The Steelers and Rivers Casino have agreed to underwrite free rides to and from the new Allegheny station on the Port Authority's Light Rail Transit system.
An earlier agreement with the Pittsburgh Stadium Authority and Alco Parking ensured free rides to the North Side station, so all service on the new 1.2-mile extension known as the North Shore Connector will be free after it opens on March 25. Both agreements are for three years.
Allegheny station is next to Heinz Field. North Side station is near PNC Park. The $523.4 million connector project also features a new Gateway Center station, Downtown. With the existing Downtown free fare zone, riders will be able to go between First Avenue and Allegheny without paying.
"This agreement brings a tremendous level of transit service to the ever-growing North Shore, providing new opportunities to commuters, students and those heading for a little fun at the game or casino," said Port Authority CEO Steve Bland.
Steelers President Art Rooney II said the connector "will assist all the North Shore/North Side communities to continue to build on the momentum and progress that is reshaping the North Shore of Pittsburgh."
"The North Shore is truly an entertainment destination for residents and visitors," said Craig Clark, general manager of Rivers Casino. "Rivers is proud to help make transportation easy and accessible."
Under the agreement, the Steelers and Rivers Casino will pay a total of $200,000 to the authority. Of that, $40,000 will be used for advertising and $160,000 will underwrite the cost of fares. The payments will rise to $205,000 in the second year and $210,000 in the third year.
The authority credited Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald with brokering the agreement with the Steelers and the casino.
"We appreciate the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Rivers Casino stepping up," Mr. Fitzgerald said. The free fare zone "provides easy access to Heinz Field and the Rivers Casino, but also extends our Downtown to the North Side where residents and visitors can get to locations including the Community College of Allegheny County and the Carnegie Science Center."
Officials are hoping that the service attracts commuters to surplus parking in North Shore garages and lots, easing the shortage of spaces in the Golden Triangle. Rail service to the North Shore during peak periods will operate every 4 to 5 minutes.
"Expanding the T's Free Fare Zone to Allegheny and North Side stations stretches the borders of Downtown Pittsburgh and creates a strong connection to current and future development in the North Shore. In addition, easier access to parking facilities on the North Shore will provide Downtown workers, students, and visitors with even more parking options so they can get into the Golden Triangle for work, or to enjoy Downtown's many unique amenities," said Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868. First Published February 23, 2012 5:00 AM