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Pitt, Port Authority reach deal on student ridership

| Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, 11:14 a.m.

Port Authority stands to rake in more money through an agreement approved on Friday that will allow University of Pittsburgh students and employees to continue using their college ID cards to ride agency vehicles, officials said.

Officials involved in negotiations said Pitt also benefits because its payments will be based on actual rides taken, not estimates made years in advance. In some cases, that occurred before the agency slashed service.

“It's a win-win situation,” said Port Authority board member John Tague.

Terms of the old contract had remained in force since June 30.

Under the new five-year deal, Pitt will pay Port Authority half of the agency's base fare per trip made by ID holders. The base fare is $2.50.

Pitt would pay a maximum of $1.50 per trip during the contract, regardless of what happens with Port Authority fares.

Ridership data will be collected at the agency's ConnectCard electronic fare boxes on vehicles. ConnectCard microchips are embedded in Pitt IDs.

Under the past agreement, Pitt and Port Authority agreed to annual payments based on ridership estimates. Pitt's initial annual payment of $2.9 million in 2007-08 grew to $5.9 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, or about $1.10 per trip, agency CEO Steve Bland said.

Port Authority riders as a whole pay $1.73 per trip on average.

Pitt's payment will be capped at $5.9 million in the fiscal year that ends in June, then will be based solely on ridership totals. Bland said Pitt ID holders make between 450,000 and 500,000 trips a month.

“Our collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh as the first large-scale partner has been incredibly valuable, and we are extremely pleased to continue this partnership,” Bland said.

Pitt Executive Vice Chancellor Jerome Cochran said the deal would provide Port Authority with much-needed revenue and ease traffic and parking congestion in Oakland by maintaining public transportation options for students and employees.

The agency is working on similar contract extensions with Carnegie Mellon and Chatham universities, officials said.

Also on Friday, Port Authority board Vice Chairman Guy Mattola, 76, resigned after 12 years because he is moving out of the county to North Strabane.

“My time spent here was both challenging and rewarding,” said Mattola, citing as highlights his involvement in the latest labor agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, which resulted in $15 million in annual concessions, and the hiring of Bland.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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