Thousands of people are employed between just those two institutions alone and makes the fact that PAT must absorb 80% of their travel even more critical to deal with. It's one thing if it was just student travel but the situation in Pittsburgh is totally unacceptable. PAT can't continue absorbing this cost and if these universities want their employees to have free rides, they better start coughing up the cash to pay for it.
The University of Pittsburgh has been whining the most about how much it has to pay now to PAT for the free ride program and has been angling to pay less. The simple fact here is that PAT can't afford to subsidize Pitt's program, especially at 80% subsidization, just so Pitt can use the program to help lure in students as well as employees.
I'm not against free transport for employees and students at a university but I am against providing it when the university doesn't want to pay the full freight for it. The college and/or university is the one that benefits from such an arrangement, not the transit system. The supporters of the program claim it will encourage transit use which is true but on the flip side, it is also helping to bankrupt the transit system so that all the encouraged use will be for nothing.
Pitt, CMU and other institutions and businesses that have such plans need to pay for it. The transit system can't continue to afford subsidizing these free rides to the tune of 80% of the cost of each rider, as is the case at PAT and the Pitt/CMU arrangement.
As mentioned in the earlier article, PAT isn't innocent in this mess. They failed to charge enough on the first contract so the precedent is set price wise. The universities have been balking at the cost from day one and want to pay less but they really need to be quadrupling their payment for the free transit perk for their students and employees. PAT officials, trying to help encourage transit use as well as polish its image, were too eager to acquiesce to demands for smaller contract fees initially.
What I see happening in Pittsburgh is that PAT will get the universities to pay a bit more but nowhere close to the amount required. If PAT is lucky, they'll end up subsidizing each ride to the tune of 65% to 70% rather than the 80% they currently do. PAT is painted into a corner on this one.
If PAT were to not re-up the contract where it continues to heavily subsidize the free rides, students would be protesting on the street over the callousness of PAT's actions while being urged on by the university. University officials would be sending out press releases blasting the decision and claiming PAT is turning away riders and trying to make the cost of education even more expensive. The Liberal leaning Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (who totally ignored this story by the way) and campus newspapers would be blasting PAT from all sides in both news stories as well as in editorials. Few would hear PAT's side under the din of protest which is that PAT is losing tens of millions of dollars subsidizing a free ride service that the universities should be subsidizing since they are the ones that want it.
Even if PAT ends up getting a bit more money, universities will lambaste PAT by increasing tuition under the excuse of having to pay PAT their blood money. It's a public relations nightmare PAT faces in addition to the fiscal problems they already have. As I have long said, "once the government giveth, it can't taketh away easily". PAT is basically in a lose-lose situation over this while the universities hold the trump card.