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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

PAT Holds Public Hearing on Proposed ConnectCard Fee

In mid-June, the Port Authority announced it is considering a one-time $5 fee for ConnectCard service. The proposal has been met with some criticism from riders, who expressed their views at a public hearing on Tuesday.

Many who spoke also offered potential fixes to avoid charging for the cards.

Edward Wagner of Brighton Heights opened up the public comment session by suggesting the Port Authority should not only keep ConnectCards free, but should also offer a discount to riders who use them because they save time.

“Time is money,” Wagner said. “Do you know how long it takes to put $3.50 worth of nickels into a machine that takes one nickel at a time?”

He said widespread use of the card would reduce situations where bus drivers tell riders to simply get on without paying because they do not have enough time to wait for them to put in their coins.

Mt. Lebanon resident Glen Walsh, who chose to give up car-ownership in favor of public transit in 1985, said ConnectCards are valuable because they are faster, more efficient and improve security for both the rider and the Port Authority.

PAT says it is trying to recover the $3 cost associated with issuing the cards.

“I think it’s a travesty to try to charge anybody $5 to replace these,” Linda Warman said. “If it’s only costing $3 for you to make, you should only charge $3, if at any.”

Jon Robison said charging riders for the cards is “penny wise, and pound foolish.”

“What about the poor, for whom five dollars is a missed meal?” Robison said. “Sure, they may benefit from ConnectCard in the long run. But as Harry Hopkins said, ‘People don’t eat in the long run, they eat every day.’”

Claudia Kirkpatrick said the Port Authority should not impose a fee for the cards, and instead should consider making rides for the poor either discounted or free, much like the system currently in place for elderly riders.

“I can use the Port Authority for free, thanks to the Pennsylvania Lottery,” said Kirkpatrick. “I just show them my Medicare card … the bus driver, and he or she pushes a button. This is the kind of simplicity of service we would like to have for low income people.”

Riders can still get a free card until August 1 at select retailers throughout the area.

A vote on instituting the fee will be taken July 24. PAT officials did not respond during the public hearing.