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Despite Criticism, Port Authority CEO Says Proposed Fare Changes Should Benefit Low-Income Riders

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
The Port Authority has proposed a 25 cent fare increase and free transfers for prepaid ConnectCard users and free transfers. Some advocates say the proposal ignores low-income riders.

On today's program: Katharine Kelleman, CEO of the Port Authority, says eliminating the transfer fee for prepaid riders will give low-income customers more flexibility in transportation; and a professor and former investigator explains the significance of a donation of documents from the “Unabomber” case to the California University of Pennsylvania.

Port Authority has proposed changing fares, is accepting public comment
(0:00 — 10:02) 

The Port Authority of Allegheny County is proposing raising fares to $2.75 and canceling transfer fees for prepaid Connect Card users. That’s a 25 cent increase for ConnectCard users. $2.75 is what cash customers have already been paying.

“What we’d like to get from the fare change is make it easier for folks to travel in a way that makes sense to them,” says Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman. She says most riders travel in a three hour block in the morning and afternoon, which motivated the Port Authority to eliminate transfer fees within a three hour window. Another change would be that weekly or monthly passes would be activated for a week or month starting the day they’re purchased, instead of beginning the first of the month or beginning of the week.

Advocates are concerned, however, that the fare proposal leaves out cash customers who have to pay the full fare every time they board a bus, even if they’re on the same trip and changing buses. 

“The cash fare has not changed since 2012, so we are not proposing any increase in the cash fare [which remains $2.75],” says Kelleman. “To find a fare that’s been constant for nearly ten years, that’s pretty remarkable, that’s pretty unusual in our industry.” 

She adds that the Port Authority is testing out a smartphone app to create more ways to pay without access to a ConnectCard, and is seeking public comment specifically from cash customers. 

 The agency is still seeing more than a 60% decrease in ridership because of the pandemic, but Kelleman is confident ridership will bounce back, just differently. 

“Our big challenge is going to be being flexible enough to answer what these new challenges are and connect folks to all the places that are important to them,” says Kelleman. 

California University of Pennsylvania is archiving “Unabomber” case files
(10:12 — 18:00)  

Saturday marked the 25th anniversary of the arrest of Ted Kaczynski, dubbed by media as the “Unabomber,” in his tiny cabin near Lincoln, Montana.  Kaczynski killed three and injured 24 people over 17 years with his bombs. 

The FBI profiler who analyzed Kaczynski’s manifesto, James Fitzgerald, is now donating his professional papers to California University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Investigative and Forensic Sciences

“It’s over six boxes of documents that relate to the manifesto,” says Professor John Cencich, director of the Center. “The entire manifesto is there, it has a lot of investigative files, prosecution files, everything collected in one place, relative to the investigation.”

Cencich says Fitzgerald, a forensic linguist and retired FBI criminal profiler who helped find Kaczysnki, is a pioneer in his field.

“What Jim Fitzgerald, ...has done is, through the years, collated this and put it together in one place,” says Cencich. Much of the collection includes Fitzgerald’s own notes.

Cencich says the center will review, redact, re-collate, and digitize the collection so it’s available to academics and the public. 

“I think that in any case, there’s always the opportunity for scholars and researchers to learn something new,” says Cencich. “What those are, we don’t know yet.”

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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