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Pittsburgh tests program to provide free transportation for lower-income residents

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Margaret Sun
/
90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh is launching a pilot program that will provide 50 city residents with free access to public transportation and other alternate means of transportation for one year. Officials said the initiative would help alleviate the financial burden of transportation.

The pilot will launch in the city’s Manchester and Chateau neighborhoods. According to a 2021 Manchester Neighborhood Plan, residents there earn an income 14% below that of the average Pittsburgher.

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Participants in the “Guaranteed Basic Mobility” program will be able to ride the bus, light rail, POGOH bikes, Spin Scooters or order a Zipcar free of charge. Eligible participants will be residents who receive some form of government assistance and who lack regular access to a personal vehicle. They must also be actively seeking a job or pursuing more hours of work.

Mayor Ed Gainey characterized the program as a way to provide economic opportunity to vulnerable residents.

“Having access to affordable and reliable transportation is critical in helping families across our city find a pathway to prosperity,” said Gainey. “This pilot program will help us more fully understand just how much of an impact transportation has on the lives and wellbeing of people in Pittsburgh.”

The approach picks up from an initiative drafted last year, Move PGH. Former Mayor Bill Peduto's administration sought to provide about 100 low-income residents with monthly "subscriptions" to transit options such as buses, bikes and mopeds. The goal was to bring multimodal transportation to the city, pairing bus trips with scooter rides, for example — although Scoobi, the moped share company, shut down its Pittsburgh operations earlier this summer.

A release from the city says the new program will evaluate how to improve economic, health and social outcomes by removing transportation barriers. The aim is to improve access to jobs, education, health care, social services and recreational activities.

Lack of access to reliable transportation is often cited as a major hurdle.

The new pilot will be supported by a $200,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. Spin, the participating scooter company, has put up $50,000 toward the project.

The 50 residents who take part in the pilot will be recruited by the city’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, Carnegie Mellon University and the Manchester Citizens Corporation.

Kiley covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.