Monthly Archives: February 2013

Press Release: Congresswoman Celebrates Cleaner, More Fuel-Efficient Bus Fleet!

Who: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and Congresswoman Kathy Castor
What: Celebrating rollout of new, fuel efficient and environmentally friendly hybrid SmartBuses
When: February 21, 2013 at 2:00 p.m.
Where:  The Coliseum, 535 4th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Congresswoman Kathy Castor and PSTA Chair Jeff Danner - SmartBusCongresswoman Kathy Castor and PSTA Board Chairman Jeff Danner officially kicked off the deployment of eight, brand new Diesel-Electric Hybrid SmartBuses in Pinellas County yestereay. The two gathered with the media and public at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg to show off a new SmartBus and promote the numerous benefits of the diesel-electric hybrid technology.

The fuel efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles were purchased with federal grant funds and will replace the eight oldest buses in the PSTA fleet. “These new hybrid vehicles offer a host of benefits including increased fuel economy, significantly lower emissions and space for 14 additional passengers over the buses they’re replacing,” says PSTA Board Chair Jeff Danner.  “Many of our routes now run with standing-room-only loads, so the larger buses will give riders more room and a better chance at getting a seat.”

“This is win for all taxpayers,” said Congresswoman Kathy Castor. “Not only are we benefitting transit riders and getting people to work, but we’re doing so with buses that cut our dependence on foreign oil and protect our environment. It’s a smart investment all the way around.”

When the PSTA Board of Directors authorized the purchase of the first diesel-electric hybrid buses in 2008, the bus manufacturer, Gillig Corporation, claimed that the hybrids would use 20% less fuel on average than PSTA’s regular diesel buses. Since their deployment in 2009, the hybrids have experienced an average increase of 56% in fuel economy over the agency’s standard diesel buses. “Being able to add more of these buses to our fleet is a great thing for Pinellas County,” says PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “When you buy 2.1 million gallons of fuel a year, replacing older buses with new ones that are 56% more fuel efficient is a big money saver and a prudent use of tax dollars.” Miller says that four more hybrids, also purchased with federal grant funds, are on order and should be on the streets by the end of the year. Those will also be replacement vehicles and will increase PSTA’s hybrid fleet to 36 out of 188 total buses.

The new 40 foot hybrids cost about $600,000 each, which is approximately one third more than a standard diesel unit. However, overall savings in fuel and maintenance are expected to make the lifetime cost (over a 12 year period) of the Hybrids equal to that of the regular diesel models.

Environmental Benefits of Hybrid Technology:

  • Oxides of Nitrogen (NOX)  nearly 100% Reduction
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO)       90%  Reduction
  • Particulate Matter (Soot)     90%  Reduction
  • Hydrocarbons (HC)             up to 90%  Reduction

Piloting the new, technologically advanced vehicle today was current PSTA Driver of the Year Johnnie Dixon. When asked what he likes best about the new hybrid SmartBuses he smiles and said, “Right now, for this bus, I’d have to say it’s that ‘new bus’ smell… there’s nothing quite like it.”  Also on hand were St. Petersburg City Council members Wengay Newton (who also sits on the PSTA Board of Directors) and Leslie Curran.

To learn more about PSTA’s green efforts, visit http://www.psta.net/environmental.html. To see the PSTA SmartBus fleet in action visit the PSTA YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/ridepsta.

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Press Release: PSTA Announces New Partnership with Amscot!

For immediate release: February 19, 2012

Who: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and Amscot Financial
What: Announce new partnership for selling PSTA GO Cards
When: February 19, 2013
Where: All Pinellas Amscot locations
Why:  To make it easier for the record number of PSTA bus riders to purchase PSTA GO Cards

Jeff Danner and Deveron GibbonsPinellas County transit riders can now enjoy the convenience of purchasing PSTA GO Cards at all 28 Pinellas Amscot locations. The announcement was made today by Jeff Danner, PSTA Board Chairman and St. Petersburg City Councilmember, and Deveron Gibbons, Amscot’s Vice President of Public Affairs and Business Development. The two celebrated the new partnership with a ceremonial sale of a PSTA GO Card at the Amscot Financial location at 3266 Central Ave, which is next door to PSTA’s Grand Central Station.

“PSTA provided more than 14 million rides last year and ridership this year is already up another 9%. Those increases have created a higher demand for ticket outlet locations,” says Danner. “This new partnership will help meet that demand and make it much more convenient for riders to get GO Cards and use PSTA.”

PSTA currently has 25 ticket outlets throughout Pinellas County, which sell more than 7100 GO Cards every month. This new partnership with Amscot Financial will more than double the locations at which Pinellas residents and tourists can buy bus passes.  “We have customer comment cards in every store and we’ve been getting requests to sell PSTA GO Cards on a regular basis,” says Gibbons. “It’s important to us to be responsive to the community and honor those requests. In fact, it won’t be long before we carry PSTA passes in some of our Hillsborough and Pasco locations as well.”

Amscot staff has even programmed the computers in the Pinellas locations to automatically take employees through an online training that teaches them how to sell the bus passes. “It gets them up to speed more quickly and ensures that our customers get the fastest possible service,” adds Gibbons. A list of the Pinellas Amscot locations can be found at www.amscotfinancial.com and selection and pricing for PSTA GO Cards can be found at www.PSTA.net.

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Passenger Counting 101

You might have noticed our recent press release in which we announced our highest ever single day of ridership. With over 50,000 rides in one day, February 1st was a record breaking day for PSTA, and January 2013 saw  86,090 more boardings than January 2012, making for 15 months in a row of record ridership. But how do we count those passengers you ask?

Photo Credit: Brandon Jeffrey

Photo Credit: Brandon Jeffrey

Here, let me explain: Every time a passenger boards a bus and either puts money in the farebox, or swipes a GO Card, they’re counted. That’s it!

This method of counting rides is an industry standard, and is part of our federally mandated reporting to the National Transit Database. Sure, there will be occasions where someone boards the wrong bus, swipes their GO Card, then realizes they’re on the wrong bus and they exit. But that number is very small in the grand total of boardings in our system.

It’s also worth noting that we have not made any significant changes to our bus service since ridership started its huge upward climb. In fact, the combination of the Route 35 into the Central Avenue Trolley reduced the number of buses one would need to take to make that trip across Central. (Before, when you rode the 35 you were counted once, and when you boarded the CAT you were counted again, making for 2 boardings on that one trip. Now that the same trip doesn’t require a bus change you’re counted once.)

So, it’s a very straightforward calculation, you’re boarding in record numbers, and we appreciate every single one of you!

Stay tuned for an upcoming post in which we explain how much of our operating costs are covered by bus fares, and how we stack up in that regard as compared to other transit systems…

Your Editor,
Cyndi Raskin-Schmitt
Manager of Communications

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Press Release: Ridership Surge Sets New Record for January

For immediate release: February 12, 2013

Who: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)
What: Sets all-time ridership record for month of January
When: January 2013
Where:
 Throughout Pinellas County and Tampa
How:  By giving more than 1.2 million rides last month

PSTA’s monthly record-setting ridership streak continues! For the 15th straight month, the transit agency has set a new record for the number of boardings.bus shelter group shot Last month riders took 1,220,421 trips in PSTA vehicles –an 8% jump over January 2012 (which was also an 8% gain over January 2011). For the fiscal year, PSTA is averaging a whopping 12% increase over 2011-2012. “Industry experts say that a 3 to 5% annual increase is a very strong gain for a transit system, so posting increases as high as we’ve seen over the past year is really remarkable,” says PSTA Board Chair Jeff Danner. “Plus, the fact that we’ve posted 15 straight monthly records shows that  demand is soaring.”

In fact, PSTA leaders say the increased demand is now leading to overcrowding on numerous routes. “We’ve had standing-room-only buses during rush hour on several routes for years, but now we’re seeing similar loads throughout the day and at times that used to be considered low-ridership,” says PSTA spokesperson Bob Lasher. Because the agency has been using reserves for operating expenses since the recession hit, it doesn’t have the resources to increase bus frequencies. “We’ve gone through a $40 million dollar reduction in property tax revenue since 2008, so we simply don’t have the option of increasing service right now,” Lasher adds.

In order to meet the demand for service, agency leaders are asking the Pinellas County Commission to place a sales tax initiative on the November 2014 ballot. If approved by voters, that new funding source would allow the agency to offer more frequent and later bus service . PSTA is conducting a study of the current bus network to help streamline service and maximize resources. This analysis will ensure that Pinellas County residents are getting the most efficient and economically viable transit service possible.  To learn more about the Pinellas Community Bus Plan and to participate in a survey, visit http://busplan.psta.net.

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Bus Buzz Episode 2: Busting the Empty Bus Myth

Last year PSTA launched a new video series called Bus Buzz. Our second episode went live on January 25th and is seeing a huge positive response. Titled “Busting the Empty Bus Myth,” the video tackles one of those pervasive myths that we hear all the time. See people think buses run empty, and that’s just not true. We had more than 14,000,000 boardings last year – you can’t do that with empty buses.

What I think happens is a person might see the same bus in the same place every day and it might not be full; but, what that person doesn’t realize is that 20 people just got off at a stop two blocks away where they go to work (like they do every day). That bus could run less-than-full for a couple of blocks then pick up several people in front of a retail store, then several more in front of a medical clinic – it will pick up and drop off people all day long. Anyhow, here’s the video, see the proof for yourself and know that our buses are packed!


Your Editor,
Cyndi Raskin-Schmitt
Manager of Communications

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Press Release: PSTA Sets Highest Single Day Ridership Ever!

For immediate release: February 6, 2013

Who: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)
What: Sets all-time daily ridership record
When: February 1, 2013
Where:  Throughout Pinellas County and Tampa
How:  By giving more than 50,000 rides in one service day (approximately 19 hours)

boarding the busPSTA leaders got a pleasant surprise when they calculated the agency’s daily ridership information from Friday, February 1, 2013: 50,791 boardings, representing the highest-ever number of rides taken in a single day of service.

“Our highest ridership usually comes during Spring Break,” says PSTA Chair and St. Petersburg City Councilman Jeff Danner. “So to see this record set this early in the year is proof positive that the demand for transit in Pinellas County is skyrocketing. It also underscores the need for improved transit service in our region as demand now exceeds capacity on numerous routes.”

Although there is no way of knowing exactly why there were so many riders on the system last Friday, agency officials are optimistic that it’s a sign of an improving economy and the start of a record-setting  tourist season. They also acknowledge that fuel prices are again on the rise, which is a reliable trigger for ridership increases.  Historically, PSTA carries more riders in the month of March than any other time in the year, so leaders are eager to see what kind of records will be set once Spring Break is in full swing.

To learn how to take advantage of PSTA’s safe, convenient, and affordable transportation, visit www.PSTA.net or call the PSTA InfoLine at (727) 540-1900 to plan your trip. Then, before you head out, be sure to check PSTA’s new Real Time Bus Information site at RidePSTA.net to find out exactly when your next bus will depart.

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