares in the country,” said Laura Chu Wiens of Pittsburghers for Public Transit.

She did praise the new transfer policy as a measure her group “have been calling for, and that some people might see as a fare reduction. But we’ve really been focused on the need for a low-income fare program” that offered discounts for people who need them most.

Wiens acknowledged that the coronavirus has played havoc with transit budgets across the country. But she said activists campaigned for the federal aid that helped keep buses running “not just to save the system, but to save the riders.”

Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.