Heritage Community Transportation, a van service that has helped thousands of mostly lower-income residents in the Mon Valley get to work, will begin connecting to new destinations and charging fees of 10 cents or 25 cents.
Starting today, the shuttle will stop at the North Versailles Wal-Mart and the Miracle Mile shopping center in Monroeville and ask most users for a quarter or dime for each ride.
The first-ever fare schedule is a requirement under Act 89, the transportation funding plan approved in 2013 that rescued the service after Congress eliminated the program that funded it, said Paula McWilliams, president and CEO of Heritage Community Initiatives.
While Heritage had to come into compliance under the measure, Ms. McWilliams said her team was “very cognizant of the folks that we serve, who are working very hard to get to work.”
“We needed to be sure we were instituting a fair fare,” she said.
Rides will cost 25 cents for people age 12 and older and 10 cents for children ages 6 to 11 and for people with disabilities. Children 5 and younger and adults 65 and older can ride free. Annual passes are available.
Instead of one long route, the system will eliminate a few lesser-used stops and break it up into three more efficient ones that will meet at the North Versailles Wal-Mart, Ms. McWilliams said. The service also will include more connections to the Port Authority system.
Chris Sandvig, regional policy director for the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, said it’s difficult to say whether the service will lose ridership by imposing a fee.
“If you’re the working poor, every little penny counts,” he said. But there are few other options. “Historically, Heritage has been quite literally a system of last resort” for low-income residents of the Mon Valley, he said.
The system has more than 3,000 registered riders and has provided more than 820,000 rides since 2001. A Heritage analysis conducted this summer revealed that 63 percent of surveyed riders have an annual household income of less than $10,000. More than 30 percent use the system to get to work, and 81 percent said they used it to connect with Port Authority routes.
The shuttle serves Braddock, East Pittsburgh, East McKeesport, Liberty, McKeesport, Monroeville, North Versailles, Pitcairn, Port Vue, Turtle Creek, Wall, White Oak and Wilmerding.
Molly Born: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @molly_born. More information: http://www.heritageserves.org.
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