PSTA Driver Trades Clown Car for 40-foot Bus in State Competition

Roadeo

On a typical weekend, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority Bus Operator Maurice “Danny” Cheatham can be found wearing his uniform and name tag.

However, this particular uniform consists of face paint, funny shoes and a big, red nose. His name tag will read: Moochie the Clown.

Cheatham is a longtime member and leader of the Shriner Clown Troupe in Tampa, Florida. Driving motorized mini-cars and sporting colorful wigs, the troupe entertains young patients in the burn unit at Shriners Hospital for Children.

This weekend, Cheatham won’t be clowning around. Instead, he will be representing PSTA in the 2015 Annual Florida Triple Crown Bus Roadeo in St. Petersburg, Florida. The competition is a grueling test of skill, safety and proficiency for bus operators and mechanics.

Drivers will give it their all as they navigate and maneuver through a mine-field of cones and tennis balls, and only the best will make it through the barrel gauntlet without fault.

Zero to 20 is the easy part. The final leg of the competition requires a near perfect performance of stopping an accelerating bus at a moment’s notice and avoiding plowing down one last cone.

Drivers representing various transit agencies across Florida are competing for state title, and the chance to compete this May in the International Bus Roadeo in Fort Worth, Texas.

“This would be my first hometown big win,” Cheatham said, describing his 2014 qualifying win in Daytona Beach, Florida. “It would mean a lot for my troupe and the kids.”

Cheatham is not the only reoccurring competitor at this year’s competition. Ramon Farfan, Jacksonville Transportation Agency, has been their local undefeated-champion since 2007 and will be seeking his third state title.

Stay posted for all the latest on this year’s battle of the buses.

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PSTA Has Your FREE “Ticket” to Spring Break

gocard

Who: The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)

What: Offering special opportunities for riders to win free daily, unlimited-ride bus passes

When: From March 30 – April 3, 2015 (during Pinellas County School’s “Spring Break”).

Where: Select Locations throughout Pinellas County

Why:  To promote transit use and help ease the county’s annual “Spring Break” traffic jams

How:  Follow PSTA on Social Media to learn where and when the passes will be given out

For many people “Spring Break” is a magical time of year when Floridians and tourists alike enjoy picture perfect weather, award-winning beaches, spring training and tourist dollars streaming into the local economy. For others, especially our neighbors along the gulf beaches, “Spring Break” means something very different:  Traffic.

In order to help reduce that traffic congestion (and the demand for “Mom’s Taxi Service”) PSTA will be holding a special promotion encouraging transit use by offering a limited number of free, all-day bus passes. Those passes, called Daily Unlimited GO CARDS will be made available to “Spring Breakers” who follow PSTA on social media. Here’s how it will work: From Monday March 30, 2015 through Friday April 3, 2015, PSTA’s Social Media Coordinator, Alissa Kostyk, will be at the locations and times listed below. Before she heads out, Alissa will post on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (@RidePSTA) details about where people can find her and win a free bus pass. (Hint: Alissa will be holding a poster-sized GO CARD.)   Cards will be awarded to the first five people who find her and request one. The cards provide unlimited travel on PSTA (excluding the 100X & 300X routes to Tampa) for an entire day and can be used the day they are won or on any single day in the future. Winners will also be featured on PSTA’s social media.

Mon. 3/30/15 Tue. 3/31/15 Wed. 4/1/15 Thurs. 4/2/15 Fri. 4/3/15
10am Tyrone Square Mall Blue Jays Spring Training- Florida Auto Exchange Stadium Countryside Mall Pier 60 Johns Pass
2pm Tradewinds Resort Fossil Park Sundial Pinellas Park Movie Theatre Xtreme Fun Center

To learn more about PSTA, please visit the agency’s award winning website at www.psta.net.

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PSTA Sets Ridership Record for Month of February

pressrelease

Who: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority

What: Carried more riders in February, 2015 than any previous February in agency history

When: February, 2015

Where: Throughout Pinellas County and to Tampa

How: By providing a record-setting 1,184,735 rides to area transit users

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority set its third consecutive all-time monthly ridership record last month, making for eight new records over the past nine months. February’s overall ridership was up 1.7% over the same period in 2014.  So far this year, the agency has seen ridership increase 4.6% over last year. Officials say that’s an impressive number given the recent reduction in gasoline prices as compared to the past few years.

Without expensive and widespread customer surveys, PSTA leaders say there’s no way to know exactly why more rides are being taken, but they suspect that it’s due to a combination of factors including an improving economy, record tourism and the agency’s new UPASS programs with the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg College and the City of St. Petersburg.

To plan a trip on PSTA, prospective riders can use the agency’s Google Trip planner located on agency’s home page at www.psta.net or they can call the PSTA InfoLine at (727) 540-1900 to speak with a live Customer Service Representative.

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PSTA Drivers Enjoy Special Thanks From Officials and Riders

BradPSTA Bus Operator and 2009 Driver of the Year, Vance Wegner, couldn’t help but smile when talking about his morning shift Wednesday, which was also Transit Driver Appreciation Day. “People were coming on the bus, shaking my hand and saying ‘Thank you,’” he says. “It was wonderful.”

Vance is one of 363 expert drivers who show up every day of the year to provide safe, reliable and affordable public transit for Pinellas County residents. He and his colleagues would be quick to remind people that safely driving a 40 foot buses through some of the most crowded roadways in Florida is not nearly as easy as many people think.

“Our job is to make it look easy,” adds 2014 Driver of the Year Marcus Hughes (pictured).  “As drivers, we have to watch out for unpredictable traffic, changing weather conditions and pedestrians, while keeping our riders and others sharing the road, safe and secure.”  Transit officials say that task has gotten more and more demanding over the years as PSTA ridership continues setting new records and is now more than 14.5 million rides a year. Agency leaders say that as ridership increases, it’s harder to keep buses on schedule, because they spend more time at stops while people pay fares. A new regional “smartcard” fare system, which is in development with other transit agencies in the area, is expected to help speed the boarding process and better keep routes on time. That, in turn, helps ensure that drivers get their needed break time, which is now often sacrificed to keep buses on time.

“I love this job,” says 12 year PSTA veteran Driver Zelda Robinson. “Sure, it can be tough at times, like any job, but I love it and I love seeing my passengers every day. I take them where they need to go and they make me laugh,” she says with a smile. That positive attitude was not lost on agency leadership or riders Wednesday, as they partnered throughout the county to take a little extra time for a special “Thank you” to these skilled and dedicated public servants.

Transit Driver Appreciation Day began in 2009 when a group of transit riders in Seattle decided it would be a great way to honor the hard-working men and women who provide safe transportation options for our community.

PSTA officials also want to remind the public that it’s always a good day to pass along “Thanks” to your Bus Operators.

To learn more about PSTA, please visit the agency’s award winning website at www.psta.net.

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PSTA Sets New Ridership Record – In Surprising Fashion

ridershipWho: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority

What: Carried more riders in January, 2015 than any previous January in agency history

When: January, 2015

Where: Throughout Pinellas County and to Tampa

How: By providing a record-setting 1,258,631 rides to area transit users

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority set its second consecutive all-time monthly ridership record last month, making for seven new records in the past eight months.  January’s record, however, was a bit of a surprise for PSTA leaders, because it happened during a period when gasoline prices dramatically dropped. Typically transit ridership will also drop during periods of low fuel prices, but PSTA’s ridership not only bucked that trend, but it did so in astonishing fashion – by posting a 7.8% increase over January, 2014.

“It’s one of the biggest jumps in ridership that I’ve seen in my 14 years of service with this agency,” says PSTA Board Chair and Clearwater City Council member Bill Jonson. “It really contradicts the misconception that people in Pinellas County don’t use public transit.”  Officials say the 7.8% increase translates to 100,326 additional trips taken last month as over January, 2014. When asked about reasons for the increased ridership, PSTA leaders said that it’s most likely the result of a combination of factors including an improving economy, higher employment, record tourism and the agency’s new UPASS programs with the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg College and the City of St. Petersburg.

To plan a trip on PSTA, prospective riders can use the agency’s Google Trip planner located on agency’s home page at www.psta.net or they can call the PSTA InfoLine at (727) 540-1900 to speak with a live Customer Service Representative.

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PSTA One of Only Three Transit Agencies in U.S. to Earn Consecutive Gold Standard Awards

TSA

Of the 137 agencies across the country that applied for the TSA’s prestigious Gold Standard award, only PSTA and two others have won it more than once. “It takes a lot of hard work to win this award and it’s reflective of the dedication of your agency,” said TSA Director of Surface Transportation Division Sonia Proctor as she presented the award to PSTA Board Members and staff Wednesday.

Proctor was part of a small group of TSA officials who attended the February PSTA Board meeting to participate in the award presentation. In a special letter to PSTA CEO Brad Miller, TSA Acting Administrator Melvin Carraway wrote, “Your system attained high scores across all categories. We consider this caliber of performance as deserving of special attention.  I commend you and your organization for the commitment and hard work that this level of achievement requires.”

The “Gold Standard” designation is based on TSA’s Baseline Assessment for Security Enhancement (BASE) pertaining to PSTA’s dedication to building a strong security program. Only four other transit agencies earned the Gold Standard for the most recent evaluation period, which was 2013-2014 and only two of those joined PSTA as back–to-back winners. This year PSTA scored 99 out of 100 improving one percentage point over the agency’s previous high of 98 set back in 2011.

The TSA’s BASE program is a voluntary comprehensive review of transit agency security programs focusing on multiple categories such as an agency’s security plans, training, drills/exercises, preparedness, public outreach and background check programs.

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Transit Matters to Families

For the month of February, we’d like to share some stories with you about families and public transit. Every day moms, dads, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters board PSTA buses to make their way around the county. Many of these family members travel together, and some families turn it into an adventure.

The Sorenson family uses public transit as a way to get quality time with the kids. Here’s their story, as told by dad Carl Sorenson:

Sorenson family

Not long ago I found myself in a situation where telecommuting for work was no longer an option. This happened right at the same time that I was purchasing a house in St. Petersburg. I suddenly found myself travelling to Manatee County five days a week – too much for me. So, last year I started a new job in downtown St. Pete – and what a commute I have now!

One way I can have more fun, happy time with the kids is with our new morning routine. I don’t take the twins to preschool every day, but I generally will if the weather is at all nice. I have often been taking the kids to school in the morning via a walk on the Pinellas Trail and a bus ride on the PSTA Route 23. The kids have such nice daddy time when I walk on the trail with them and we look at birds and squirrels and talk about anything at all. We have a lot of fun on the bus (which I learned is wide enough that they can lie down end-to-end on the back row with room to spare!). Usually while waiting for the school to open they will pretend to be penguins or dogs or roosters or something (they’re four). We have had some very fun and silly mornings this way.

After dropping off the kids at school, I can take the next bus to my new job downtown. People usually ask if I save money by taking the bus. It’s possible, but the downtown job location and the bus commute really are lifestyle choices that make me happy.

People often assume that the bus is what you use when you don’t have other options, but when I explain how rich my mornings are they understand a bit why I love making this a part of my lifestyle. Actually, even beyond my time with the kids, riding with other people helps me to feel connected to the community.

The bus brings together all sorts, and we are literally all in it together for a few minutes each day.

To learn more about the Sorenson family, please check out Carl’s blog.

Does your family enjoy riding the bus together? Send your story to ride@psta.net

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