Authority Wants to Increase CMU, Pitt Fares

Article excerpt

Port Authority of Allegheny County on Friday proposed charging two of the city's largest universities more for student and faculty bus fares as it recommends new ways to make money and cut costs.

The authority's board plans to vote Friday on the new agreements with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as several other changes that include a long-term lease to turn its South Hills Village park and ride into an office building.

Both schools' annual payments would about double -- Pitt's to about $6.8 million and Carnegie Mellon's to $1.5 million. Both would begin in October and be phased in over five years.

The deal allows students and faculty to ride for free by showing school IDs.

The authority would collect another $131,500 annually under a 99- year lease with Metro Acquisitions, which plans to build a medical office building on about 6.5 acres of the authority's free South Hills Village parking lot in Bethel Park.

The authority hopes the 470 people who park there daily will move into the pay parking garage next to the free lot. Signs warning parkers of the lot's closing at year's end will be posted within two months.

"They're going to make money two ways," said David Shepley, of Upper St. Clair, who parks in the free lot. "They'll make money leasing the lot and they'll make money by pushing some people into the garage. From a business standpoint, it makes sense for them to do it. For the commuter, it's obviously an added expense."

It costs $2 a day to park in the garage. Those buying monthly passes pay $1 a day -- or about $22 a month. About 450 people park daily in the 2,000-space garage, which cost $24 million to build and opened in May 2005.

Port Authority staff has pursued changes to cut costs and generate revenue for more than a year at the direction of CEO Steve Bland. The agency faced an $80 million deficit entering fiscal 2008. …