Transit Update from the CEO – March 2014

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 March’s meeting:

Independent Audit Confirms Outstanding Financial Operations by PSTA

accountingPSTA’s Auditors, Mayer Hoffman McCann, P.C. presented their report on PSTA’s 2013 annual audit, which found no material weaknesses or significant deficiencies.

  • The auditors commended PSTA’s internal controls and had no recommendations for improvements.

Coordinating Greenlight With Other Transportation Plans

trafficAs you know there are:

  • Long Range Transportation Plans
  • Corridor Transportation Plans
  • Community Planning Studies
  • Master Plans

And of course the Greenlight Pinellas Plan.

It is critical that our community’s transportation plans coordinate well together to improve all modes: transit, roads, bikes, and walking to make our community an even better place to live.

PSTA’s Planning staff will begin taking a leadership role in coordinating transportation and land use planning activities within Pinellas County starting with a pilot project along US 19 in Clearwater.

falseGreenlight Pinellas Opponents State that this Transit Initiatlve means a 300% tax increase. PolitiFact Florida Rates this Claim: False

You can find the analysis of PolitFact’s finding by clicking here.


Greenlight Pinellas Fact
(We will be distributing these in different ways)

Opponents of Greenlight Pinellas say projects like this have wasted taxpayers’ money all over the country.

Greenlight Pinellas LogoFact: Residents in 26 of 27 cities with light rail options are so satisfied with their investment that they are currently constructing or have funded plans to construct extensions or new light rail lines.

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Brad Miller, Chief Executive Officer
Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)

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Population Projections in Pinellas County

There has been some discussion about how PSTA came to the population projections used in the development of the Greenlight Pinellas Plan. Here is a summary of the methodology we used:

Greenlight Pinellas LogoFor the Greenlight Pinellas Plan, PSTA used population projections developed by the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Following Federal recommendations, the MPO developed projections for multiple land use and transportation scenarios, including the “Trend” scenario and a “Transit Investment and Land Use” scenario.

The Trend scenario assumes that no new major investments in transit are made and that growth reflects existing local land use policies. Because state projections don’t take into account these local polices, the MPO, in coordination with the Pinellas Planning Council (PPC) and local governments, develops independent population projections using an approved methodology. This method results in projecting an additional 64,000 people in 2040.

The Transit Investment and Land Use scenario assumes that the Greenlight Pinellas Plan is fully implemented prior to 2040. Based on the experiences of other places around the country, it’s reasonable to assume that population and employment growth will increase significantly due to the presence of a light rail transit system. Areas around and adjacent to transit stations have seen substantial investments in new development and have attracted new residents and jobs. This scenario results in projecting an increase of approximately 200,000 residents.

The Pinellas population and employment growth projections are based on the results others have experienced, as well as on the increased land use densities and transit oriented development (TOD) strategies adopted by the local governments in the light rail station areas. For this reason, the MPO determined that the Transit Investment and Land Use scenario, with its 200,000 additional residents, was a reasonable assumption and that’s the figure that PSTA used when developing the Greenlight Pinellas Plan.

To learn more about the plan, please visit www.GreenlightPinellas.com.

Source:  Pinellas Transportation Plan 2040 Socioeconomic Data Technical Memorandum – Forecast Scenarios, October 2013.

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Bus Driver Appreciation Day is Tuesday, March 18th!

2013 Driver of the Year Julio Palmer

2013 Driver of the Year Julio Palmer

As you’re out and about on Tuesday, March 18, 2014, be sure to give a wave and gesture of thanks to your local transit operators as part of the fifth annual international Transit Driver Appreciation Day. The special day was started by a group of transit riders in Seattle back in 2009. It was a way for them to acknowledge the great job that their transit operators do along with all of the benefits that they provide for the community. Organizers say the day is a great way to honor the many hard-working men and women who keep our economy and communities moving every day.

Leaders for the Transit Driver Appreciation Day like to point out that just because a job looks easy, doesn’t mean it actually is:  Throughout their day, transit drivers manage to keep a schedule, check fares, give directions, announce stops, remember stop requests and more – all while safely maneuvering an extra-large vehicle through unpredictable traffic, adverse weather conditions and some really tight spaces.  The fact is, transit drivers don’t have an easy job, they just make it look that way.

If you’d like to hop aboard and thank one of Pinellas County’s hard working and talented Bus Operators, as well as relaxing while they chauffeur you through traffic, just visit PSTA’s award winning website at: www.psta.net to plan a trip – or call the PSTA InfoLine for help at (727) 540-1900.  Then you can then use PSTA’s new Real Time Bus Information system to find out exactly when your next bus is due at your stop.

To keep up with PSTA’s plans for the future of transportation in Pinellas County, visit www.greenlightpinellas.org and learn about the Greenlight Pinellas Plan.

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Press Release: Independent Audit Confirms Outstanding Financial Operations by PSTA

Members of PSTA’s Finance and Performance Committee listened to a glowing review of the agency’s financial practices yesterday as representatives from the independent CPA firm of Mayer Hoffman McCann, P.C. presented their report on PSTA’s 2013 annual audit.MHM-Site-Header-banner The audit found no material weaknesses or significant deficiencies and auditors had no recommendations for improvements to PSTA’s internal controls. Agency leaders say that’s a fancy way of saying that they passed with flying colors.

Based on the auditor’s work, PSTA leaders will now be submitting their  FY 2013 Comprehensive Annual Finance Report to the Government Finance Officers Association for consideration for that group’s  prestigious Certificate  of  Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program. During her presentation on the audit  to PSTA officials, lead auditor Laura Krueger Brock commented, “You guys did a great job. You should be very proud of this accomplishment.”

The results will be presented to the entire PSTA Board of Directors at their monthly meeting at 9:00 am on March 19, 2014. Agency leaders stress the importance of the audit findings being proof positive that PSTA is a good steward of taxpayer dollars.

Greenlight Pinellas LogoThis November, the agency will be asking Pinellas County voters to change its funding source from its current property tax to a 1% sales tax.  If approved, PSTA will then eliminate its ad valorem tax of .7305 mils and begin implementation of 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 installation of a future light rail system. Details, questions and answers, study data and videos can all be found at www.greenlightpinellas.com.

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Press Release: Clearwater City Council Unanimously Endorses the Greenlight Pinellas Plan

Who: The Clearwater City Council
What: Unanimously endorses the Greenlight Pinellas Plan
When: March 6, 2014
Where: At regularly scheduled City Council meeting, 112 S. Osceola Avenue, Clearwater, FL
Why:  To improve public transportation in Clearwater and throughout Pinellas County

city-of-clearwater-logoAfter careful consideration and following presentations from both supporters and opponents of Pinellas County’s new comprehensive transit blueprint known as the Greenlight Pinellas Plan, the Clearwater City Council voted unanimously to support the transformational, countywide proposal.

“I think this is what is needed for Pinellas county and the Tampa Bay region,” said Mayor George Cretekos after talking about his experiences using public transit in other cities and how Pinellas County is so far behind those metropolitan areas when it comes to transit options. Pinellas County Commission Chair, Karen Seel was also on hand and reminded the city leaders and their audience that the Tampa Bay region is now the last major metropolitan area in the United States that doesn’t have a robust transit system.

Greenlight Pinellas LogoCouncil members asked PSTA CEO Brad Miller numerous questions about the financial assumptions of the Greenlight Pinellas Plan and for additional details regarding service implementation and funding. Miller addressed those concerns and Council Member Paul Gibson, known as savvy fiscal conservative, said that he has spent considerable time going over the Ernst & Young report on the Greenlight Pinellas financials and found them to be sound and that he believes that the plan is in the best interests of the citizens of Clearwater.

Those financials include a referendum set for November 4, 2014, which will ask voters to approve a funding change for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority 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 and foundational improvements to the county’s transit system, giving residents and visitors greater and more convenient transportation choices.

If approved, the Greenlight Pinellas Plan will encompass 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 Tampa International Airport and Westshore.
  • Buses running every 15 minutes on core routes and every 30 minutes on the supporting network
  • Park ‘n’ Ride lots
  • Circulators connecting neighborhoods to the primary corridors.

Those enhancements will then form a foundation of quick and easy connections to a passenger rail line from St. Petersburg to the Gateway/Carillon area and to Clearwater, expected to be running by 2024.

PSTA is currently experiencing all-time record ridership and gave more than 14.45 million rides in 2013. Despite the loss of more than $40 million dollars in property tax revenue since 2008 (due to the Great Recession), which resulted in significant cuts in service – PSTA ridership has grown by 19%.  To help prevent further cuts in service, the agency is currently using reserve funds to meet the all-time record demand. If the Greenlight measure doesn’t pass, those reserves will run out and the agency will be forced to cut service by 28% in 2017.

Details of the Greenlight Pinellas Plan along with Q&A and background data can be found at www.greenlightpinellas.com

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Transit Update from the CEO – February 2014

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 OutreachIntern Juliana with the Wheel of the Future game [Photo: Byron Boykins]

  • 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

  • 1bus passengers4 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.

Greenlight Pinellas LogoThe 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.

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Brad Miller
Chief Executive Officer
Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)

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Story from PSTA Rider Devin Henderson

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.)

henderson emailThanks for riding Devin, and thank you for supporting public transit in Pinellas County!

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