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July 22, 1999

PAT board expected to approve contract with Pitt tomorrow

PAT board expected to approve contract with Pitt tomorrow

Renewal of the agreement that allows Pitt I.D. holders to ride Port Authority vehicles fare-free in Allegheny County appears to be salvaged at the 11th hour.

Port Authority media relations representative Bob Grove told the University Times yesterday, July 21, that the two sides had reached an agreement in principle. "Now all that is left is for the [Port Authority] board to okay the deal, which it is expected to do," Grove said.

The board meets tomorrow, July 23. The current contract expires July 31.

Negotiations had broken down last week over contract language, although the parties had agreed on Pitt's annual fees and the length of the contract more than a month ago.

At issue was the University's desire to employ private carriers for future shuttle service pitted against the Port Authority's contention that by law the transit agency had to approve the operation of all public transportation services in advance annually.

Port Authority officials said the transit company was bound by the Pennsylvania Second Class County Port Authority Act of 1956 for authorizing all transportation services within Allegheny County.

Assistant Chancellor Jerome Cochran, Pitt's chief negotiator in the contract talks, said, "On the one hand, PAT has the authority to authorize [approval of] shuttle services, by state law. On the other hand, we're just looking to see that we'll be able to contract [private carriers] in the future and the Port Authority won't stop it for some inordinate reason."

Pitt plans to increase shuttle service for student-athletes to the UPMC Health System South Side training and practice facility expected to be completed next spring.

The University also wants to accommodate game-day football fans when the Panthers begin playing home games on the city's North Side beginning in fall 2000.

"We have six Lenzner [Coach Lines] shuttle routes under contract now and none of them go to the North Side or to the facility on the South Side," Cochran said. "We were trying to look forward in our discussions."

Cochran declined to comment on specific changes in the contract language that broke the stalemate during a negotiating session held July 20.

If the contract is approved, Pitt and the Port Authority will enter into a five-year deal.

Under terms confirmed by both parties, the new contract calls for Pitt to pay $9.95 million over five years: $1.75 million for the next year; $1.9 for the year ending July 31, 2001; and $2.1 million each for the three succeeding years, ending in July 2004.

Pitt paid $1.5 million for the current year, which was considered a trial period while the Port Authority monitored increased ridership. Port Authority officials say ridership has increased from 180,000 per month to 420,000, which is higher than anticipated.

Pitt originally agreed to pay $8.3 million over five years in a contract that was subject to an annual renewal agreement.

The new contract would be subject to the same annual review, allowing either side to renegotiate the fee providing it gives the other side 120 days' notice.

The $55 per term students' security, safety and transportation fee helps defray the cost of the service.

Bob Harkins, director of Pitt's Parking, Transportation and Services, said the fee will not rise for the foreseeable future despite Pitt's increased fees to the Port Authority.

Pitt's administration subsidizes faculty and staff ridership.

–Peter Hart

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