New pilot program to offer free, discounted public transit fares to qualifying SNAP families

PITTSBURGH — The Department of Human Services launched a new pilot program addressing the rising cost of public transit. The plan will offer free or discounted fares to low-income families who are SNAP recipients.

“I think it’s about $3 to go from here to Oakland, that’s ridiculous,” said transit rider Clenton Wilcox.

A one-way bus ride is $2.75, something riders expressed has become a daily burden.

“Monday through Saturday I catch the bus,” Wilcox shared.

So if Wilcox catches one bus to work and another from work, he’d spend $33 a week, but here’s the catch: many riders are often forced to take multiple buses to and from their destinations, costing double if not triple that amount weekly.

Derrell Dunn, another transit rider, said to get to work he catches two buses there and two buses home.

“It’s becoming more and more difficult,” Dunn said.

Difficult and costly were two words riders used to explain the county’s current public transit option, but advocates hope that after Thursday’s announcement that will change. 

“Individuals who qualify for SNAP benefits are going to go into three different categories to possibly be eligible for this pilot program,” said Nickole Nesby, former mayor of Duquesne City and transit advocate.

Nesby said she became a transit advocate when she spoke with her constituents and learned that not only was service limited, but the cost was rapidly increasing for county residents who often have to catch multiple buses.

“My neighbor gets up at 3 a.m. so he can catch the bus and get to work by 7 a.m.,” said Nesby.

For the next year, the Department of Human Services will offer free or discounted fares to low-income families who are SNAP recipients. The discount will include children and undocumented residents, as no Social Security number is required to sign up.

“We offer these discounted fares to universities, we offer discounts to federal employees. Let’s offer these services to the people it would benefit the most,” said Nesby.

To sign up for the discount program, click here.

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