The public transport in Pittsburgh is complicated and extremely confusing to me (the existing system during the time this article was published). Let me explain generically the existing bus system.
There two ways you can pay your fare: either the exact amount in cash or using a ConnectCard (a lot of colleges in the city have it together with the college/university ID card). On principle, when you flag down the bus, you must check whether it is an inbound or outbound from downtown Pittsburgh. For inbound services you pay when you board and outbound services, you pay when you alight. These concepts can get confusing when you board from downtown or when you are new to the route. It always caught me off guard and I am still confused with the system after living in the city for more than 6 months. So I always ask the driver instead.
As there are two entrances to the bus, due to the way you pay your fare, you can board the bus only from the front for inbound buses and either entrance when you alight. And only alight the bus from the front entrance for outbound buses, while you can board from either entrance. I always board and alight from the front just in case. I find it much easier this way...
The fares are divided into three zones: Free, Zone 1 and 2. Remember to get your transfer ticket from the driver if you are changing services to complete your journey.
Good News! After learning all these concepts and protocols, the entire bus system is going to change beginning January 1, 2017. It's going to be a single fare system. You can enter only from the front and exit the bus from the rare entrance. No more transfer tickets and discounted fares when you use your ConnectCard. At the time of this article, from the Port Authority website*, you will have to pay USD2.75 (full fare) if you pay by cash and USD2.50 when you pay using your ConnectCard. The ConnectCard is still free at the time of this article, but it will soon have a fee of USD1.00. So, if you are coming to Pittsburgh, this is something to take note. To find out more about these changes do check out the special Website that the Port Authority has created - *http://simple.portauthority.org
If there are any more things that you think I have missed out or interpreted incorrectly, please leave a comment below. Also, please note that I am not paid to say any of the content in this article. All information I have provided is from my own research and could be wrong, so please always check with the Port Authority - http://www.portauthority.org
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Have a great day!
Bill: I know what you mean about UK's public transport. That is also a tough nut to crack. I was living in Manchester for 6 years before I came to the States.
Eileen: Absolutely. I am grateful for having public transport. But, the existing system is confusing. Have a fantastic week ahead.
Lea: hahaha... Yups! That is another way to avoid all this mess.
Photo Cache: That's right! What took them so long to figure this out? Hahaha...
As you say, Alex, as from January, a new single zone system has been introduced which should make fare payment much simpler.
A final point. I was very pleased to find that the bus/tram tickets are valid on the Duquesne Incline which was a joy to visit!