Each month, PSTA’s CEO Brad Miller prepares a summary of some of the important topics discussed at the Board Meeting. This is the summary from February’s meeting:
PSTA Board Unanimously Supports Increased Greenlight Pinellas Plan Information Outreach
- The Board approved reallocating approved PSTA budget funds to support increased public outreach prior to the November 4, 2014 Vote.
- Outreach initiatives will include development of targeted audience brochures, Greenlight Fact Sheets to respond to incorrect information, and telephone town halls.
Inaugural Transit Riders Advisory Committee Appointed
- 14 regular PSTA Bus Riders from all sectors of Pinellas County were appointed to this new committee to advise the PSTA Board on how to make PSTA services even better!
- Welcome aboard!
Greenlight Pinellas Fact (We will be distributing these in different ways)
Opponents of the Greenlight Pinellas Plan claim this is a 14% tax increase that will hurt Pinellas County’s economy.
Fact: The Greenlight Pinellas Plan eliminates PSTA’s property tax. For many residents and most Pinellas businesses, this means a net reduction in overall taxes.
The true net effect of this sales tax initiative is that substantial improvements to Pinellas’ public transportation system can be accomplished while property owners with Pinellas property with taxable values over $150,000 will see decreases in their overall taxes. A comparison of major U.S. cities to Pinellas County shows that it is in the lower third of overall tax burden. It is to be noted that the majority of these cities also have robust transit systems.
Chief Executive Officer
Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)
We love hearing from our riders about how public transit makes a real difference in their day-to-day lives. Recently we had the opportunity to work with a local college student named Devin Henderson to provide travel training and demonstrate the Real Time Bus Information system. Here’s the really nice letter that we received from him which thanked us for spending so much time with him:
(Note about the email: James Bradford is PSTA’s Chief Operations Officer; Sue is Sue Lanham, PSTA’s Manager of Schedules; Devin’s email address has been removed to protect his privacy; and this is an excerpt from the email received. Click on the image to enlarge.)
Thanks for riding Devin, and thank you for supporting public transit in Pinellas County!
Who: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)
What: Continues trend of robust ridership
Where: Throughout Pinellas County
When: January 2014
2014 kicked off with another strong month of transit use in Pinellas County. Last month, PSTA provided 1,158,951 rides throughout the county and to Tampa – making for the second highest ridership ever for the month of January. Agency officials say they were hoping for another all-time record, but that Mother Nature didn’t cooperate thanks to a stint of unusually cool and rainy weather. Transit leaders say they tend to see a bigger impact on ridership from rainy weather this time of year as opposed to the warmer months. Nonetheless, the agency is still struggling to meet demand along many routes as supervisors scramble to ensure that riders are not passed by because of full buses. “I was driving yesterday and there were people at almost every single stop,” says PSTA Road Supervisor Lloyd Jernigan. When told that opponents of the county’s new transit improvement plan insist that PSTA buses always run empty, Jernigan’s eyes steel and he counters, “Those have to be people who never ride the bus. No one who rides would ever say that.”
To help meet increasing demand for service, PSTA and county leaders will be asking voters to change the agency’s funding from its current property tax to a 1% sales tax this coming November. If approved, PSTA will then eliminate its current property tax of .7305 mils and be able to implement transformational changes and enhancements to the county’s transit system as part of the Greenlight Pinellas Plan. That plan features a 65% increase in countywide bus service along with the implementation of a future light rail system. Details, questions and answers along with study data and videos can all be found at www.greenlightpinellas.com.
If you’d like to take advantage of Pinellas County’s increasingly popular transit system, just visit the agency’s award-winning website at: www.PSTA.net. Patrons are also encouraged to use PSTA’s new Real Time Bus Information system to find out exactly when the next bus will arrive at their stop. Simply visit www.RidePSTA.net or call the PSTA InfoLine at (727) 540-1900 for more information.
Who: The Dunedin City Commission
What: Endorses the Greenlight Pinellas Plan
When: February 6, 2014
Where: At regularly scheduled City Commission meeting: 542 Main St, Dunedin, FL 34698
Why: To improve public transportation throughout Pinellas County
Pinellas County’s new plan to significantly improve public transit picked up another critical endorsement this evening. Leaders from the city of Dunedin voted unanimously to endorse the transformational, county-wide transit proposal known as the Greenlight Pinellas Plan. “One thing I’m excited about is that this is a comprehensive transportation plan, not just one mode or one area. We’re putting the right kind of transportation in the right communities throughout the county,” said Dunedin Commissioner and PSTA Board Member Julie Ward-Bujalski.
“It can’t be understated as to what the increased frequencies and later service hours will mean to our community,” added Mayor Dave Eggers after hearing details about the bus service improvements in the plan.
At the heart of the proposal is a ballot measure set for the November 4, 2014 election asking voters to approve a funding change for the county’s transit system – PSTA – from its current .7305 mil property tax to a 1% sales tax (not applied to groceries, medical items and limited to the first $5,000 of any purchase). That change would allow for significant improvements to the county’s transit service, and vastly increase transportation options throughout the county. Details, Q&A and background data can be found at www.greenlightpinellas.com.
If approved, Pinellas residents will see a 65% increase in bus service including:
- Buses running more frequently and for longer hours of the day – especially on weekends.
- Service to Tampa at night and on weekends including TIA and Westshore.
- Buses running every 15 minutes along core routes and every 30 minutes on the supporting network
- Park ‘n’ Ride lots
- Limited stop express lines
- Circulators connecting neighborhoods to the primary transit corridors.
Those enhancements will then form a foundation of quick, easy connections for a future passenger rail line from St. Petersburg to the Gateway/Carillon area and to Clearwater.
The recession has reduced PSTA’s property tax revenue by more than $40 million dollars since 2008, however, service cuts and streamlining and record-setting demand have led to a 23% increase in bus ridership over the same period. To help prevent further cuts in service, the agency is using reserve funds to accommodate the record ridership. If the Greenlight measure doesn’t pass, those reserves will be depleted by 2017, forcing a 28% cut in bus service.
The holiday season proved to be a record setting one for transit riders and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority this past year. Last month, with kids out of school and people taking time off from work, riders boarded PSTA a record 1,164,858 times, making for a 3.2% jump over the same month in 2012 and an all-time record for December. “We noticed heavy ridership going to and from the major shopping areas and we also saw heavy ridership along the beaches on our Suncoast Beach TrolleySM,” says PSTA Director of Transportation Jeff Thompson.
Even more encouraging is the uptick in the average number of weekday rides in December. Most trips on PSTA are commuters going to and from work, and last month, the weekday ridership was up 2.5% over the previous year, which is typically a positive indicator for employment and the economy.
PSTA officials say that anecdotal reports from Bus Operators indicate higher passenger traffic and more standing-room-only loads than normal. “We’ve been experiencing overcrowding on many routes during the day for quite some time now and the demand just keeps growing,” adds PSTA Chief Operating Officer James Bradford.
PSTA leaders say meeting that growing demand has been a challenge due to declining property tax revenues in the wake of the Great Recession. That’s why the agency will be asking voters to switch PSTA’s funding from its current property tax to a 1% sales tax in a referendum this coming November. If approved, PSTA will then eliminate its current property tax of 0.7305 mils and be able to implement transformational changes and enhancements to the county’s transit system as part of the Greenlight Pinellas Plan. That plan features significantly improved, countywide bus service along with the implementation of a future light rail system. Details, Q&A, study data, videos and community forums can all be found at www.greenlightpinellas.com.
If you’d like to take advantage of Pinellas County’s increasingly popular transit system, just visit the agency’s award-winning website at www.PSTA.net. Patrons are also encouraged to use PSTA’s new Real Time Bus Information system to find out exactly when the next bus will arrive at their stop. Simply visit www.RidePSTA.net or call the PSTA InfoLine at (727) 540-1900.
PSTA’s popular SmartBuses are getting even smarter. That’s just one of several transit improvements celebrated by elected officials, PSTA Board members and agency staff yesterday morning. Flanked by a beautiful new 40 foot SmartBus, they gathered outside of the PSTA Administrative Headquarters for a “virtual ribbon cutting” to mark the roll out of eight brand-new diesel-electric hybrid SmartBuses, some of which are being used in a new Wi-Fi test program. “We’re not only celebrating the addition of new buses to our growing fleet of hybrids, but we’re also celebrating a new test program for providing free Wi-Fi service for our passengers,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “We have outfitted 10 vehicles with Wi-Fi systems and so far the project is going very well.”
The pilot Wi-Fi vehicles are running along six different routes and officials say that if the initial successes continue, they could have the entire fleet outfitted with free Wi-Fi access within the next six months. Miller says the Wi-Fi service is just one of many improvements planned for the transit system to help give the community a better, more productive and more enjoyable riding experience. To demonstrate the Wi-Fi system, officials downloaded a video of a ribbon being cut and played it on a big-screen TV in lieu of cutting an actual ribbon. Click here to see the video: Virtual Ribbon Cutting Video
With the addition of the eight new hybrids, PSTA now has 40 of the fuel efficient buses out of a fleet total of 188 full sized vehicles. Additionally, eight more hybrids are on order and scheduled for delivery in late 2014. The diesel-electric vehicles average a 56% increase in fuel economy over standard diesel models and the new buses will be replacing older non-hybrid vehicles that have reached the end of their 12-year life span.
If you’d like to take advantage of Pinellas County’s increasingly popular transit system and ride one of the new hybrid buses, just visit the agency’s award-winning website at: www.PSTA.net. Patrons are also encouraged to use PSTA’s new Real Time Bus Information system to find out exactly when the next bus will arrive at their stop. Simply visit to www.RidePSTA.net or call the PSTA InfoLine at (727) 540-1900.