PSTA sets all-time record for June ridership

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) has set another all-time ridership record, as riders boarded PSTA vehicles nearly 1.2 million times in the month of June.

The 1,188,625 boardings by riders were a 4.4% increase over June 2013. This continues a strong upward ridership trend for PSTA, coming after a record year in 2013 with 14,459,180 riders. The June 2014 ridership level is the highest June on record in Pinellas County’s 102-year history, and follows record May ridership on the North County Connector route to Tampa.

“PSTA is one of the few transit systems to see continual ridership growth over the last five years including the recession, despite service cuts due to a major loss of property tax revenue,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “We’re glad that demand for PSTA service is up, we thank the nearly 1.2 million Pinellas County residents, visitors, tourists and workers who made the choice to ride PSTA, and we look forward to offering them expanded service and new options through Greenlight Pinellas.”

PSTA’s single busiest route, the Route 19, has seen a 20% ridership increase over the last three years with an average ridership of nearly 6,000 per day; the Route 19 is also the longest route in the PSTA system, from Tarpon Springs to Gulfport. PSTA has also recently added additional increased service from Clearwater to the Gulf beaches, in response to high demand of beach and tourist industry employees needing to get to Clearwater Beach jobs without paying for scarce beach parking.

About PSTA: The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is the public transit provider for Pinellas County, providing more than 14.4 million rides per year. PSTA operates nearly 40 bus and trolley routes with a fleet of 203 vehicles. More information is available at www.psta.net.

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Let PSTA be your ride to PRIDE

Who:Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)
What: Encouraging revelers to avoid traffic and parking hassles by riding PSTA to and from St. Pete Pride
HowNew riders can call the PSTA InfoLine (727) 540-1900 for guidance
Where: Along the Central Avenue corridor. Check the PSTA Rider Alert page for service detours for the weekend’s events
Why:  To reduce traffic congestion and provide a cool, comfortable and convenient transportation alternative
WhenJune 27-29, 2014

st-pete-pride-paradeThe biggest celebration of its kind in the state of Florida just got bigger.  The St. Pete Pride Street Festival and Promenade will now make up a full weekend of celebration. Whether you’re going to the parade on Saturday or the Street Festival on Sunday,  you don’t have to fight traffic or struggle to find a parking spot if you let PSTA be your ride to Pride.

PSTA buses will be running frequently along 1st Avenues north and south – parallel to the events – making it easy to leave your car at home or in an outlying parking spot while PSTA chauffeurs you to and from the celebrations.

PSTA operates several routes along the parade and festival corridor, which will give revelers easy and frequent access to cool, comfortable buses throughout the day and well into the evening. Among the routes serving the celebration in the Grand Central District will be the Central Avenue Trolley, Routes 7, 18, 20 and 52. Several routes will also be detoured to accommodate the celebrations and those detours can be found at the PSTA Rider Alert webpage.

In Motion by James BranamanSt. Pete Pride, which is in its 12th year, dwarfs similar gatherings in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, and draws thousands of visitors to the area’s bars, restaurants and accommodations for the festivities.

For all-things PSTA, including trip planning, schedules maps and fares visit the agency’s award-winning website www.psta.net.  You can also keep up with the agency’s plans for the future of transportation in Pinellas County and participate in the community conversation helping to shape those plans at www.greenlightpinellas.org.

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Transit Safety and Security is Serious Business

Did you know that PSTA has a special division within its Transportation Department that’s dedicated to safety and security? Well, we do, and they’re a busy bunch of people! PSTA was recently notified that we scored 99% on a base assessment of our safety and security programs and procedures by the Federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Transportation Security Administration, which would make us eligible for their Gold Standard for the second time! Only those agencies with the best ratings receive the Gold Standard Award.

PSTA is a very safe transit system, with several state-of-the-art tools in place to help us keep it that way. We know where every bus is at any given time thanks to GPS technology on board every vehicle. Our Operators are trained how to respond and communicate with first responders in the event of an emergency on board, or if they witness a crime or emergency along their routes. And, all buses have audio and video surveillance systems so we record everything that happens inside and outside the bus (PSTA Customer Service Centers have similar surveillance).  We’ve funded many of these improvements as well as cameras and security measures at our facilities with DHS grant funds.  PSTA continues to have a successful relationship with our Federal security partners.

brochure coverSafety and security is very serious business, that’s why in 2010 we jumped at the chance to apply for additional grant funding from the Federal DHS. For Phase One of the 2010 project we wanted to encourage passengers, and the general public, to trust their instincts and report anything doesn’t look or feel right, or seems out of place. A special brochure that describes “suspicious activity” and “suspicious objects,” and how to report them, was distributed on board PSTA’s fleet of vehicles and at several large-crowd events in Pinellas. A second component of Phase One was the development of a first responder training module for local emergency responders and law enforcement use.

When we applied for Phase One funding, we also asked DHS for future consideration of a Phase Two to implement a mass media campaign to further promote public awareness of security issues related to public transportation.

Phase 2 real timeBecause a safe and secure transit system means more than combating terrorism and security measures, we decided to take a more people-centered approach to the mass media campaign. DHS officials told PSTA they favor this people-centered approach with all their supported outreach campaigns. The TV ads point out the safety and security features of our fleet such as the Real Time Bus Information system, which riders can use to find out exactly what time the bus is coming, and therefore minimize wait time at a bus stop. Another in the series talks about how PSTA’s Bus Operators are professionally trained and that the system has received national security awards. The final ad in the series talks about PSTA’s fleet of hybrid buses and how commuting on these vehicles helps protect the environment, as well as providing a safe and secure ride to work. The radio, billboard, and bus ads further enforce these messages.

We wanted people to know that PSTA is a safe and secure mode of transportation, and that PSTA is constantly striving to make improvements. That’s why in the last few seconds of the TV ad, viewers are invited to visit not just PSTA.net, which provides information about how to ride our services, but also GreenlightPinellas.com which is the repository for all info about our plans to improve our services

It is important to recognize that the message in the series of ads is public awareness of security issues related to public transportation. Improvements to frequency and service that would come with the Greenlight Pinellas Plan will reduce wait times, thereby making the system even safer. So, pointing people to both the website where we talk about the future vision of transit, and the PSTA website where they can see our current system, just makes sense. It’s another example of how PSTA leads the way in providing safe and secure transit options while serving our community with total transparency and fiscal responsibility.

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Cut Costs, Cut Oil Use, Cut Pollution and Stress: “Dump the Pump” Tomorrow

Who: The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and transit agencies across America
What:  Participating in the national Dump the Pump day
When: Thursday, June 19, 2014
Where:Throughout the United States
Why: To promote affordable, easy and earth-friendly public transportation
How: By riding PSTA on Thursday instead of driving your car

9385 reducedDid you know that transportation is now the biggest household expense in the United States behind rent and mortgage? If you’re surprised to learn that fact, you’re not alone, but it’s not hard to understand when you consider that USA Today and the American Automobile Association say the average cost to own a car is now more than $9,000 a year. Additionally, the news outlets started their week with reports about gasoline prices are once again on the rise. That means that a fill-up for many cars now costs more than a full-fare, unlimited ride monthly bus pass on PSTA ($65).

These are just some of the reasons why PSTA leaders are joining APTA and transit agencies nationwide to promote the ninth annual National Dump the Pump Day on Thursday, June 19.  “The 2014 National Dump the Pump Day is a day that encourages people to ride public transportation and save money, instead of driving a car,” says Virginia Miller APTA Director of Media Relations. “In fact, according to the April APTA Transit Savings Report, a two-person household can save an average of more than $10,000 annually by downsizing to one car.”  In addition to saving money, officials say public transit use cuts pollution, demand for foreign oil and stress as you let someone else drive while you relax, read or surf the internet during your commute.

To participate and “Dump the Pump” all you have to do to is to leave the car at home this Thursday and ride PSTA. For those who have never ridden before, you can call the PSTA InfoLine at (727) 540-1900 to learn how or book a special “Show Me” service offered by the agency. “We established the ‘Show Me’ program to make it easier for people to take their first trip on PSTA,” says agency spokesperson Bob Lasher. “We found that the main reason why people don’t try PSTA is the uneasiness about doing something new for the first time, so we created this program to ease their mind.” When a “Show Me” is booked, a PSTA employee meets with an individual or group and teaches them how to plan a trip – either electronically or using printed materials – then the employee takes them on a free round-trip ride to practice and see just how easy it is to use PSTA.

The agency has plenty of other how-to-ride resources as well including a Google Trip planner located on the home page of www.psta.net.  You can also view various “how-to” videos on the site’s “How to Ride” page, www.psta.net/howtoride.php. Full fare is $2.00 one way or $4.50 all day $1.00 & $2.25 for seniors and people with disabilities. Daily passes can be purchased right on the bus, although exact change is required. When you’re ready to travel, you can then call, text, logon or use a smartphone to find out when your bus will arrive at your stop with PSTA’s new Real Time Bus Information System.

Did you know?

  • Public transportation is a $57 billion industry, which employs more than 400,000 people.
  • Public Transportation provides economic opportunities & drives community growth and revitalization
  • Every $1 invested in public transportation generates approximately $4 in economic returns
  • Every $10 million in public transportation capital investments yields $30 million in increased business sales
  • Every $10 million in operating investments yields $32 million in increased business sales.
  • From 2006-2011, residential property values performed 42 percent better on average if they were located near public transportation with high-frequency service.
  • Public transportation use in the US saves 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually.

To learn more about PSTA, please visit the agency’s award winning website at www.psta.net and to learn more about the future of transit in Pinellas County, learn about the Greenlight Pinellas Plan at www.greennlightpinellas.com.

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Press Release: Pinellas County Commission Passes Elimination of PSTA Property Tax

Greenlight Pinellas LogoOn Tuesday, June 3, the Pinellas County Commission voted 6-1 to eliminate the PSTA portion of property taxes for Pinellas County homeowners, a key element of the Greenlight Pinellas plan.

“Eliminating PSTA property taxes is a critical part of the Greenlight Pinellas plan that will save Pinellas County homeowners over $32 million per year,” said Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority CEO Brad Miller. “We thank the County Commission for taking this important step as we move to a fairer, more broad-based revenue source to fund Greenlight Pinellas and transit in our community.”

“I’m proud of this step that the County Commission took today to protect Pinellas taxpayers from double taxation,” said County Commissioner Ken Welch. “This agreement will help usher in a new era of tax fairness and fund vastly improved transit options through Greenlight Pinellas.”

“I’m glad my fellow County Commissioners agree the sales tax is a fairer way to fund public transit, paid by tourists and non-homeowners versus the current property tax on residents only,” added County Commissioner Janet Long.

Known as the transit surtax interlocal agreement, the agreement takes a number of steps that will provide strong accountability between PSTA and the County Commission following passage of the Greenlight Pinellas initiative in November. Most notably, the agreement eliminates the 0.7305 mill property tax levied to fund transit in Pinellas County, which brings in $32 million per year.

A central part of the Greenlight Pinellas plan, if approved by voters, will be a 1% increase in sales tax to replace the eliminated PSTA property tax, known as the tax swap. This revenue will fund a 65% increase in bus service across the county, increased evening and weekend service to Tampa, Bus Rapid Transit service on major Pinellas corridors, future passenger rail service, and more.

About Greenlight Pinellas: Greenlight Pinellas is a transit improvement plan incorporating feedback from the public, the business community, planning agencies, the Pinellas Alternatives Analysis and Community Bus Plan. The Greenlight Pinellas plan is a comprehensive, countywide transportation improvement proposal to help Pinellas County develop the most efficient and economically viable transit service possible.

www.GreenlightPinellas.com

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