Port Authority of Allegheny County officials are considering charging up to a $5 fee for their credit card-like ConnectCards to help offset more than $1 million already incurred to purchase and support their use.
More than 350,000 ConnectCards have been distributed for free since they began replacing paper passes and tickets in 2012. Spokesman Jim Ritchie said the authority swallows about $2.95 per card.
The proposed $5 charge would make the program more sustainable, he said.
“We’d like to see something that helps us recoup the cost that we have,” Ritchie said. “And really, that’s it. It’s not intended to be sort of a revenue generator. It’s just intended to be a number that helps us recoup the cost.”
Smart card fare systems are common in major cities both domestically and abroad. While fares range wildly, most require a comparable, one-time fee at the point of purchase. New York City's MetroCard goes for $1, Chicago's Ventra Card costs users $5 and Philadelphia's SEPTA Key Card runs $4.95 per card.
Ritchie said he expects feedback to be mixed, but board members will consider riders’ opinions and any cost “beyond zero” that they think is fair.
“We get a lot more feedback when we’re talking about a cut or change to service,” he said. “Far more than any impact to the fare structure.”
Officials will accept public comment through July 15 and host public hearings from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. June 30 to discuss the proposal. Free cards will be available through July 31 at participating Giant Eagle locations, other retailers and Port Authority’s service center Downtown.
Comments may also be mailed to Port Authority Public Comments, 345 Sixth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. The hearing will be held in the Port Authority board room at the same address on the fifth floor. Those wishing to speak may pre-register to reserve a time by calling 412-566-5187 (TTY 412.231.7007) during business hours.