Transportation
6:15 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Free T Rides to the North Shore

Passengers will be able to ride the T to the North Shore for free when the Port Authority opens the tunnel under the Allegheny River next year. The Stadium Authority of the City of Pittsburgh voted today to split the cost of underwriting the service with Alco Parking.

The deal extends the free downtown zone to the North Side T Station, to be located at the West General Robinson Street Garage.

Under the agreement, the Stadium Authority and Alco would pay Port Authority a combined $160,000 in the first year of operation, with a $5,000 bump in each of the next two years.

"It's only natural that we would support this," said Alco Parking President Merrill Stabile. Alco owns several parking facilities on the North Shore, along with the D.L. Clark building. "Obviously, there are a lot of beneficiaries from the North Shore Connector, but I see us as obviously being one of the more definable ones."

The North Side T Station is expected to open in March. A second station at Heinz field will also open at the same time, but is not part of this deal.

Also not part of the deal is any naming rights or special advertising space for Alco Parking. The fare agreement also does not preclude the Port Authority from entering into other funding or sponsorship agreements.

The Stadium Authority provides a shuttle bus service between the North Shore and Downtown.

Port Authority estimates ride time from the North Side T Station to the Gateway Center T Station will be approximately four minutes, with trains leaving the station about every four minutes during weekday peak.

Stabile said that he thinks the free fares and the light rail link in general will benefit property owners and businesses on both sides of the river, as well as daily commuters and patrons of north Shore events.

"We have only begun to scratch the surface as to reaping the benefits from the value of this operation," said Stabile, whose lots on the North Shore are rarely full on weekdays.

"We see this agreement as a win-win, offering both cost savings to the participating agencies and a host of benefits to Port Authority riders and the community as a whole," said Steve Bland, CEO of Port Authority in a written statement. "Free T rides between North Side Station and Downtown will encourage more people to use public transit, provide a convenient link between these two areas and contribute to the continuing development on the North Shore."

The agreement will be voted on by Port Authority's Board of Directors at its January meeting.