On the heels of a new annual record for all-time ridership, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority continues to post exceptionally strong ridership numbers as it starts its new fiscal year. Last month, the agency provided 1,278,051 rides making for the second highest total for October in agency history (October 2012 was highest ever).
Officials say that although ridership was up on their regular routes last month, the temporary closing of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) for a movie shoot dropped shuttle ridership between that facility and Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure by more than 15,000 as compared to October 2012. “When you consider the probable impact the new movie will have on our economy, the short term dip in ridership is nothing compared to the increases that we’re expecting after the movie opens,” says PSTA spokesperson Bob Lasher. In the meantime, PSTA leaders continue working to find ways to meet the growing demand for ridership and to ease overcrowding on many routes. “Our Suncoast Beach TrolleySM vehicles have 30 seats on every bus. When I rode from Pier 60 to Clearwater on October 26th, there were 34 other people waiting at my stop,” Lasher says. “And, all but three or four were commuters.”
Agency leaders are also encouraged by the fact that the demand for service remains strong even though fuel prices have dropped precipitously over the past few weeks. They say that it’s very common for riders to continue using transit when fuel prices drop, since monthly bus passes are still cheaper than the average fill-up and they enjoy the stress relief of not having to drive on crowded roads.
Local leaders are now finalizing a comprehensive transportation improvement plan for Pinellas County called Greenlight Pinellas. The Greenlight Pinellas Plan features significantly improved, countywide bus service along with plans for a future light rail system. Details, Q&A, study data and community forums can all be found at www.greenlightpinellas.com.
If you’d like to take advantage of Pinellas County’s increasingly popular transit system, just visit the agency’s award-winning website at: www.PSTA.net. Patrons are also encouraged to use PSTA’s new Real Time Bus Information system to find out exactly when the next bus will arrive at their stop. Simply visit to www.RidePSTA.net or call the PSTA InfoLine at (727) 540-1900.