Category Archives: Greenlight Pinellas

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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Inspector General Finds Greenlight Pinellas in Full Compliance with Law

The Florida Department of Transportation’s Inspector General is set to release a report stating that PSTA’s Greenlight Pinellas educational outreach is in full compliance with state law on public communications.

“We are thankful for the very thorough review by the Inspector General, and commend him and his staff for their diligence,” said Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority CEO Brad Miller. “PSTA always strives to be a responsible steward of taxpayer money, whether keeping nearly 200 buses on time daily or educating Pinellas residents about their transit options.

And because PSTA believes in full transparency, we will be posting the Inspector General’s final report on our own website at GreenlightPinellas.com, where anyone can view the report.”

The report indicated there is no evidence that Greenlight Pinellas communications violated any law, or used any state funding. Excerpts of the report are below.

On the report’s findings:

“We reviewed expenditures for the Greenlight Pinellas campaign to determine if PSTA violated the advocacy provisions of state law. Our review disclosed no evidence that PSTA Greenlight communications contained text prohibited by law. We also reviewed state funds available to PSTA through department grant agreements to determine if they were used in accordance with laws, rules, regulations and provisions of the grants. We determined PSTA did not use state funds to pay for the Greenlight campaign.” [Report 14C-6007, Page 1]

On Greenlight Pinellas expenditures:

Our review disclosed no evidence PSTA campaign expenditures violated the advocacy provisions of state law. Communications on PSTA’s ‘Greenlight Pinellas’ website, advertisements and promotional items contained no text prohibited by law nor any ‘magic words’ which would expressly advocate for electors to vote ‘yes’ in the referendum. Orders for promotional items were reviewed and there was no evidence these items contained statutorily prohibited phrases.” [Report 14C-6007, Page 7]

On No State Funding of Greenlight Pinellas:

We determined no state grant funding was used to finance the Greenlight campaign. PSTA requested and received direct authorization from the [Federal Transportation Authority] for the use of federal funds for Greenlight educational messaging and branding, including development of a Greenlight website.” [Report 14C-6007, Page 8]

“Based on our review, we determined PSTA did not invoice or expend [Florida Dept. of Transportation] funds to pay for the Greenlight campaign. … There is no evidence the department reimbursed PSTA for any Greenlight expenditures against any of the state grants.

The Inspector General’s final report, when posted, can be viewed in full at http://www.dot.state.fl.us/inspectorgeneral/fiscalyear2013-2014.shtm

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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Deconstructing PSTA Ridership Charts

As we have been discussing Greenlight with the public over the past months, we have had lots of opportunities to talk about our ridership numbers. This has been a great opportunity for us at PSTA (a.k.a. public transit geeks) to talk about the science of how we plan and manage our routes.

The chart below was developed through our Community Bus Plan and it simply illustrates total ridership by route:

chart 1The danger here is that this one chart doesn’t tell the whole story or really give you the full formula of how we manage routes, it simply shows ridership on routes- not the frequency of those routes.  For an example, look a the 98 (yellow). This chart makes it look no one is riding it; but, this route only runs five times a day and is a popular commuter route.

To really understand this you need to look at this second chart:

chart 2This chart is a true measure of transit success. It shows the number of people boarding PSTA buses while they are in service. Now look at the 60, 14, 78 & 67 – they’re four of the top producing routes in the entire PSTA system, even though the first chart makes it seem like they’re not. And, the 98 may only run 5 times a day, but there are a lot of people getting on and off those buses. Just like many others in the system, it’s a very productive route.

So, when one has all of the data, it’s easy to see that most PSTA routes perform quite well. Like any system, there are routes with lower ridership – these are the routes that feed riders into the corridors where the higher ridership routes are running. Think of it like your neighborhood street feeding into a main street, which feeds into the major roadways in our county – they all work together as a system, just like PSTA’s bus routes.

For more information and to learn more about the plan, please visit GreenlightPinellas.com.

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Press Release: Belleair Bluffs City Commission Endorses Greenlight Pinellas

belleair bluffsAfter careful consideration and debate Monday evening, the City Leaders of Belleair Bluffs voted 3-2 to endorse the Greenlight Pinellas Plan. “I’m pleased to include Belleair Bluffs as being among the many forward looking cities in Pinellas County that have endorsed this comprehensive transit improvement plan,” says Commissioner Joseph Barkley, who also sits on the PSTA Board of Directors. “This is a financially sound, sensible and viable approach to improving our transportation system to a level that finally rivals those of our peer cities across the country.” Barkley, along with Mayor Chris Arbutine, Sr. and Commissioner Jack Nazario voted to support a resolution endorsing Greenlight Pinellas, while Vice-Mayor Taylour Shimkus and Commissioner Suzy Sofer opposed the endorsement.

At the heart of the Greenlight Pinellas Plan is 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 more convenient and varied 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, which is expected to be running by 2024.

If the Greenlight Pinellas funding change doesn’t pass, the plan also encompasses service cuts of nearly 30% in 2017 when PSTA’s reserve funds will be depleted.

The transit agency 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 revenues since 2008 coupled with fare increases and significant cuts in service – PSTA ridership has grown by an impressive 19% over the same period.

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

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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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