Proponents Urge Port Authority To Present Free Fares For Low Revenue Drivers Information | Pittsburgh
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CP Photo: Abbie Adams
A Port Authority bus on Brighton Road in the Marshall-Shadeland neighborhood of Pittsburgh
A coalition of proponents, transit drivers, and residents have objected to the recent price increase proposed by the Allegheny County’s Port Authority, and the group of over 40 organizations are calling on the Public Transportation Authority to introduce free or reduced rates for low-cost -incoming drivers.
Proponents want the Port Authority to launch a pilot program for drivers where they can simply show their EBT cards (also known as grocery stamps) when boarding to ensure free travel on buses, light rail vehicles, and inclines. A family of four with grocery stamps, also known as a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, has a maximum monthly income of less than $ 3,500, well below the median household income of a family of four in Pittsburgh.
Dr. Shannah Tharp-Gilliam is a director at Homewood Children’s Village and the leader of the Black Equity Coalition, which represents 12 community organizations in the greater Pittsburgh area. In a press release, she said a program that allows EBT cardholders free rides is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the potential impact.
“It could mean all the difference to a family whether they go to the grocery store or are hungry … see a doctor for timely treatment or get sick,” said Tharp-Gilliam.
Proponents like Pittsburghers for Public Transit have been calling for this program for some time. At a public hearing on April 22nd, more than a dozen speakers called on the port authority to implement this low-income tariff program.
In a statement prior to the hearing, Katharine Kelleman, CEO of the Port Authority, said the tariff changes proposed by the authority, which would increase ConnectCard tariffs by 25 cents but eliminate $ 1 transfer fees for ConnectCard users, told drivers, who use ConnectCards will offer a “higher value”. according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“We’re still working on solutions for low-income drivers,” added Kelleman.
During the public hearing, 15 speakers were present and 13 of them asked the port authority to implement the free tariff program for EBT cardholders. Philanthropic groups also supported such a program. In a press release, Lisa Schroeder of the Pittsburgh Foundation said her organization supported the program and that it was an “opportunity for economic and racial justice.” She added that doing so could help Allegheny County get more and fairer transit finance as the state works toward a big public transportation finance bill.
Port Authority spokesman Adam Brandolph said the agency supports such low-income tariff programs, but the agency does not have the $ 5 million it could cost a year, according to the Post-Gazette. The port authority is said to be getting about $ 250 million thanks to a recently passed federal COVID stimulus bill, but Bandolph told the Post-Gazette that other agencies that have launched similar low-income tariff programs did so before the pandemic rather than with federal funds have done.
The Port Authority is holding two additional public hearings: one on April 30th from 9am to 12pm and one on May 4th from 4pm to 7pm. Registration required on the Port Authority website.