New Pilot Program Will Offer Free Transportation to Some Pittsburgh Residents

The city says access to affordable and reliable transportation is the greatest factor in social mobility.
Downtown Transportation 2


The City of Pittsburgh just announced a new program that would provide free public transportation for some low-income residents.

The city’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, or DOMI, announced a first-of-its-kind Guaranteed Basic Mobility pilot program, which aims to help alleviate the strain of transportation costs and therefore increase employment options for its participants.

DOMI is working in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University and the Manchester Citizens Corporation to identify 50 eligible participants. Those individuals will receive free access to the full array of Move PGH’s shared mobility and transportation options, including public transit, Spin scooters, POGOH bikes and Zipcar. Other participants, the city says, will receive monetary compensation for participating in the project’s research component.

The project is funded by a $200,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. Spin has also committed an additional $50,000 toward the pilot program.

“We’re really eager to see what happens to people when they’re given mobility as a right, and what that does to their social mobility,” Ben Bear, CEO of Spin said last year, when the pilot program, then in its infancy, was first announced. “Now we have to study if it works — and if it does, we want to bring it to as many places as we can, as quickly as we can.”

In a press release, the city says affordable and reliable transportation is considered one of the main factors enabling social mobility. The yearlong pilot program will evaluate the potential of guaranteed basic mobility for improving economic, health and social justice outcomes when a financial barrier is removed.

“Having access to affordable and reliable transportation is critical in helping families across our city find a pathway to prosperity,” said Mayor Ed Gainey in a statement. “This pilot program will help us more fully understand just how much of an impact transportation has on the lives and wellbeing of people in Pittsburgh.”

The pilot will focus on the Manchester and Chateau neighborhoods on the North Side — places where the Manchester Neighborhood plans notes have a median income 14% below that of the city as a whole. Recruiting and ongoing support will be provided by the Manchester Citizens Corporation. 

To qualify for the program, participants must be receiving some form of government-funded social assistance, lack regular access to a personal car and currently be seeking a job — or interested in finding a new job or working more hours. 

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