Members of the Port Authority of Allegheny County board unanimously approved a measure to adopt a flat fare system by doing away with the three-zone system Friday.
Getting rid of zone payment means the downtown free zone is eliminated and riders bussing to the suburbs – who now pay $1.25 more – will pay the same $2.50 fee charged in the city limits.
Port Authority CEO Ellen McLean said that will cost the port authority about $4 million. But she calls that an investment in riders and a more equitable system.
“The further out you are, (the bus system) has less service than we do in the city," she said. "They were paying a premium for actually less frequency of service."
The new system will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017, replacing the current multi-zone fare structure.
PAT will also start charging cash payers a quarter more per ride and charging $1 to purchase a ConnectCard. McLean said the authority wanted to incentivize using the card because cash payers take longer to board. Average cash ridership for the county system is 14 percent, she said.
In the coming months, PAT will target marketing campaigns in areas with a large amount of cash riders - urging them to use ConnectCards.
Riders will also always pay when boarding the bus, unlike the current system when riders sometimes pay while exiting.
McLean said the authority surveyed riders and drivers and found the most important change they wanted was for riders to pay when they board the bus.
That led to the removal of the free downtown zone.
“We don’t know if you’re getting off in one block or going all the way out to the East End," he said. "So it was part of the logistics of making pay enter work."
McLean said the free rail from Downtown to the North Shore will continue.