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June 24, 2004

Port Authority, University Sign 3-Year Contract

Pitt and the Port Authority of Allegheny County signed a three-year contract renewal this week, extending the agreement that allows Pittsburgh campus employees and students to ride buses and light-rail vehicles county-wide for free.

According to Port Authority spokesperson Bob Grove, Pitt has agreed to pay $3.066 million for the year Aug. 1 – July 31, 2005; $3.219 million for Aug. 1, 2005 – July 31, 2006, and $3.38 million for Aug. 1, 2006 – July 31, 2007.

This year, Pitt is paying $2.92 million through July 31.

The contract allows either side to call for re-negotiating the fees provided they request that in writing at least 90 days before a contract year is complete, Grove said.

Pitt spokesperson John Fedele confirmed the contract extension, but declined to verify details. “The University will not discuss details of the contract in public,” he said.

Grove said that raising annual fee incrementally fits with the Port Authority’s strategy to bring Pitt and institutions that have similar deals with the transit company closer to the average per-ride fee.

While the base fare is $1.75 per ride, Port Authority officials maintain that, taking into account all sources of fare income including cash, discounted passes and other pre-paid fares, the company currently receives on average $1.18 for each ride. In contrast, the University’s current payment, averaged out over Pitt ridership – about 450,000 rides per month – comes to 54 cents per ride. “We’ve made some progress in closing that gap,” Grove said. “When we first made this agreement [in 1997], Pitt was paying about 31 cents a ride.”

Pitt’s payment to the Port Authority is subsidized in part by the $75 per term security, safety and transportation fee that Pittsburgh campus students pay. The balance comes from the auxiliary operations budget of the Office of Parking, Transportation and Services.

The University is unlikely to raise the student fee any time soon. “There is no raise currently being considered for the student transportation fee for the upcoming year,” Fedele said.

-Peter Hart

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