Press Release: Ridership Surge Sets New Record for January

For immediate release: February 12, 2013

Who: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)
What: Sets all-time ridership record for month of January
When: January 2013
Where:
 Throughout Pinellas County and Tampa
How:  By giving more than 1.2 million rides last month

PSTA’s monthly record-setting ridership streak continues! For the 15th straight month, the transit agency has set a new record for the number of boardings.bus shelter group shot Last month riders took 1,220,421 trips in PSTA vehicles –an 8% jump over January 2012 (which was also an 8% gain over January 2011). For the fiscal year, PSTA is averaging a whopping 12% increase over 2011-2012. “Industry experts say that a 3 to 5% annual increase is a very strong gain for a transit system, so posting increases as high as we’ve seen over the past year is really remarkable,” says PSTA Board Chair Jeff Danner. “Plus, the fact that we’ve posted 15 straight monthly records shows that  demand is soaring.”

In fact, PSTA leaders say the increased demand is now leading to overcrowding on numerous routes. “We’ve had standing-room-only buses during rush hour on several routes for years, but now we’re seeing similar loads throughout the day and at times that used to be considered low-ridership,” says PSTA spokesperson Bob Lasher. Because the agency has been using reserves for operating expenses since the recession hit, it doesn’t have the resources to increase bus frequencies. “We’ve gone through a $40 million dollar reduction in property tax revenue since 2008, so we simply don’t have the option of increasing service right now,” Lasher adds.

In order to meet the demand for service, agency leaders are asking the Pinellas County Commission to place a sales tax initiative on the November 2014 ballot. If approved by voters, that new funding source would allow the agency to offer more frequent and later bus service . PSTA is conducting a study of the current bus network to help streamline service and maximize resources. This analysis will ensure that Pinellas County residents are getting the most efficient and economically viable transit service possible.  To learn more about the Pinellas Community Bus Plan and to participate in a survey, visit http://busplan.psta.net.

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5 Comments

Filed under Press Releases, Transit Data

5 responses to “Press Release: Ridership Surge Sets New Record for January

  1. Ok so ridership APPEARS to be UP…. Is the Revenue increasing at the same pace ? The ridership stats are a little deceiving because lots of people get on a bus and pay for a card or swipe their card only to discover that they were on the wrong bus, or another bus came in that could get them were they wanted to go faster… so that turns into 2 rides for 1 rider when they only really rode one bus.

    • Rhonda – While some rides counted may be from double card swipes, such errors don’t account for the full 86,090 increase in ridership over January 2012. Revenues are up, and we’re currently seeing a surplus, but that will likely be eaten up by increased DART ridership and an expected rise in the cost of diesel fuel… Thanks! ~Cyndi

      • JudyToo

        Why is PSTA asking for a 1% sales tax? That is the same as Penny for Pinellas which averages about $140 Million every year. The last PSTA projection I saw indicated a $16 Million total shortfall in the next four years (2013-2016). $6.4 Million in 2016. The implication is that PSTA can get by maximizing the property tax to 0.75 millage and cutting some expenses and rerouting some buses. According to PSTA on their website, average rides generate less than $1.00 revenue with operating expenses of more than $4.00 per ride. So we taxpayers are paying 75% of costs and riders are paying 25%. Taxpayers pay 100% of capital costs (buses, shelters, etc.).Even at these “surging” ridership levels, those percentages are the same and less than 3% of Pinellas citizens are using PSTA. So exactly why is PSTA looking for $140 MILLION DOLLARS EVEY YEAR taken out of our pockets???
        Maybe they need that much to pay employees who will be getting an average of $78,000 per year in 2016 according to the PSTA budget – 62% of all operating costs are for wages and benefits!
        If a passeenger boards a bus and transfers to another bus, is that counted as two rides? What percentage of rides are round trips?

      • JudyToo, without a stable funding source (1% sales tax), by 2016 we will be forced to cut 18% of service, with significant additional cuts every following year as operational costs (fuel, insurance, labor) increase at a rate far greater than revenues from property taxes will (Amendment 1 and the recession ensured that). Currently, Pinellas County’s annual, per capita investment in transit is about half that of our peer cities (based on population) around the country. Because of that, we have a transit system that is too small to adequately serve our population and economy. We have consistently lost high paying jobs and good employers to other sunbelt cities that have far better transit systems. Systems that run more frequently for more hours in the day, can cover larger portions of the population and can accommodate second and third shift workers.

        The most recent revenue projections are less than $120 million/year.
        PSTA/’s current Farebox recovery is 2x national average for bus agencies: 28.7% versus the nat’l average of 14.8%. Both of which are exponentially higher than the return for roads, most of which are built and maintained – 100% – by taxes. Consider the hundreds of miles of roads in Pinellas County along with thousands in the state and hundreds of thousands of miles across the county that we all support (at a much higher percentage and cost than transit), despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of us will only ever drive on a minuscule fraction of a percentage of those roads. Plus, consider how much of the day those roads, especially the ones in your community and neighborhood are empty. 100% paid for by taxes, yet only the tiniest of percentage of the public using them.

        Thanks for following the blog, and for your comments!

  2. Pingback: Passenger Counting 101 | Ride PSTA

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