Pitt and Port Authority extend U-pass program one month

By Gwenn Barney

Pitt and Port Authority agreed on Friday to extend the U-Pass program — which allows about…Pitt and Port Authority agreed on Friday to extend the U-Pass program — which allows about 40,000 students and employees to ride public buses using their Pitt IDs — for one month, while the two sides hash out a longer-term deal.

This is the second time the University and Port Authority have agreed to an extension to continue negotiations since the five-year contract expired at the end of July. Under the five-year contract, the University pays $6.8 million for fiscal year 2012 in exchange for the fare-free rides on Port Authority buses.

In recent years, the Port Authority has faced cuts to its state appropriation. Most recently it had to find ways to cope with a $64 million deficit in the 2012-2013 operating budget. The transportation organization was able to prevent cuts to its services this year by finding other revenue streams besides the state government. However, similar past deficits since Pitt signed the most recent U-Pass contract in 2007 led to to a 15 percent reduction in Port Authority services in March 2011.Pitt is in discussion with the organization to determine how much it should continue to pay for the Port Authority’s services in light of these service cuts.

“We continue talking with the University and recently extended our agreement for another 30 days — through September,” Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said in an email. “Students and any other Pitt ID holder may continue using their IDs to ride Port Authority vehicles while negotiations continue.”

Pitt spokesman John Fedele said Pitt would like to renew the contract.

“The arrangement has been beneficial to both sides, and, as evidenced by the continued negotiations, is one that we’d like to continue,” he said.