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Allegheny County will soon offer some low-income residents reduce transit fares as part of a study

A bus retrofitted with the new Pittsburgh Regional Transit design.
Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA
A bus retrofitted with the new Pittsburgh Regional Transit design.

On today’s episode of The Confluence: Allegheny County announced a pilot program to offer low-income residents reduced fares to ride Pittsburgh Regional Transit; Republican state lawmakers introduced what they are calling a "parental bill of rights," which legislators in support say give parents more say in what content is taught in schools; and as pawpaw season comes to a close, we learn about how to forage this native fruit.

Today’s guests include:  Laura Chu Wiens, executive director of Pittsburghers for Public Transit; Justin Sweitzer, senior reporter for City & State PA; and Ryan Utz, professor of environmental science at Chatham University.

The county plans to pilots reduced public transportation fares among SNAP recipients
(0:00 - 7:23)

Some Allegheny County residents who are eligible for SNAP benefits could soon also have access to discounted public transportation fares.

County officials and the Department of Human Services announced this 12-month pilot program on Tuesday.

“I think that we are going to be supporting and insisting to have transit riders at the table to inform the design of the program,” says Laura Chu Wiens, executive director of Pittsburghers for Public Transit. “That includes sort of sharing some of the key impacts we expect this program to have because we want to, of course, look at things like, how does this help people’s access to employment and childcare?”

Chu Wiens says right now, some low-income residents skip trips on transit because the fare cost is too expensive.

More details about the program will be made available at the end of October, according to Allegheny County officials.

State GOP lawmakers want to advance legislation that would prohibit instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for K-12 students
(7:35 - 14:05)

Republicans in Harrisburg introduced legislation that they claim will protect children from sexually explicit content in schools.

State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R, Lock Haven) says her bill, which has been called a “Parental Bill of Rights,” is modeled after a Florida law known as the “Don’t Say Gay Law.” Florida’s law bars public schools from teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation through third grade.

“I think how [Pennsylvania] Republicans are framing this is that they want to protect students from content that is explicit, and so they've really included gender and sexuality in that conversation,” says Justin Sweitzer, senior reporter for the multimedia news outlet City & State PA.

Gov. Tom Wolf has indicated that he will veto this bill, should it land on his desk. Opponents of the bill also contend it would be harmful to LGBTQ students.

The bill is currently in the House Education Committee.

Pawpaw season is nearing the end
(14:11 - 22:30)

There’s an elusive fruit that if you’re lucky, you might be able to find growing throughout southwestern Pennsylvania: the pawpaw!

This native fruit looks like a small green mango and smells like a sweet pineapple.

“A lot of people have different, diverse reactions [to the taste], and that could be because they ripen very oddly,” says Ryan Utz, a professor of environmental science at Chatham University. “That is one reason why they haven't been successfully turned into a commercial fruit yet. The people trying to get them to market have a hard time doing so.”

Utz says despite a lack of commercial attention, pawpaws can be delicious when foraged. His strategy is to gather them soon after they’ve fallen off a tree, “because then I know they’re perfectly ready to go.”

He predicts pawpaws will be good to pick for another week before it gets too cold for the warm-weather fruit.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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