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Westmoreland bus fare increase to kick in Jan. 1

| Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, 12:09 a.m.

Westmoreland County Transit Authority bus riders will pay more for their fares starting Jan. 1, when the second phase of a 33 percent increase will be implemented.

The authority board last year approved the increase to bolster revenue as ridership figures stagnated because of the lack of available seats on commuter buses going toward Pittsburgh.

Riders in 2012 paid 16.5 percent more for bus rides.

A similar increase of 25 cents per zone will take effect in January.

“We need to keep fares up with inflation,” authority executive director Larry Morris said.

Starting next month, a one-zone trip, which includes routes between Latrobe and Greensburg, Jeannette and Greensburg, and Lower Burrell and New Kensington, will cost $2.

A two-zone trip, such as Irwin to Greensburg or Delmont to Pittsburgh, will cost $4.

And a three-zone trip, including the Greensburg-to-Pittsburgh route, will cost $6.

While ridership for the commuter service into Pittsburgh increased 2 percent, the authority's local routes saw a decrease of nearly 8 percent in the past year.

The authority carried more than 563,000 passengers in the past year.

Morris said the fare hike — which is expected to generate about $85,000 in additional revenue — is not projected to cause a decrease in ridership next year.

Growth on the commuter routes, which has become the largest segment of the authority's service, has been stymied because more seats are not available, officials said.

The authority, with a fleet of 43 buses, operates five daily Pittsburgh routes.

Six new buses were purchased this year and are expected to be put into service in January to replace six older vehicles.

There are no plans to expand the fleet.

“We have a pretty solid plan to replace buses, but we're not now looking to do more expansion. We don't have the financial resources to do it,” Morris said.

Riders next year can expect to go to a cashless fare system.

Electronic card readers have been installed on authority buses as part of a regional system initiated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

Passengers will purchase credits that will be loaded on plastic cards that will be electronically read on the buses.

Morris said the system is expected to be operational in 2014.

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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