Port Authority of Allegheny County — the agency that runs Pittsburgh's buses, inclines and light-rail system — announced Friday that it has voted to change some things with how it operates. There are a lot of changes that take effect Jan. 1. The changes are confusing enough that the Port Authority launched a full website with cheesy videos and fact sheets and breakdowns and ... yeah, it's a lot. So we're breaking it down for you, and here are some of the highlights of what will impact you:

Changes:

  • One flat fare ($2.50 for ConnectCard riders and $2.75 for cash)
    • Does away with the two-fare system, and not unlike the E-ZPass system on the turnpike, those with the ConnectCard get immediate savings compared to those who pay with cash.
  • You will pay when you get on the bus, no matter when or which direction.
    • Right now, it's a confusing system of inbound as you get on, outbound as you get off, unless it's after 7 p.m., and, oh dear, it's messy.

  • If you don't have a ConnectCard, you can't get a transfer.
    • Transfers are still $1, but the Port Authority announced that it is doing away with the paper transfers.

  • ConnectCards will cost $1
    • As of right now, they're free and available at select retailers and through the Port Authority.
  • No more peak-hour surcharges
    • If you've been hit with this, you know that the Port Authority tacks on a surcharge if you ride during peak hours.
New Stuff:
  • Wayfinding signs and kiosks are being installed downtown, and PAT hopes to eventually implement them system-wide:
    • 85 bus stops and poles that will include an abbreviated map and stop-specific route frequency information.
    • 8 solar-powered digital bus stops that will provide stop-specific real-time bus information.
    • 5 touchscreen information kiosks that will provide real-time bus information, route overview and trip-planning capabilities.
    • 2 digital bus stops that will provide an abbreviated map and stop-specific route frequency information.

Service Changes:

  • 89 (Garfield Commons) gets restored weekend/holiday service
  • P17 Lincoln Park gets back its non-rush hour and weekend/holiday service
    • Currently operates only Monday-Friday rush hour
  • G2 Carnegie gets service improvements
  • G3 Moon Flyer gets reverse-commute
    • Here's what this means: previously, the G3 only ran inbound in the mornings and only outbound in the evenings. With the addition of reverse-commute service, the Flyer runs both into town and out of town regardless of time of day
So the TL;DR on this: get a ConnectCard sometime before Jan. 1, because it'll still be free. Pay when you get on, and with a ConnectCard you just tap the orange target thing. You'll save money on fares, store cash (like a prepaid credit card) and manage it online instead of hoarding quarters to ride buses. Save yourself the grief.