PSTA Sets New Record for June Ridership

St. Petersburg, Fla. — Ridership has continued to soar at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and now a new record has been set for the highest ridership ever in June.

Riders boarded PSTA buses 1,227,612 times, a 3.4 percent increase from the same month in 2014, and an all-time record for the month overall. The nearly 40,000 additional trips made last month could be attributed to increased tourism seen throughout the county.

Last month, an estimated 250,000 people were drawn to St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District to celebrate the annual St. Pete Pride Parade and Street Festival. PSTA offered several routes throughout the weekend to better transport people safely across the city during the festivities.

PSTA’s partner trolley service, Jolley Trolley, also saw a significant increase in ridership of almost 60 percent. The 31,850 additional trips in one month come as no surprise to Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates.

“The Jolley Trolley is a critical part of the Clearwater Beach guest experience, as many of our guests tell us, and it is critical to CMA’s overall success,” said Yates. “It has become a signature part of Clearwater Beach.”

This new record continues a sustained, significant upward ridership trend for PSTA.

“With the influx of tourism and events here in Pinellas County, we are seeing more and more people using the benefits of riding public transportation, “said PSTA Chair Bill Jonson. “These numbers paint a story that transit matters.”

PSTA is now focused on a customer-oriented service redesign that will better allocate resources to areas with the highest need. The next stage, community outreach and public engagement, will begin in early August.

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More Hybrid Electric-Diesel Buses Arrive at PSTA

New BusesSt. Petersburg, Fla. – Thirteen of the oldest diesel buses at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) will be replaced with brand new hybrid electric ones set to arrive by next week. Nine have already arrived at PSTA headquarters.

Despite a significant decrease in federal grant funds in recent years as Congressional earmarks were eliminated and bus-specific funding sources were reduced, PSTA continues to prioritize federal dollars on its bus replacement plan. A sustainable capital plan has been the focus of PSTA’s new strategic direction, Path Forward, since it was unanimously voted into effect by the board last month.

“This is the healthiest fleet we have ever had,” said Director of Maintenance Henry Lukasik. “We are really focused on our customers and making sure that they always have a reliable, safe, and environmentally-friendly bus at their disposal.”

The 2015 class of Gillig 40-foot diesel-electric hybrid buses adds to PSTA’s growing number of energy-efficient vehicles. The 61 total hybrid “Smart” buses will now make-up 30% of the nearly 200 public transit buses in Pinellas County.

This year’s purchase of 13 buses was the biggest order PSTA has placed in more than five years. The buses were purchased from Gillig Corporation through a cost-saving consortium of all the public transit systems in Florida.

“This public investment goes right to the private sector to support more than 200 U.S jobs in our California assembly plant,” said Gillig Bus Inc. Senior Representative Butch Sibley. “We pride ourselves on providing the best possible buses everywhere in Florida, but we especially appreciate PSTA’s business.”

Valued at more than $37 million dollars, PSTA’s fleet of buses is its greatest asset, aside from its customers.

PSTA’s long-term capital plan calls for maintaining its mix of approximately one-third hybrid buses for the future, while replacing older diesel buses with new cleaner diesel buses that have lower emissions, as per new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.

PSTA anticipates that the new buses will be fully deployed into active service by the end of August 2015.

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Federal Transportation Audit of PSTA Shows Strong Compliance

St. Petersburg, Fla. –Rigorous compliance reviews of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) have been completed showing the agency to be a successful manager of federal transportation funds.

FTA released its draft report of PSTA Thursday which showed accordance in hundreds of specific areas from financial management to Title VI.  The only finding, in procurement documentation, was corrected prior to the audit and will be marked as closed in the final report.

The Triennial Review is required by law for any transit agency receiving grants from the federal government. Each year, PSTA relies on nearly $14,000,000 of those funds. Most recently, PSTA used federal grants to purchase 13 brand new Gillig 40-foot hybrid-electric buses, set to arrive later this month.

“Our community expects nothing less out of its public services,” said City of Clearwater Councilman and PSTA Board Chair Bill Jonson. “But it’s great to know that we are consistently demonstrating good stewardship as recognized through this review.”

Three years ago, in 2012, PSTA received a perfect score without any findings.

During the multi-day review, PSTA was recognized by FTA officials for having outstanding compliance of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) regulations. PSTA’s EEO demographics report was determined to be a model report for other transit agencies, and its Major Capital Projects reports will also be circulated in the transit industry as “best practice.”

The Triennial Review is one of FTA’s most in-depth management tools for examining compliance with federal requirements. Some of the review areas are: financial management and financial capacity, Title VI, public comment on fare and service changes, half fare, school bus, security and drug-free workplace/drug and alcohol program.

PSTA’s next triennial review will be in 2018.

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PSTA hires Baseball Team of Summer Interns, 9 in All

internsSt. Petersburg, Fla. – The average age of employees at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) has gone down dramatically after the hire of nine summer interns.

Four high school students and five college students will spend the better part of their summer in various departments of PSTA ranging from transportation to information technology (IT).

Jordan Leitheiser, a senior at the University of South Florida, said she was ecstatic when she found out about PSTA’s social media internship through CareerSource Hillsborough.

“There’s so much to learn from an agency the size of PSTA,” said Leitheiser. “I knew it would be a unique opportunity to see how a big government agency uses social media to connect with the community it serves.”

This is not the first year PSTA has had interns. But providing a valuable development experience for nine at one time is something new.

“It’s a win-win-win for the students, the agency, and the community,” said PSTA Director of Human Resources Larry Longenecker.  “What makes an internship at PSTA different from any other is the exposure to the public. Our interns come to board meetings, work in customer service, and they get to see what a day in the life of a public servant really looks like.”

Each of the nine interns were placed in departments specific to their goals, interests, and school requirements.

Sean Volmuth, a student from the Pinellas County Schools Executive Internship Program, has always had a passion for IT. Now he is learning how technology is used by a transit agency and how IT supports agency technology such as GPS vehicle location systems, video surveillance systems, Wi-Fi on buses, call center phone systems, server environment, and networking equipment.

“My career in transportation started with an internship more than 20 years ago, and I will always be thankful to the managers who introduced me to this great field where you can help so many people with their transportation needs,” said PSTA Chief Executive Officer Brad Miller.  “It feels great to now pay it forward and work with these young people.”

This is the fourth year PSTA has offered internships through a partnership with The Boley Center and the City of St. Petersburg. PSTA has previously partnered with the Pinellas County School District, and this is the first time PSTA has shared resources with interns from CareerSource Hillsborough.

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PSTA is Your Ride to Pride

St. Petersburg, Fla. – The largest LGBT Pride parade in Florida kicks off Saturday night in Downtown St. Petersburg, and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) is going to get you there.

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.

“Making history” is the theme for the 13th annual St. Pete Pride festival, and PSTA will be making a little history of its own. As part of the celebrations, PSTA staff will ride a full-sized bus covered in lights down Central Avenue as part of the only LGBT nighttime parade.

PSTA has several routes that will be serving the expected 200,000 people in the Grand Central District Saturday night, such as the Central Avenue Trolley, Routes 7, 18, 20 and 52. Several routes will also be detoured to accommodate for the parade and the Pride Street Festival on Sunday.

Those interested in riding the bus can call our InfoLine at (727) 540-1900 and speak with a customer service representative, and/or find more information on detoured routes on the PSTA Rider Alert webpage.

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PSTA Dunks the Pump for Transit Awareness

St. Petersburg, Fla. – A life-sized gas pump plunging into 350-gallons of water might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of public transportation – but it will be now!

Tampa Bay Rays DJ Kitty throws out the first pitch.

Tampa Bay Rays DJ Kitty throws out the first pitch.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) hosted the first ever Dunk the Pump event at Ferg’s Sports Bar & Grill in St. Petersburg Tuesday afternoon in an effort to raise awareness for public transportation.

“For some reason people get really excited about the idea of dunking people in water, so we thought this would be a great way to get people excited about public transportation,” said PSTA Spokesperson Ashlie Handy. “Just look how popular the ice bucket challenge got to be. That is the type of energy we want to see about public transit.”

Tampa Bay Rays DJ Kitty 'Dunks the Pump'

Tampa Bay Rays DJ Kitty ‘Dunks the Pump’

Tampa Bay Rays mascot DJ Kitty threw out the first pitch and sent PSTA intern Jordan Leitheiser plunging into the ice-water filled tank. St. Petersburg Council Member Wengay Newton also took a turn to show his support for public transit and PSTA by dunking the pump.

“A great city needs to have great public transportation, and St. Petersburg is a great city,” said Council Member Newton. “PSTA provides more than just rides for the people of St. Petersburg, it provides stability.”

PSTA staffers handed out system maps and told onlookers about route and fare information as they watched the gas pump plummet.   Those who were successful in dumping the pump received a free one-day bus pass, and were encouraged to use it Thursday, June 18th for the national holiday.

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You Can’t Get a Gallon of Gas for $2 Anymore, but You Can Still Ride the Bus

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Gone are the days of gas under $2 – for now at least.

According to GasBuddy.com, the average price for a gallon of gas in Pinellas County is between $2.44 and $2.61. That means if you have a standard, mid-size sedan, with a gas tank that can hold 16 to 19 gallons, it’s costing you around $45 to fill your tank. Compare that to the two bucks it would cost you to hop on one of PSTA’s buses, and the choice should be a no-brainer.

Unlike gas, there is never a shortage of places to go and people to see, and with some of the best attractions in Tampa Bay right here in Pinellas County, that means you are only a bus ride away.

For those on the fence about public transit, summer is a great time to give it a try. Between the Central Avenue Trolley and the Suncoast Beach Trolley, beach-hopping has never been easier. You can hop on and off from Clearwater Beach all the way down to St. Pete Beach, with a $4.50 unlimited day pass – enjoy fun in the sun without the danger of driving impaired.

Use the Real Time bus app to make trip planning easy and predictable, and if you’re under 18-years-old you qualify for a Youth Summer Haul Pass which will give you unlimited access all summer for just $35 – enough said.

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