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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PSTA Ridership Continues Setting New Records

blog

Despite some of the lowest gasoline prices in years, bay area residents and visitors took more rides on PSTA buses in December than in any other December in agency history. Riders boarded PSTA vehicles 1,238,060 times in December, which is 6.3% increase over the same month in 2013. Agency officials say they experienced strong  increases across the board; however, the ridership on weekends was exceptionally strong with Saturday trips up nearly 10% and Sunday up almost 15% over December 2013. Among the highest increases were those on the Clearwater Jolley Trolley and St. Petersburg’s Downtown Looper.

The latest record continues a strong trend of ridership increases that have set six new all-time monthly ridership records over the past seven months. PSTA leaders say that for the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2015, ridership is up more than 4% over 2014, which was the highest ridership year in agency history.

To plan a trip on PSTA, visit the  agency’s award-winning website at: www.PSTA.net and take advantage of their Google Trip Planner or you can speak with one of the agency’s outstanding Customer Service Representatives on the PSTA InfoLine at (727) 540-1900.  Riders are also encouraged to use PSTA’s new Real Time Bus Information system to find out when the next bus will arrive at their stop.

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The Year in Review: A Look at PSTA’s 2014

They say reflection is good for the soul, so we wanted to take a look back at the past year at PSTA and see what we’ve accomplished.

  • ccletterAlthough we were disappointed that the Greenlight Pinellas Referendum didn’t pass, but we are exceedingly proud of the unprecedented educational effort that took place. Our staff attended nearly 600 presentations and events, and spoke with more than 150,000 people over 18 months. We talked to riders, non-riders, residents, tourists, seniors, students, families, and workers about public transit. And while voters ultimately did not agree about how to fund the planned improvements, we heard over and over about how important PSTA is to so many people in our community.
  • Our record ridership last year is proof that transit matters. The months of June, July, August, and September each had their highest ridership ever. And, overall for the fiscal year that ran from October 2013 through September 2014, PSTA’s annual ridership reached a record total of 14,503,349 boardings.
  • CCletter1With that many people boarding the bus each month, our Real Time Bus Information system had a great workout. The system sent out 1.8 million text messages, the website was accessed 530,582 times, and the automated telephone system gave info to 1.3 million callers. Overall, the Real Time system gave bus arrival info nearly 3.7 million times last year! Our riders have really embraced this new technology that makes it easier to use public transit.
  • ccletter2Riding the bus also got easier for students, faculty, and staff at USF St. Petersburg and St. Petersburg College, and employees of the City of St. Petersburg with the launch of the Universal Pass program, also called U-Pass. This special partnership allows agencies, major employers, schools, and universities to pay PSTA an annual rate in exchange for unlimited public transit access for their employees or students.
  • ccletter3The launch of the system-wide free Wifi access made that easy ride even more enjoyable. Now passengers can listen to music, handle emails, visit with friends on Facebook, or take a PSTA customer satisfaction survey just by connecting to the free Wifi signal on our buses. This important amenity allows our riders to make good use of their commute time.

As we head into 2015, the management and staff of PSTA want you to know that we remain committed to providing excellent public transit service to our community. We appreciate all of our riders, and thank you for making public transit matter.

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Ride PSTA To and From the East-West Shrine Game at the Trop Saturday

trolley

Who: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)

What: Reminding fans that PSTA’s popular Central Ave. Trolley provides easy, affordable and frequent service near Tropicana Field for this year’s East-West Shrine Game

When: 4:00 p.m. Saturday, January 17, 2015

WhereTropicana Field, St. Petersburg

Why:  Enjoy the game and festivities, without the hassle of driving and finding a parking space

Enjoy the longest running college all-star game in the nation with affordable and hassle-free transportation on PSTA to the 90th annual East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana. Kickoff is set for 4:00 pm, Saturday, January 17, 2015, which means fans will have plenty of options to get to and from the Trop on PSTA’s popular Central Avenue Trolley. In fact, the trolley runs directly between the stadium and the game’s official host hotel, the world renowned TradeWinds Island Resorts.

First-time riders can plan their trip by visiting the PSTA’s award-winning website at: www.PSTA.net and using the Google Trip Planner or by calling one of the agency’s outstanding Customer Service Representatives on the PSTA InfoLine at (727) 540-1900.  Riders are also encouraged to use PSTA’s new Real Time Bus Information system to find out when the next bus will arrive at their stop.

Central Avenue Trolley schedule

 

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High School Students Can Earn a FREE Trip to Washington, D.C.

APTA

The American Public Transportation Association is inviting high school juniors and seniors interested in careers in public transportation, to apply for an all-expense paid (by APTA) trip to our nation’s capital. The trip is part of APTA’s 4th biennial Transportation Youth Summit to advance education and promote careers in public transportation.

PSTA and APTA leaders are quick to point out that public transportation continues playing a significant role in finding solutions to numerous challenges facing America today – just it has throughout our history.  “Whether it’s creating and supporting job growth, a cleaner environment, energy independence, alternatives to automobile ownership or a better quality of life; where public transportation goes, community grows,” says APTA Director of Media Relations Virginia Miller. Recent studies have shown that both millennials and empty-nest Baby Boomers are now choosing urbanized living over suburbs and transportation options are a big reason why. “Since 1995, public transit ridership is up by more than 37 percent in the United States and that has outpaced both population growth and vehicle miles traveled,” adds Miller.  Through programs such as the 2015 Youth Summit, APTA officials are working with younger generations to help meet the growing demand for public transit.

APTA will be selecting a diverse group of 50 students from across the nation to participate in the youth summit, which will be held in Washington, DC, June 28th through July 2nd, 2015. Students will explore the educational and environmental benefits of public transportation as well as seeing, first hand, how communities benefit from increased transportation services.  They’ll also learn how local and federal policies affect public transit use and development.  In addition, the students will learn about the educational and career opportunities awaiting them in the public transportation industry.

Those selected will enjoy an all-expenses-paid opportunity that includes:

  • Five days in the nation’s capital
  • Meeting lawmakers and congressional leaders
  • Exploring the range of exciting career paths within the transit industry
  • Learning how public transportation helps shape a brighter future
  • Participating in hands-on local transit tours
  • Interaction with peers from across the country who are also interested in public transportation
  • Residing in a university campus venue

The summit is for rising high school sophomores and juniors (those who will be juniors and seniors in fall, 2015). Applications can be found at http://www.apta.com/youthsummit/Pages/default.aspx and are due by Friday, February 13, 2015. Completed applications can be submitted via email to students@apta.com or by fax to (202) 496-4323.

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