Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Free T Rides Proposed Between Downtown & North Side T Station

Funding Agreement Will Provide Easier Commuting, Enhance Business Opportunities

The Stadium Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (SA) voted on December 21 to provide funding for free rides on Port Authority of Allegheny County’s light rail line between Downtown Pittsburgh and the soon-to-be-open North Side T Station. The North Side T Station is located at the West General Robinson Street Garage (WGRS Garage), which is owned by the SA.

“This agreement will benefit many segments of the community, from commuters who will save time and money on Downtown parking, to North Shore restaurants that will see increased business, to fans who want to attend sporting events, concerts and other special events on the North Shore, to tourists who will be able to more easily visit our city’s many attractions,” said Jeremy Waldrup, president/CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “A free, frequent and fast transit link will have the effect of essentially extending the borders of Downtown Pittsburgh.”

The agreement will be voted on by Port Authority’s Board of Directors at its January meeting. Under the agreement the Stadium Authority would pay Port Authority $160,000 in year one, $165,000 in year two and $170,000 in year three to provide free fare to the general public at North Side T Station, with an option to extend the agreement for two more years. Funds for the agreement will be derived from parking fees generated by the WGRS Garage and surface lots owned and managed by the SA and ALCO Parking Corporation, which will be sharing costs. The free rides would be open to the general public as well as people using the parking garage.

This agreement will allow the SA to save money by eliminating its shuttle service between the North Shore and Downtown. The funds are expected to offset any lost cash fares from North Side Station, and Port Authority will also save on expenses associated with collecting fares at the station.

The fare agreement does not preclude other funding agreements or sponsorship agreements, and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is continuing to work with Port Authority to pursue naming rights agreements and other forms of private sponsorship.

“We see this agreement as a win-win, offering both cost savings to the participating agencies and a host of benefits to Port Authority riders and the community as a whole,” said Steve Bland, CEO of Port Authority. “Free T rides between North Side Station and Downtown will encourage more people to use public transit, provide a convenient link between these two areas and contribute to the continuing development on the North Shore.”

North Side T Station is scheduled to open for service in March 2012 as part of Port Authority’s North Shore Connector light rail extension project. A reconstructed Gateway Station in Downtown and new Allegheny Station near Heinz Field will also open at that time. Port Authority estimates ride time from North Side T Station to Gateway T Station will be approximately four minutes, with trains leaving the station about every four minutes during weekday peak.