According to a press release, the changes eliminate the 25-cent discount for ConnectCard users, meaning fares for ConnectCard users will be $2.75, matching cash fares. The change also will eliminate the $1 transfer fee for ConnectCard users, and riders using a ConnectCard will receive unlimited transfers within a three-hour window of their first ride.
Cash fares remain at $2.75, and transfers are not given for cash fares, so cash users must have the fare each time they ride.
Weekly and monthly passes will also see changes. When implemented next year, weekly passes begin to expire seven days from first use, and monthly passes begin to expire 30 days from first use. Currently, these passes end on calendar dates of the end of the week or month, meaning that riders should purchase them at the start of the week or month for the best value. Soon, weekly and monthly passes can be purchased anytime for maximum value.
Laura Wiens of the transit advocacy group Pittsburghers for Public Transit is supportive of the elimination of the $1 transfer fee for ConnectCard users, but doesn’t agree with the fare increase.
Wiens says that Pittsburgh already had a comparatively high transit fare, and increasing it is not a remedy to help people recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
She also says she was disappointed that the Authority didn’t implement a low-income fare program. PPT has been advocating for months for policies that would give those on SNAP benefits access to free transit fares, as well as a fare-capping policy that would limit how much ConnectCard users could spend during a month's period equal to the cost of a monthly pass. She says some low-income riders do not have enough money available to purchase a pass at $97.50 a month, but still end up spending more than that amount each month because they ride transit so often. Some cities, like Los Angeles, have implemented low-income fare policies in response to the pandemic.
“The most explicit need right now is for low income fares, and they actually choose not to look at,” says Wiens. “If they implicated fare capping, it would only lead to a $4-10 million loss. And so without it, it’s just a poor tax.”
In addition to fare changes, the Port Authority board also unanimously approved the transit agency's 2022 operating and capital budgets. According to a press release, the 2022 operating budget totals $494 million, which is a 1.8% increase compared to 2021.
The 2022 capital budget totals about $228 million and includes a nearly $100 million Capital Investment Grant from the Federal Transit Administration for the proposed Bus Rapid Transit project, which will provide bus-only lanes between Downtown and Oakland, and upgrade bus stops and infrastructure along the way.