The Port Authority board has approved a new five-year agreement to provide unlimited transit rides to University of Pittsburgh students, faculty and staff.
The agreement, retroactive to July 1, calls for the university to pay $1.25 per ride, or half of the current base fare, with a maximum total payment in the first year of $5.9 million. There is no maximum for years two through five, but if fares go up, the per-ride payments are capped at $1.375 prior to July 2014 and $1.50 thereafter.
Pitt students and workers carry IDs that serve as "smart" fare cards. Fare boxes on buses and rail vehicles automatically tally the number of trips taken by the university riders, enabling the authority to charge based on actual ridership. The previous contract called for lump-sum annual payments.
Pitt is one of three universities that pay for unlimited rides for students and employees. Negotiations for new contracts with the other two, Carnegie Mellon and Chatham, are under way. Together, the three institutions generate about 600,000 rides per month, or about 11 percent of the authority's total ridership.
CMU and Chatham have yet to be phased in to the authority's smart card program, called ConnectCard. That will happen in the next couple years, authority officials said.
Full-time Pitt students pay a $180-per-year "security, safety and transportation" fee.
"This has been a very positive program for the university, the Oakland community at large and certainly for the Port Authority," CEO Steve Bland said Friday.
Spokesman Jim Ritchie said the $5.9 million maximum payment for year one is equal to what Pitt paid in the last year of the previous contract. Annual payments in subsequent years are expected to increase significantly, he said.