CP photo by Jordan Miller
Station Square light-rail station
Ever since the Port Authority of Allegheny County proposed using Port Authority Police
officers to check if light-rail riders had paid their fares, criticism had come from many angles. Police accountability groups worried the policy would disproportionally affect minorities and lead to $300 fines and even jail time for avoiding to pay a $2.75 fare. Immigrant-rights groups were concerned that one or two failures to pay fares could lead to the deportation
of undocumented immigrants.
On top of those local concerns, a municipal court in Cleveland ruled a similar proposal unconstitutional
in November 2017.
Then on April 27, Port Authority CEO Katharine Eagan Kelleman announced the authority would no longer be pursuing the fare-check proposal. Kelleman become CEO this year, before the fare-check proposal was introduced.
“Adopting a cashless system in which police officers enforce fares is not ideal,” said Kelleman in her prepared remarks to the Port Authority board on April 27. “We cannot create barriers to public transit and expect beneficial results. It certainly would not promote a positive customer experience. Fears about interactions with officers are understandable, and no one should be afraid to go to work, school or a doctor’s appointment in [Pittsburgh]."
Kelleman said Port Authority has been looking closely at fare-payment data, and said the “fare evasion is low,” in the realm of 2-4 percent.
“This is an enviable rate compared to other transit agencies our size,” said Kelleman. “That tells us that our current payment acceptance method and enforcement system work.”
Light-rail riders will continue to pay upon entering the car when traveling inbound and as they exit the car when traveling outbound. (Light-rail rides are free when traveling within Downtown and the North Side.) Light-rail riders will can also continue to pay in cash; the policy initially proposed eliminating cash payments on light rail.
Local public-transit advocacy group Pittsburghers for Public Transit
celebrated the decision. An April 27 post on PPT’s Facebook page reads in part: “So grateful to our coalition partners The Alliance for Police Accountability, Casa San Jose and The Thomas Merton Center and all the bus riders, bus drivers and organizations that supported the fight to prevent the criminalization of our transit riders! It has been a whirlwind month.”