New Largo Transit Center Opens Sunday, May 1st

1,000 is the number of steps it takes to get from the nearest bus stop at US 19 and Roosevelt Boulevard to the Walmart Supercenter located on the corner—rain or shine.

PSTA thought they could do better, so they changed it to seven.

On the east side of Walmart at US 19 and Roosevelt, the new Largo Transit Center is set to open to riders on Sunday, May 1st. Located in the heart of Pinellas County, Largo Transit Center is served by some of PSTA’s highest ridership routes, namely Routes 19, 52, and 79.

Not only will riders and employees of nearby businesses now have a convenient, comfortable place to make transfers, they will also be the first to enjoy PSTA’s new bus shelter design. With a teal roof and clear blue glass on one side, the new shelter design is sleek and modern, while still being functional and practical with plenty of seating, shade, and trash receptacles.

Largo Transit Center Shelter with BusAn official ribbon cutting marked the opening of the center and the new shelters on Thursday, April 28th. PSTA’s CEO Brad Miller was joined by Largo Mayor Woody Brown, PSTA Board members Commissioner Joe Barkley (Belleair Bluffs), Councilmember Bill Jonson (Clearwater), Commissioner Janet Long (Pinellas County), Brian Scott, and Walmart store manager Sheila Perez.

IMG_2767Largo Transit Center will deliver significant value to the lives of riders, making it easier to transport heavy loads of groceries, get to work on-time, and move more efficiently across the entire reach of Pinellas County.  

1 Comment

Filed under Events, Transit Services

PSTA Wins Future of the Region Award for Direct Connect

PSTA Future of  the Region Award

PSTA Board members and staff accept an award for Transportation & Mobility at the 24th Annual Future of the Region Awards luncheon.

(Standing L to R) Sean Sullivan, Cassandra Borchers, Heather Sobush, Bill Jonson, Chris Cochran, Mark Deighton, Ken Welch, Woody Brown, Cyndi-Raskin Schmitt

(Seated L to R) Julie Bujalski, Patricia Gerard, Janet Long, Brad Miller.

PSTA Wins Future of the Region Award for Direct Connect
The first public-private partnership of its kind in the country.

St. Petersburg, Fla. – The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) has been recognized for outstanding achievement and contribution to the region in the category of Transportation and Mobility for its new ride-share pilot program, Direct Connect, at the 24th Annual Future of the Region Awards Friday.

The annual awards luncheon, hosted by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, provides honor and recognition for notable achievement in the public and private sector for resource planning and management in the Tampa Bay region.

“This is a great accomplishment not only for PSTA, but for the future of transit in the entire Tampa Bay area,” said PSTA Board Chair Darden Rice. “PSTA has a great team of leaders and staff who are committed to innovation and solutions.”

PSTA first launched Direct Connect in February of 2016 as a solution to a very common barrier to public transit use—easy access to a bus stop. Often called the ‘first-mile/last-mile’ challenge, transit agencies across the country find that getting riders to a bus stop is the first step in turning them into public transit users.

“Working with our partners to solve one of the biggest transit challenges in the county has really helped unite our region and strengthen our community,” said PSTA Chief Executive Officer Brad Miller. “Together we are better able to provide value to our community and to continue connecting people to opportunities.”

Direct Connect allows riders to use Uber or United Taxi to travel within a specific geographic zone to or from a series of designated stops. From there, riders can connect with the regular PSTA public transit bus system.

“We congratulate PSTA on this well-deserved award,” said General Manager of Uber in Tampa Bay Christine Mitchell. “Uber is proud to partner with innovative organizations such as PSTA to offer Pinellas Park residents our platform to help address the Tampa Bay region’s transportation needs.”

PSTA, Uber and United Taxi join together to celebrate the success of this first-ever public-private partnership and for the recognition of this award.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

PSTA Partners with Uber and United Taxi

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is partnering with Uber and United Taxi to help address a very common barrier to public transit use: easy access to a bus stop. Often called the “first mile, last mile” conundrum, transit agencies all across the U.S. find that getting riders to a bus stop is the first step in turning them into public transit users.

“Once we make it easy for someone to get to the bus stop, riding the bus becomes a real transportation alternative,” says PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “PSTA is always looking for ways to deliver value to our riders and the community, and this partnership with Uber and United Taxi does exactly that.”

direct connectPSTA’s new program, called Direct Connect, allows riders to use Uber (in Pinellas Park) or United Taxi (in Pinellas Park and East Lake) to travel within a specific geographic zone to or from a series of designated stops. From there, riders can connect with the regular PSTA public transit bus system. On the return trip, they can use Uber or United Taxi to travel from the designated stop back home or to work (within the zone).

With this unique partnership, the first of its kind in the nation, PSTA will pay half the cost of the Uber or United Taxi ride, up to $3.

“PSTA is showing true leadership by entering into an innovative partnership that is among the first of its kind in the nation,” says Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) “This technology offers a great opportunity to mass transit providers and expands access to transit for Pinellas families. I hope that other providers in our region and throughout the state will follow the lead of PSTA and embrace this technology that Floridians have come to expect in their communities.”

DC Ribbon Cutting

Brad Miller (PSTA), Nick Cambas (United Taxi), Christine Mitchell (Uber Tampa Bay), and Bill Jonson (City of Clearwater/PSTA Board member) cut the ribbon launching Direct Connect service in Pinellas Park and East Lake.

The service launched with a ribbon cutting event at Pinellas Park Transit Center on Monday, February 22, 2016 and will run on a six month pilot basis. If successful, PSTA will consider expanding this new, innovative service.

“We are proud to partner with PSTA on our shared mission of improving access to safe, reliable transportation options for Pinellas Park residents,” says Christine Mitchell, General Manager for Uber in Tampa Bay. “By helping to bridge the gap on the first and last mile for commuters, this innovative public-private partnership will compliment and extend the reach of the existing transportation infrastructure in the region and open up more opportunities in the community.”

PSTA + Uber + United Taxi

“We’re so glad to be working with old friends to serve our community in a new way,” agrees Nick Cambas, principal owner of United Taxi. “The people on United Taxi’s management team, myself included, have devoted their careers to the ground transportation service industry in Pinellas and surrounding counties. Doing so has given the team a variety of opportunities to work closely with PSTA, building a relationship that is decades long and strong. PSTA’s Direct Connect exemplifies the ideal public-private partnership: PSTA reduces its costs, our drivers have increased business opportunity, and the public benefits by saving time and money. I call that a Win-Win-Win.”

To learn more about this new service, please visit www.psta.net/directconnect.

Leave a comment

Filed under Customer Service, Events, Projects, Uncategorized

Meet Veteran William Butler Jr.

New 0658If you ask William H. Butler Jr. how many times he has jumped out of an airplane he will give you an exact number – fifty-two times.

The response comes instantaneously and without a doubt.

As I sit across from William in the PSTA drivers lounge there is a certain air that follows him; an elegance. His hands sit folded in front of him and his posture is perfect. He is not your typical army veteran. Not rough or rugged but almost reticent and reflective. Today I will hear firsthand the stories of former Sergeant First Class in the U.S Army’s 82nd Airborne Air Assault Division—William H. Butler Jr.

____

When William told me his name he wanted to make sure I included the suffix: Jr. He said it was important. At first, I wrote it off as habit. As someone with a very common name that is very commonly misspelled, I appreciated his clarity. But the more I began talking to William, the more I began to understand him and even more so his desire to be a part of something bigger – to leave a legacy.

William joined the U.S Army shortly after graduating from Northeast High School, located in St. Petersburg, Florida. After being offered a number of scholarships to play college football, it was at the request of his grandmother that he first considered enlisting in the service.

He recalls the memory like it was yesterday. “My grandmother said to me: it would be great to see you in a uniform just like your great grand-daddy,” William said. “The military was the last thing I was thinking about, but I went for it.”

As a self-proclaimed adventurer and a thrill-seeker, I think William found his calling that day.

During his first three years in the army, William was deployed to different warzones in different countries on different continents. He talks about the Gulf War and being a part of Operation Desert Shield and then after that Operation Desert Storm—memories he would only lightly touch on.

“You don’t want to hear about that stuff,” he would say.

What William enjoyed talking about was the jumps. When asked about his number one tip for jumping out of an airplane he had to think about it, but only for a second.

“Don’t eat a big meal!” he laughed and then recalled his first jump. “My legs instantly turned into spaghetti.”

As someone who is vocally terrified of flying in planes, I cannot even begin to stomach the thought of jumping out of one—but those were the moments William lived for.

“Honestly, I joined to impress the ladies,” William laughed. “They were looking for people who wanted to go into the airborne division, and I saw the ladies start eyeing us. I joined right there on the spot,” he laughed.

William’s laugh is absolutely contagious.

After being convinced to join the army by his grandmother and then volunteering to jump out of airplanes by little more than a passing glance, I think it’s safe to say that William would do anything for the women in his life.

Good for you, William.

Every jump comes with its risks. There are a million things that can go wrong at a million different times, but that was not something William ever mentioned. In fact, he told me an entire story about jumping out of an airplane only to find out mid-air that his parachute had blown a gigantic hole with a smile on his face.

It’s not that he thought the situation was funny—actually he told me it was one of the most terrifying moments of his life. But to understand his smile you have to understand William.

Having spent a total of 22 years in the service, William has gained a few army-attributes that you cannot scrub off. Aside from his frequent use of military jargon, he is relentlessly, tirelessly, unconditionally dedicated to what he does.

The day after his crash-landing with a blown parachute, William went back up and jumped again.

It is that same amount of dedication that he brought with him when he joined PSTA nearly three years ago. William talks about his passengers with the same passion and pride as he does with the army. He talks about the importance of leadership, responsibility, and respect.

“One of the big things I learned from the army was to be a better listener,” William said. “I had peoples little brothers and sisters lives in my hands.”

William told me leaders must be listeners—I couldn’t agree more.

Of all the places William was stationed he told me his favorite was Germany. He recalls seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris and taking trains across the country.

“I owe that to the military…my bucket list,” he said with a smile.

I couldn’t help but be jealous.

There really isn’t a good way to end a story on William because in the few hours that we spoke I feel like there is so much more to learn about him. But if I had to wrap up William in a few words I would say that he is just what he always wanted to be—a legacy.

The riders who know William on the many routes he drives, such as the 52 and 19, will not see him driving the bus on Veterans Day. Instead, he will be volunteering at Bay Pines V.A. hospital in St. Petersburg.

“Some of the veterans there do not get visitors,” William said. “I go there and listen to their stories. They inspire me.”

Well William, on behalf of PSTA and the citizens of Pinellas County, I’d like to say thank you for your service and sacrifice. You inspire me, too.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Veterans Ride PSTA Free Nov. 11- Includes any PSTA bus or trolley with proper identification

FacebookSt. Petersburg, Fla. – The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) will once again offer free bus rides to active military and veterans in recognition of Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Riders are asked to show active or retired military identification when boarding any PSTA bus or trolley to qualify for a free ride. Acceptable forms of identification include a military ID card, Veterans Affairs medical card, veteran’s designation on a driver’s license, certificate of release, or a certificate of discharge from active duty.

“We want our veterans to know that we appreciate their service and sacrifice,” said PSTA Chief Executive Officer Brad Miller. “We also want to salute the many veterans who are employed here at PSTA.”

According to a projection made by the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, the Tampa Bay area has the largest veteran population in the state.

Pinellas and Hillsborough counties are home to a combined 179,899 veterans as of September 2015, according to the report.

PSTA buses proudly offer service to all three of the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System facilities that operate in Pinellas County.  These facilities include the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in Bay Pines and VA outpatient clinics located in St. Petersburg and Palm Harbor.

“Transportation is extremely important to healthcare access,” said Jason Dangel, Public Affairs Officer for Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. “So we are very grateful for the role that PSTA plays.”

The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System sees around 4,000 appointments a day– a feat Dangel says may not have been possible without PSTA.

“We are kind of blessed here in Pinellas County because we do have great public transportation options,” said Dangel.

For information on trip planning and individual routes please visit www.PSTA.net or call the InfoLine at (727) 540-1900.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Another Record Year for PSTA!

ridershipNearly 15 million rides taken in FY 2014-2015

St. Petersburg, Fla. – The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) has set yet another annual ridership record with nearly 15 million rides taken in fiscal year 2014-2015.

With eight record-breaking months this year, PSTA has proudly achieved its sixth consecutive year of record ridership.

Passengers used the PSTA system a total of 14,898,825 times—that’s a 2.7 % increase and nearly 400,000 additional trips over last fiscal year. This new record breaks the highest standing record in Pinellas County’s 102-year history.

“I’m so proud to see how much PSTA has continued to grow,” said PSTA Board Chair Bill Jonson. “We’re working with great community partners to make some big moves in downtown St. Petersburg, and we are excited to watch our system continue to improve.”

Aside from its growing ridership, PSTA is looking at new ways to grow in downtown St. Petersburg.

“The goal is to move out of Williams Park by Valentine’s Day and transform the downtown hub into to a grid system in downtown St. Petersburg,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “This is going to be a big step towards a more walkable downtown.”

The PSTA Board will vote on the plan to reroute service near Williams Park at their November meeting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Family Man Named PSTA Driver of the Year

DOTY- Faysal MonzerSt. Petersburg, Fla. – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus operator Faysal Monzer has two priorities in his life—his job and his family.

“I’m happy that I can make my family proud,” Monzer said, when asked how he felt about earning PSTA’s highest honor – 2015 Driver of the Year.

In the 12 years Monzer has been at PSTA, he has received many awards and recognitions. Earlier in his career, he was presented the Driver of the Quarter award and has also received numerous safe driving pins.

However, it was not only his safe driving and perfect attendance record that earned Monzer the recognition this year.

“Faysal has a great way of communicating with the passengers,” said PSTA Director of Transportation Jeff Thompson.

Monzer’s communication skills go far beyond the average bus operator at PSTA. He can speak a variety of languages and is often heard translating directions for customers.

“I have seen him stop and take the time to make sure our customers get an answer to questions they may ask him,” said Thompson. “He is a great ambassador for transit and PSTA.”

Originally from Lebanon, Monzer came to St. Petersburg in 1978 and attended Eckerd College. With all of his children grown, he and his wife enjoy traveling and cooking international food—especially Caribbean and Mediterranean cuisine. His favorite route to drive is the Suncoast Beach Trolley. He loves communicating with Pinellas County’s many tourists and is enjoyed by all of his passengers.

When asked about his job, Monzer says it’s all about having a positive attitude.

“I smile at my passengers and ask them how they are,” said Monzer. “I’m very respectful of my riders and they are very respectful of me.”

Monzer was officially presented the 2015 Driver of the Year award at PSTA’s October Board meeting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized