For years, Port Authority has offered a half-fare rate to people with disabilities, but only during nonpeak hours.
Beginning in September, the reduced fare will be available all the time under a change approved Friday by the authority's board of directors.
"Not being able to use the half-price fare during rush hour certainly isn't helpful to people with disabilities who work," said Lucy Spruill of Squirrel Hill, who uses public transit to get to her job as director of public policy for United Cerebral Palsy's Community Living and Support Services.
"That's a very welcome change and we will all appreciate it very much."
John L. Tague Jr., a Port Authority board member who also uses a wheelchair, said the authority's switch to a smart-card pay system will make it easier to process the half-fare riders. After previously restricting senior citizens to riding free in nonpeak hours, the authority has allowed them since August 2007 to ride free anytime.
"One of the issues is it's crowded in peak hours, but [the smart cards] just simplify the process," Mr. Tague said.
The authority also approved its 2013-14 operating budget with no discussion of fare hikes or service cuts for the first time in many years. The $366.6 million spending plan is about 1.5 percent lower than the current budget, primarily as a result of lower pension payments under union contracts.
The board also:
• Extended a contract with Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. for another year at no increased cost for an environmental impact study and possible locations for the proposed bus rapid transit route between Downtown and Oakland.
• Authorized the continued development of a smartphone app that will give riders the ability to find out exactly when the next bus or light-rail vehicle will arrive. The authority expects to begin testing the system on the East Busway later this summer.
• Approved a $125 million capital budget that will allow for the purchase of 60 new 40-foot diesel buses over the next two years, among other maintenance and improvement projects.
Ed Blazina: email@example.com or 412-263-1470. First Published June 28, 2013 10:30 AM