Rides from the Northside Station maybe free when the T opens in March. (Photo Courtesy The Children’s Museum.)

Yesterday, The Stadium Authority voted to sponsor free rides from the Northside T Station, which will open in March, to Downtown Pittsburgh for the next three years.

The Stadium Authority, who owns much the land the T runs through, and ALCO Parking, a private parking company that own lots on the North Shore, have agreed to pay the port authority a lump sum of $160,000 this year to cover the cost for riders departing or arriving at the Northside Station adjacent to PNC Park.

The three-year deal will increase by $5,000 annually, and The Stadium Authority and ALCO will have the option to expand the contract beyond the initial three years.

Though ALCO and the Stadium authority hope that free fares will utilize parking space on the Northside for Downtown workers and visitors, Jeremy Waldrup, CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership predicts it will bring more people, business and foot traffic to the Northside.

“A free, frequent and fast transit link will have the effect of essentially extending the borders of Downtown Pittsburgh,” said Waldrup, who noted that the ride from Downtown to the Northside Station is only four minutes which makes it easy for people Downtown to cross the river for lunch breaks, happy hours or special events on the Northside.

The free fare will only apply to riders traveling to and from Downtown and the Northside Station, though Waldrup noted that they hope to find a sponsor for free rides to the Allegheny Station by Heinz Field as well. It will cost the standard $2.25 fare to travel from the North Shore to Station Square.

Port Authority of Allegheny County’s board will vote to approve the sponsorship at its January meeting. 

“Free T rides between North Side Station and Downtown will encourage more people to use public transit, provide a convenient link between these two areas and contribute to the continuing development on the North Shore,” said Steve Bland, CEO of Port Authority.

The two North Shore stations and the extension of the T are expected to open in March of 2012. The Port Authority expects trains to leave from the stations every 4 minutes at peak hours.