Category Archives: Greenlight Pinellas

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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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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Press Release: PSTA Sets 2nd Highest January Ridership Ever!

Who: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)
What: Continues trend of robust ridership
Where: Throughout Pinellas County
When: January 2014

full bus2014 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.

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Press Release: Dunedin Leaders Endorse Greenlight Pinellas Plan

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.

Dunedin endorsement pic“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.

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County Commission to Hold Hearing on Greenlight Pinellas Referendum

Who:  Pinellas Board of County Commissioners
What: Hosting a public hearing on placing a referendum for a 1% sales tax for transit on the November 4, 2014 ballot
When: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 6:00 PM
Where:  County Courthouse, 5th Floor, 315 Court Street, Clearwater, FL

Tomorrow evening, December 10, 2013, members from the Greenlight Pinellas Council will formally ask the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners to place a referendum for a 1% transit sales surtax on the November 4, 2014 ballot. That request will also be accompanied by a public hearing, scheduled for 6:00 PM, on the proposed funding change for the county’s transit system.

The referendum, if approved, will ask voters to change transit funding in Pinellas County from its current .7305 mil property tax to a one percent sales tax. The following is the current draft ballot language agreed upon by both PSTA and Pinellas County officials:

Title: Levy of Countywide One Percent Sales Surtax to FundGreenlight Pinellas Plan for Public Transit.

Summary: Shall the improvement, construction, operation, maintenance and financing of public transit benefitting Pinellas County, including an expanded bus system with bus rapid transit, increased frequency and extended hours, local passenger rail and regional connections be funded by levying a one percent sales surtax from January 1, 2016, until repealed, with proceeds initially deposited in a dedicated trust fund?

_______ YES, for the 1% sales surtax

_______ NO, against the 1% sales surtax

To learn more about the new, comprehensive transit improvement plan called Greenlight Pinellas, along with supporting study documentation, visit www.greenlightpinellas.com.

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Press Release: PSTA Board Approves Greenlight Plan and 2014 Referendum Language

The Board of Directors of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority made history yesterday as, with a 14-0 vote, members formally endorsed a transformational, countywide, transit improvement initiative called the Greenlight Pinellas Plan.

Greenlight Pinellas LogoThe Greenlight Pinellas Plan is the result of years of research, community outreach and regional partnership. Plan elements include a comprehensive, countywide bus improvement plan and a light rail project from Clearwater to St. Petersburg via the Gateway/Carillon area. The bus portion of the Greenlight Plan is the result of an extensive operational analysis performed Transportation Management and Design out of San Diego, CA. that also included widespread public outreach known as the PSTA Community Bus Plan. The light rail element is the result of two-year Alternatives Analysis study that has been nationally recognized as a model for regional partnership. Partner agencies in that project include PSTA, the Florida Department of Transportation, the Pinellas Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority.

“Some out there keep claiming that Greenlight Pinellas is just about the AA and rail, but it’s not,” says County Commission Chair and PSTA Vice-Chair Ken Welch. “It includes a far reaching, countywide bus improvement plan as its foundation.”

During a presentation to the Board, PSTA Chief Development Officer Cassandra Borchers emphasized that the bus portion of the Greenlight Plan was developed to address the needs and desires of each segment of the community. “The cornerstone of the Greenlight Plan is and will continue to be community outreach,” says Borchers. “We worked closely with the public and asked them what they want from their bus system and this plan ensures consistent and easy access to that system for all members of the community.” Borchers emphasizes that access includes pedestrian and bike pathways and accommodations, as well as park ‘n’ ride lots to make it easier for those not living near transit lines to use the system as well.

If voters approve funding for the plan, leaders say the improvements will be phased in over a ten year period with all elements up and running by 2024. During that period, PSTA officials say they will continue

partnering with business, community and governmental leaders to ensure the transparency and accountability of the project. Those efforts will include the interactive website GreenlightPinellas.com where the community can get regular updates on the plan as well as giving input and asking questions. Citizen oversight committees will also be created to help monitor and guide the project and they will report directly to the PSTA Board of Directors.

The PSTA Board, unanimously and enthusiastically endorsed both the Greenlight Pinellas Plan as well as draft ballot language designed to fund the plan via a referendum proposed for November 4, 2014. That proposal includes eliminating the current property tax that funds PSTA and replacing it with a 1 cent sales tax.  “I’d like to congratulate everyone on this,” said Belleair Bluffs Commissioner Joseph Barkley. “After some of the confusion in the last election, this is very clear and the voters will easily understand what we’re trying to do and it’s very positive step forward.”

“I applaud those who helped make this ballot language so simple and clear,” added County Commissioner Janet Long.  The final ballot language will be approved by the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners following a public hearing on the subject on December 10, 2013. County Commissioner and PSTA Board Member Norm Roche did not attend the meeting.

Details, background data and avenues for community input can all be found at the plan’s website: www.greenlightpinellas.com.

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Press Release: Business and Community Leaders Endorse Greenlight Pinellas Plan

Greenlight Pinellas LogoThey have worked with partners and colleagues for months to help craft a comprehensive transportation plan for the future of our community. Yesterday, the members of the Greenlight Council fully endorsed the transportation blueprint they helped create:  The Greenlight Pinellas Plan.

The Greenlight Council, made up of local civic, business and government leaders, had asked for independent validation of financial assumptions for parts of the plan before granting approval. Those portions involve plans outlining proposed bus improvements and the implementation of a future light rail line. “Scrubbing the numbers and being able to answer the public’s question, ‘If I give you my penny, can you do what you say you’re going to do?’ with a resounding ‘yes’ is very important and unusual,” said Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority Chairman Ronnie Duncan. “It’s unusual to do this kind of detailed analysis at this point in the process and for that I commend PSTA and its partners in this process.”

After receiving validation of the Greenlight Pinellas financial assumptions from experts at Ernst and Young and HNTB, the council unanimously voted to endorse the plan. Members will now take the plan to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and request that a funding proposal be placed on the November 4, 2014 ballot.

Over the next few weeks county staff will work with PSTA to craft ballot language for the referendum asking voters to change transit funding in Pinellas County from its current 0.7305 mil property tax to a one percent sales tax. That process will include a BOCC workshop on December 3rd and a public hearing tentatively scheduled for December 10, 2013.

To learn more about this new, comprehensive transit improvement plan, along with supporting study documentation, visit www.greenlightpinellas.com.

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Press Release: Regional Leaders Endorse Greenlight Pinellas Plan

Who: Advisory Committee to for Pinellas Transportation Transit (ACPT)
What:  Formally endorses the Greenlight Pinellas Plan
When:  Monday, November 4, 2013
Where:  PSTA Headquarters, 3201 Scherer Drive, St. Petersburg
Why: To help improve the future of transportation for Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay area

Greenlight Pinellas LogoAfter receiving independent confirmation of the validity of the Greenlight Pinellas Plan’s financial assumptions, members of the Advisory Committee to for Pinellas Transportation formally endorsed the Greenlight Pinellas comprehensive transit improvement plan at their meeting on Monday, November 4th.

The ACPT is made up of representatives from the Pinellas Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), PSTA, the Pinellas Planning Council (PPC), the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).  The group has played a key role in the development and proper vetting of the Greenlight Pinellas Plan, ensuring that it can stand up to the tightest scrutiny and that it will be of true benefit to bay area residents.

“Greenlight Pinellas will help create and sustain a vibrant, progressive and prosperous economy,” said County Commission Chair Ken Welch. “Lasting progress can’t be achieved by doing the same things we’ve always done.”

“I want to applaud the ACPT and County Board of Commissioners for having the wisdom to start this process a year and a half before it goes to voters,” said Sierra Club Healthy Air Campaign Regional Representative Phil Compton.  Speaking during Public Comment Mr. Compton added, “This is a very prudent approach and you’ve looked at it every which way, so you can take it to the voters and show them exactly what’s in it for all of them.”

On November 4, 2014, Pinellas County voters will be asked to change transit funding in Pinellas County from its current 0.7305 mil property tax to a 1% sales tax. If approved, that change will provide the necessary funding to implement the Greenlight Pinellas Plan.

To learn more about this comprehensive transit improvement plan, along with supporting study documentation, visit www.greenlightpinellas.com.

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Press Release: Independent Analysts Validate Greenlight Pinellas Financial Plan

Greenlight Pinellas LogoAfter nearly two months of in-depth analysis and study, experts from the engineering firm of HNTB and financial firm  Ernst & Young have confirmed the financial viability of the Greenlight Pinellas transit improvement plan. In a presentation to the PSTA Board of Directors today, CEO Brad Miller detailed the plan’s fiscal structure and the corroborating findings from the outside financial experts.

The Greenlight Pinellas plan is based on two comprehensive and detailed studies that have become the blueprint for a successful expansion of the county’s transit system. The first was the two and half year Alternatives Analysis (AA) study completed by Jacobs Engineering in partnership with PSTA, the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Florida Department of Transportation, and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. The second was the PSTA Community Bus Plan conducted by Transportation Management & Design, Inc.  Because the AA portion of the project used 2011 dollar figures, local leaders and members of the public asked for a validation of the cost estimates to ensure that the cost of the rail element of the plan is still within the original projection of $1.5-$1.7 billion.  HNTB examined the cost estimates completed by Jacobs Engineering and determined them to be valid and correct. HNTB’s estimate of $1.68B (2011$) was used by Ernst & Young Infrastructure Advisors as a key base case assumption along with other key assumptions to the financial model including cost escalation, revenue/grant forecasts, phased implementation and debt financing.

“The Greenlight Pinellas Plan is essential for the future of our economy and quality of life,” says PSTA Chief Development Officer Cassandra Borchers. “It is critical that we make certain that the financials are rock-solid. We were very conservative with our assumptions and it’s rewarding to have outside entities confirm that we are able to build and operate the bus and rail projects as promised in the county-wide Greenlight Pinellas Plan with the passage of the November 2014 referendum.”

PSTA officials and partner agencies engaged thousands of people from every sector of the community to help craft the Greenlight Pinellas plan. Leaders say that input has been integral to creating a plan that is reflective of the community’s desires and transportation needs. “Because this is a 30-year plan, we’ve included numerous contingencies so that we can easily adapt and modify it to accommodate future economic and cultural realities,” adds Borchers.

In November 2014 Pinellas County citizens will be asked to approve funding for the Greenlight Pinellas in a referendum that would, if passed, replace the current PSTA property tax with a 1% sales tax (not applied to groceries or medical-related products).  Details, background data and avenues for community input can all be found at the plan’s website: www.greenlightpinellas.com.

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Press Release: TBARTA Board Endorses Greenlight Pinellas

At its monthly meeting on September 27, 2013, The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) Board of Directors formally added its endorsement the Greenlight Pinellas transportation improvement plan. tbartaThe Board, which includes elected officials from Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota Counties, unanimously endorsed a resolution to support the new transit improvement plan for Pinellas County.

Greenlight Pinellas is a multi-modal comprehensive transit improvement plan incorporating feedback from the public, the business community, planning agencies, the Pinellas Alternatives Analysis and the Community Bus Plan. The goal of the Greenlight Pinellas plan is to help Pinellas County develop the most efficient and economically viable transit service possible. It features a significantly expanded bus network with buses running more frequently and throughout greater portions of the day. The countywide bus service improvements will then build a strong foundation for a future light rail line connecting St. Petersburg, the Gateway/Carillon area and Clearwater.

The Pinellas Board of County Commissioners and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will ask voters to fund the Greenlight Pinellas plan in November of 2014 through a referendum that will switch PSTA’s funding from property taxes to a 1% sales tax. To learn more about the Greenlight Pinellas Plan, visit www.GreenlightPinellas.com.

To learn more about PSTA, its service, and how to ride, visit the agency’s award winning website at www.PSTA.net.

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