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Westmoreland County Transit Authority fare increases kick in Wednesday

| Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, 12:26 a.m.
Riders board a Westmoreland Transit bus at Seventh Street and Clay Avenue in Jeannette on Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. Steph Anderson | For the Tribune-Review

Commuters who board Westmoreland County Transit Authority buses on Wednesday will have to dig a little deeper for the ride.

The 16.5 percent fare increase that goes into effect on Wednesday is one of several adjustments riders will have to make in what officials said could be a busy year for the county's mass transit system.

The first change will be the fare increase. Riders will pay an additional 25 cents for each zone they travel. A similar rate increase will be instituted at the start of 2014.

“We need to periodically raise our rates to keep transit operating in Westmoreland County,” authority Executive Director Larry Morris said.

The increase, the first for the authority since 2008, is expected to generate an additional $85,000 in fare box revenue during the first half of the year.

Ridership is not expected to decrease.

“Most of our customers understand the need for higher fares from time to time. I don't expect ridership to fall off, but I expect it will level off because we're close to capacity,” Morris said.

The authority carried a record of more than 581,000 passengers last year, an increase of more than 12 percent from 2011 totals.

The authority is expected to purchase up to six replacement buses this year. Morris said the purchase, funded through federal grants, could enable the authority to put additional buses on the road.

Riders will experience other changes during 2013.

The authority plans to implement a defined-stop system on its 23 routes. Riders can now flag down a bus to stop on any part of its route.

Work has nearly been completed to identify the stops on the transit system.

The authority last year purchased 25 shelters and about 1,000 bus stop signs in preparation for the change.

“We expect the system will begin in March,” Morris said.

By the end of the year, riders should be able to use plastic swipe cards to pay their fares. The authority last year purchased 45 computerized card readers to install in buses.

The program is identical and compatible with a similar electronic fare pay system installed in Port Authority of Allegheny County buses.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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