The holiday season proved to be a record setting one for transit riders and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority this past year. Last month, with kids out of school and people taking time off from work, riders boarded PSTA a record 1,164,858 times, making for a 3.2% jump over the same month in 2012 and an all-time record for December. “We noticed heavy ridership going to and from the major shopping areas and we also saw heavy ridership along the beaches on our Suncoast Beach TrolleySM,” says PSTA Director of Transportation Jeff Thompson.
Even more encouraging is the uptick in the average number of weekday rides in December. Most trips on PSTA are commuters going to and from work, and last month, the weekday ridership was up 2.5% over the previous year, which is typically a positive indicator for employment and the economy.
PSTA officials say that anecdotal reports from Bus Operators indicate higher passenger traffic and more standing-room-only loads than normal. “We’ve been experiencing overcrowding on many routes during the day for quite some time now and the demand just keeps growing,” adds PSTA Chief Operating Officer James Bradford.
PSTA leaders say meeting that growing demand has been a challenge due to declining property tax revenues in the wake of the Great Recession. That’s why the agency will be asking voters to switch PSTA’s funding from its current property tax to a 1% sales tax in a referendum this coming November. If approved, PSTA will then eliminate its current property tax of 0.7305 mils and be able to implement transformational changes and enhancements to the county’s transit system as part of the Greenlight Pinellas Plan. That plan features significantly improved, countywide bus service along with the implementation of a future light rail system. Details, Q&A, study data, videos 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 www.RidePSTA.net or call the PSTA InfoLine at (727) 540-1900.