After careful consideration and debate Monday evening, the City Leaders of Belleair Bluffs voted 3-2 to endorse the Greenlight Pinellas Plan. “I’m pleased to include Belleair Bluffs as being among the many forward looking cities in Pinellas County that have endorsed this comprehensive transit improvement plan,” says Commissioner Joseph Barkley, who also sits on the PSTA Board of Directors. “This is a financially sound, sensible and viable approach to improving our transportation system to a level that finally rivals those of our peer cities across the country.” Barkley, along with Mayor Chris Arbutine, Sr. and Commissioner Jack Nazario voted to support a resolution endorsing Greenlight Pinellas, while Vice-Mayor Taylour Shimkus and Commissioner Suzy Sofer opposed the endorsement.
At the heart of the Greenlight Pinellas Plan is a referendum set for November 4, 2014, which will ask voters to approve a funding change for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority from its current .7305 mil property tax to a 1% sales tax (not applied to groceries, medical items and limited to the first $5,000 of any purchase). That change would allow for significant and foundational improvements to the county’s transit system, giving residents and visitors more convenient and varied transportation choices.
If approved, the Greenlight Pinellas Plan will encompass a 65% increase in bus service including:
- Buses running more frequently and for longer hours of the day – especially on weekends
- Service to Tampa at night and on weekends including Tampa International Airport and Westshore
- Buses running every 15 minutes on core routes and every 30 minutes on the supporting network
- Park ‘n’ Ride lots
- Circulators connecting neighborhoods to the primary corridors
Those enhancements will then form a foundation of quick and easy connections to a passenger rail line from St. Petersburg to the Gateway/Carillon area and to Clearwater, which is expected to be running by 2024.
If the Greenlight Pinellas funding change doesn’t pass, the plan also encompasses service cuts of nearly 30% in 2017 when PSTA’s reserve funds will be depleted.
The transit agency is currently experiencing all-time record ridership and gave more than 14.45 million rides in 2013. Despite the loss of more than $40 million dollars in property tax revenues since 2008 coupled with fare increases and significant cuts in service – PSTA ridership has grown by an impressive 19% over the same period.
Details of the Greenlight Pinellas Plan along with Q&A and background data can be found at www.greenlightpinellas.com.