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July 26, 2007

Progress reported on Pitt-Authority deal

Transit extension agreement reached

The Port Authority board has approved a two-month contract extension with the University that allows faculty, staff and students to continue to use their Pitt ID cards to ride Port Authority vehicles.

Under terms of the extension, approved at the board's July 27 meeting, the University will pay $323,942 per month through Sept. 30, a 15 percent increase over terms of the contract that expired July 31.

The Port Authority granted a similar extension to Carnegie Mellon University.

Both institutions are negotiating new contracts with the transit authority.

The Port Authority board, in response to an increased transit funding package approved by the state legislature, withdrew a plan to eliminate 34 bus and rail routes and cut service on 83 others in September.

Updated Aug. 1, 2007


Pitt faculty, staff and students may not have to pay for bus rides beginning Aug. 1 after all.

Pitt and the Port Authority of Allegheny County are facing a deadline for renewing their three-year contract for fare-free rides, which expires July 31. Absent a new agreement, members of the Pittsburgh campus community would be required to pay full fare on all of the transit company’s vehicles.

But the two sides are close enough to reaching a contract renewal that a short-term extension of the existing contract may be considered, according to a Port Authority official.

“Both sides want to continue the program, and we’re very encouraged with the progress that is now being made in the negotiations with the University,” said Port Authority spokesperson Bob Grove. “While I doubt that a deal will be reached by this Friday (July 27) when our full board meets, there is considerable talk of bringing a proposal for a month-by-month extension of the contract to the board for approval. We’d be looking at something that would tide us over without service interruption until the board meets [Sept. 28]. Right now, having uninterrupted service is the most important consideration while we continue to negotiate.”

The Port Authority board has to approve any agreement between the transit company and Pitt, Grove said, adding that a special session of the board could be called if the two sides reached a pact before the end of September.

Under a program launched in 1997, the University agreed to pay an annual sum to the Port Authority in exchange for fare-free rides throughout Allegheny County. According to Port Authority figures, in the final year of the three-year contract Pitt is paying $3.37 million for some 5.88 million rides, which translates into about 58 cents per ride.

That falls far shy of the $1.24 average fee per ride the Port Authority maintains it receives from all fare sources.

Grove declined to discuss the contract proposals that remain on the table, or other terms being considered under a short-term contract extension.

Pitt spokesperson John Fedele said negotiations are continuing but declined further comment.

Pitt’s payment to the Port Authority is subsidized in part by the $90 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.

—Peter Hart

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