Saturday, March 12, 2016

Response to Proposed Pittsburgh Transit Fare Policy Overhaul

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

The Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT), Pennsylvania, the primary public transit agency serving Metropolitan Pittsburgh, has proposed a major overhaul of the public transit system's fare system policy.

The proposed changes include eliminating the Downtowner Zone (free-of-charge zone for buses serving the Downtown area; subway service Downtown and on the Lower North Side would remain free-of-charge) and Zone 2, to have one flat zone for the entire transit system. This would mean that riders in Zone 2 would receive a major transit fare decrease, in the hope that suburban ridership would increase to make-up for the lost revenue.

Cash fare would increase by 25 cents, to incentivize the use of the electronic fare card known as the “ConnectCard;” the cost of a transit ride would remain the same as today (Base Fare: $2.50) when the ConnectCard is used. A $7 Day Pass would be added to the Weekly, Monthly, and Annual Passes already available. All fares would be paid as one enters a bus, rail car, or rail station (currently, fares are pay-enter on inbound vehicles and pay-exit on outbound vehicles, except after 7:00 p.m. when all bus fares are pay-enter for the security of the transit operators).

Paper transfers would be discontinued. Hence, people paying cash fares would have to pay the full fare for each transit ride. Transfer fees would continue to be accommodated using the ConnectCard.

Continuation or Courtesy Transfers (CT), which are free-of-charge transfers provided for riding between main bus or rail lines and shorter, feeder or shuttle bus lines, would also be eliminated according to the proposal. Continuation Transfers are also provided, on request, to people riding between Downtown and Mount Washington when using the Duquesne or Monongahela Inclines; hence, this would be a fare increase for most Incline riders.

Beginning next year, according to the proposal, the purchase of a ConnectCard would cost $2 per card, for acquiring new or replacement cards. Currently, ConnectCards are available for no charge.

Most of these changes would be implemented on the bus system on or after 2017 January 1. Changes on the rail systems (both the “T” Light Rail / Subway System and the Monongahela Incline) would be implemented on or after 2017 July 1. When implemented on the rail systems, all fares would be completely cash-less; ConnectCards would be required for use on the Light Rail System and the Monongahela Incline. As The Duquesne Incline is operated by the private Society for the Preservation of the Duquesne Heights Incline, some PAT regulations will not apply on this Inclined Plane.

PAT held three public hearings regarding this proposal; two on February 24 and one on March 8. PAT will continue to receive public comments on this proposal until March 31, via the PAT web site, electronic mail, or the U.S. Mail. More information and all details of the proposed fare policy changes can be found at this link:

Long-time public transit advocate Glenn A. Walsh spoke at one hearing on February 24 and the hearing on March 8. Following the February 24 statement, Mr. Walsh was interviewed by WPXI-TV 11, WESA-FM 90.5 (link to text article near the end of this blog post), and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Following Mr. Walsh's March 8 hearing statement, he was interviewed (video and audio) by Pittsburghers for Public Transit. Following Mr. Walsh's public statement before the PAT Board of Directors meeting of April 29, he was interviewed by Elaine Effort of KQV-AM 1410 NewsRadio, and his public statement was quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (link to news article near the end of this blog post).

The following is the prepared text of Mr. Walsh's March 8 comments:

Hearing Statement --                         Glenn A. Walsh

Board of Directors of                         P.O. Box 1041

Port Authority of                                Pittsburgh PA 15230-1041 U.S.A.

 Allegheny County:                            Telephone: 412-561-7876

Proposed Fare                                     Electronic Mail: < >

Policy Changes                                    Internet Web Site: < >

                                                              Space Blog: < >
                                                              2016 March 8

Good afternoon. I am Glenn A. Walsh, 633 Royce Avenue, Mt. Lebanon, a regular Light Rail and bus rider who has chosen not to drive a motor vehicle since 1985, to help save energy, protect the environment, and reduce city traffic congestion. I have been an active transit advocate for more than 38 years, including 3 terms (1984 to 1989) on the Allegheny County Transit Council as a Charter Member. My comments today are my own and do not reflect those of any organization.

First, as I mentioned last month, free-of-charge Continuation Transfers should be retained, at least for the Inclines. Otherwise, this would be a clear fare increase for Incline riders, making Incline ridership to Downtown less attractive, and very possibly increasing crowding on rush-hour buses which serve Mount Washington.

I do approve of the establishment of a Day-Pass. This is long overdue.

I opposed the elimination of Zone 3 some years ago, and today, I also oppose the elimination of Zone 2. It is quite clear that, fifty years ago when PAT had 13 zones, this was rather ridiculous. However, three zones seems quite reasonable and provided greater equity in assigning the true cost of public transportation. I am dubious that one flat zone will greatly increase suburban ridership, particularly in these times of low gas prices. I fear the additional income lost by this change will result in a substantial fare increase for everyone in the next year or two.

As I testified last year, even if you charge a fee for a ConnectCard at the automated machines at rail stations and other locations, ConnectCards should continue to be available for no charge at the PAT Service Center. This would provide an option for people with limited incomes.


"Port Authority formally approves new flat fare system in January."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2016 April 30.
One rider, Glenn Walsh, told the board the fare policy is a hidden increase of $1 for passengers on the Monongahela Incline because there no longer will be free transfers from certain bus routes to the incline. The transfer fee will be $1 for ConnectCard users and the full incline fare for cash customers. About 2,000 use the incline on weekdays and Sundays and about 3,500 on Saturdays. Riders who use transfers to feeder routes on busways also complained about the transfer fee or double fare during public hearings about the fare policy in March, but the authority didn’t change that provision.

"Statement before Board of Directors, Port Authority of Allegheny County: Proposed Incline Fare Increase." Public Statement
Glenn A. Walsh 2016 April 29.

"PAT Board Scheduled to Approve Hidden Fare Increase for Incline Riders." News Release.
Glenn A. Walsh 2016 April 28.
Kovash, Sarah. "Public Weighs In On Port Authority's Single Fare Proposal."
 WESA-FM 90.5 Pittsburgh 2016 Feb. 24.
Glenn Walsh, who lives in Mt. Lebanon and uses public transportation to get Downtown, said he worries the change will negatively affect the inclines.
“This is going to discourage incline ridership (and) make it more difficult for the inclines, particularly the Duquesne Incline, which is operated privately, to continue operating,” Walsh said.
Link >>>

More on the Port Authority of Allegheny County:
Link >>>

More on The Duquesne Incline: Link >>>

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
              2016 March 12.

                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
                     Link >>>

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Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
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Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
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* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
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* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
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Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
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* Public Transit:
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