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Port Authority Revenue Seems To Be On The Rise, But Nowhere Near Normal

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA

The economic effects of the ongoing pandemic continue to dog the Port Authority of Allegheny County, but officials reported reasons for cautious optimism during board committee meetings on Thursday.

Chief Financial Officer Peter Schenk told board members that the agency saw a $2.6 million jump in revenue in the first two months of the fiscal year compared with last year. Sales of annual and monthly passes, as well as people adding money to their ConnectCards, drove the increase. In addition, riders buy roughly 2,500 tickets per day through Port Authority’s mobile application, Ready2Ride, or its partner, the Transit app.

“That is a good sign,” Schenk said, though spokesperson Adam Brandolph noted in an email that it will probably be quite some time until Port Authority sees pre-COVID levels of ridership.

“We’re going to be saying pre-pandemic and post-pandemic for a long, long time,” he said.

Annual income is already nearly $8 million below budget for the year, and federal relief money will continue to be used to close the gap.

That may soon be bolstered by higher revenue from universities who underwrite transit for their students and staff. A new contract proposal between Port Authority and the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham University, and Carnegie Mellon University would charge ten percent more per ride, moving from $1.25 per trip to $1.65. If approved, the contract would bring the cost to nearly $2 through annual increases over the next five years.

Port Authority’s board will decide whether to adopt the agreement at its board meeting next week, and will also consider the agency’s 25-year plan, NEXTransit.

Begun in 2020, NEXTransit lays out priorities so Port Authority can allocate its resources and apply for grants accordingly. Since a July update, a commitment to sustainability and an affordable fare structure have been added to the plan.

Margaret J. Krauss is WESA’s senior reporter. She covers development and transportation, and has produced award-winning podcasts on housing, work, and Pittsburgh’s lesser-known history. Before joining the newsroom full time, she covered the challenges facing Pennsylvania cities as a statewide reporter, and spent another life as an assistant editor for National Geographic Kids Magazine in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at mkrauss@wesa.fm.
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