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Port Authority Fare Change Proposals Debated At Public Hearings

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- If you ride a Port Authority bus or rail line, there are some proposals on the table that could reduce your fare, depending on where you live.

They're trying to streamline the system. But whether the changes are fair and an improvement to the current system was debated during public hearings on Wednesday.

Riders of the T who get off at Washington Junction in Bethel Park, for example, pay the basic Zone 1 fare of $2.50. But once the T heads farther away from town, riders are in Zone 2, and they pay $3.75.

Port Authority Transit is proposing to do away with the zone lines in an effort to make the fare system simpler. Those who were paying $3.75 would pay the standard $2.50 fare with a Connect Card, but cash customers would pay $2.75 in an effort to encourage Connect Card use.

"The Port Authority is trying to simplify our fare structure, and how people pay, what they pay, to attract more ridership," said spokesperson Jim Ritchie.

Public hearings began Wednesday to get rider input on the idea.

The group Pittsburghers for Public Transit supports the idea.

Molly Nichols, a spokesperson for that agency, says, "We think that's a really significant step for the transit agency to take because we work with a lot of riders who live in Zone 2 and have a hard time paying that $3.75 fare to get into town."

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But the support is not universal. Some, like Audrey Glickman of Greenfield, wonder if it's fair to lower the fare for those who ride farther.

"Once again they're encouraging people to live outside the city and the city bears the brunt of it," Glickman says. "City riders are taking maybe two miles trips tops and sometimes have to transfer two and three times to get between neighborhoods while the riders in the suburbs are taking 10 and 20 mile trips for the same rate and they're not supporting the roads and the other infrastructure that buses are using."

And others, like James Love of Natrona Heights, wonder about the long term effect on the agency's bottom line.

"All of us, if it goes down to a Zone 1 fare, all the passengers are going to end up, in time, are going to have to face more service cuts and more route cuts," he said.

The next hearing on the fare proposal is scheduled for March 8.

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