Transit fare breaks coming for some Allegheny County riders

A bus operated by the agency now called Pittsburgh Regional Transit — until recently the Port Authority of Allegheny County — crosses the intersection of Stanwix Street and Liberty Avenue. (Photo by Kat Procyk/PublicSource)

A pilot program could be a start toward meeting advocates’ push for free fares for SNAP food program recipients.

by Matt Petras, PublicSource

Allegheny County will start a one-year Discounted Fares Pilot Program in mid-November, giving a test group of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients help with transit costs to shape a potential future program.

“We know that where people live, work, shop or receive healthcare are not always the same. The cost of transportation can be a barrier to taking advantage of opportunities or accessing services,” County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said via a press release announcing the pilot, to be run by the Department of Human Services [DHS].

“Our goal is to find ways to help the most vulnerable in our community connect with the resources they need to benefit themselves, their families and their communities.”

A long-term program shaped by the results of the pilot may launch in late 2023, according to the press release. The pilot will use a random selection of adult volunteers who are SNAP food program recipients and younger than 65.

The county has not yet announced the number of participants or the amount of a discount. The county will explain how to apply for the pilot program and provide other details by the end of October, according to the press release.

Laura Wiens, head of activist organization Pittsburghers for Public Transit [PPT], applauded Allegheny County and DHS for moving forward with this pilot program. She believes this move came from an understanding on the part of the county and DHS of the need for some sort of fare relief in addition to calls from riders and activists.

“DHS in particular has recognized how strongly transit, and fare costs specifically, acts as a barrier to movement for low-income people and really took the lead in creating and advancing this program and funding this program,” Wiens said. “And I think we have been very active in organizing riders, and riders themselves have been calling for this program for years now and, over the last two years, there’s been a strong coalition.” 

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