Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Press Release: Pinellas County Commission Passes Elimination of PSTA Property Tax

Greenlight Pinellas LogoOn Tuesday, June 3, the Pinellas County Commission voted 6-1 to eliminate the PSTA portion of property taxes for Pinellas County homeowners, a key element of the Greenlight Pinellas plan.

“Eliminating PSTA property taxes is a critical part of the Greenlight Pinellas plan that will save Pinellas County homeowners over $32 million per year,” said Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority CEO Brad Miller. “We thank the County Commission for taking this important step as we move to a fairer, more broad-based revenue source to fund Greenlight Pinellas and transit in our community.”

“I’m proud of this step that the County Commission took today to protect Pinellas taxpayers from double taxation,” said County Commissioner Ken Welch. “This agreement will help usher in a new era of tax fairness and fund vastly improved transit options through Greenlight Pinellas.”

“I’m glad my fellow County Commissioners agree the sales tax is a fairer way to fund public transit, paid by tourists and non-homeowners versus the current property tax on residents only,” added County Commissioner Janet Long.

Known as the transit surtax interlocal agreement, the agreement takes a number of steps that will provide strong accountability between PSTA and the County Commission following passage of the Greenlight Pinellas initiative in November. Most notably, the agreement eliminates the 0.7305 mill property tax levied to fund transit in Pinellas County, which brings in $32 million per year.

A central part of the Greenlight Pinellas plan, if approved by voters, will be a 1% increase in sales tax to replace the eliminated PSTA property tax, known as the tax swap. This revenue will fund a 65% increase in bus service across the county, increased evening and weekend service to Tampa, Bus Rapid Transit service on major Pinellas corridors, future passenger rail service, and more.

About Greenlight Pinellas: Greenlight Pinellas is a transit improvement plan incorporating feedback from the public, the business community, planning agencies, the Pinellas Alternatives Analysis and Community Bus Plan. The Greenlight Pinellas plan is a comprehensive, countywide transportation improvement proposal to help Pinellas County develop the most efficient and economically viable transit service possible.

www.GreenlightPinellas.com

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Deconstructing PSTA Ridership Charts

As we have been discussing Greenlight with the public over the past months, we have had lots of opportunities to talk about our ridership numbers. This has been a great opportunity for us at PSTA (a.k.a. public transit geeks) to talk about the science of how we plan and manage our routes.

The chart below was developed through our Community Bus Plan and it simply illustrates total ridership by route:

chart 1The danger here is that this one chart doesn’t tell the whole story or really give you the full formula of how we manage routes, it simply shows ridership on routes- not the frequency of those routes.  For an example, look a the 98 (yellow). This chart makes it look no one is riding it; but, this route only runs five times a day and is a popular commuter route.

To really understand this you need to look at this second chart:

chart 2This chart is a true measure of transit success. It shows the number of people boarding PSTA buses while they are in service. Now look at the 60, 14, 78 & 67 – they’re four of the top producing routes in the entire PSTA system, even though the first chart makes it seem like they’re not. And, the 98 may only run 5 times a day, but there are a lot of people getting on and off those buses. Just like many others in the system, it’s a very productive route.

So, when one has all of the data, it’s easy to see that most PSTA routes perform quite well. Like any system, there are routes with lower ridership – these are the routes that feed riders into the corridors where the higher ridership routes are running. Think of it like your neighborhood street feeding into a main street, which feeds into the major roadways in our county – they all work together as a system, just like PSTA’s bus routes.

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Kids Ride All Summer for Less Than The Cost of One Fill-Up

haul pass 2014Pinellas County families can beat high prices at the pump this summer by taking advantage of PSTA’s easy and affordable Summer Youth Haul Pass. For only $35, kids ages 18 and younger get unlimited transportation on PSTA all summer long. (Excludes the 100X and 300X routes to Tampa.) That comes out to less than $2.40 a week for unlimited rides from May 15 – August 31, 2014. Not only will the Haul Pass save parents time and money, but it gives kids the freedom and independence they crave to commute to work, head to the beach or meet up with friends.

Middle and high school aged kids will need a school, government or PSTA issued photo ID to use the Summer Youth Haul Pass. PSTA-issued Youth Photo ID cards can be obtained free of charge at any PSTA Customer Service Center.  

Spend less time at the bus stop and more time having fun

Thanks to PSTA’s New Real Time Bus Information system, riders can easily find out when the next bus will arrive at their stop.  They can text, call or check on line to find out when the next bus will arrive, which means less waiting at the stop and more time enjoying other things. So before you head to the bus stop, check PSTA’s Real Time Bus Information site at RidePSTA.net.

First time riders are invited to take advantage of PSTA’s Google Trip Planner to easily plan their ride or they can get personalized riding instruction with PSTA’s free “Show Me” service by calling the PSTA InfoLine at (727) 540-1900.

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Press Release: PSTA Earns Prestigious TSA Gold Standard – Again

TSAThe U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration has once again recognized PSTA as one the nation’s best transit systems when it comes to safety and security. The TSA has awarded PSTA the “Gold Standard” designation for the transit agency’s dedication to building a strong safety and security program, in accordance with the TSA’s Baseline Assessment for Security Enhancement (BASE) criteria.

“This is the highest achievement a transit agency can receive through the program,” says PSTA Chief Operations Officer James Bradford. “TSA has a special matrix for measuring a transit agency’s threat levels, vulnerabilities, and preparedness in the face of an emergency, or disaster. This year PSTA scored 99 out of 100 improving one point over our 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.

PSTA officials say the agency has long been dedicated to providing the highest level of safety and security for every one of the more than 14.4 million rides provided annually. They say this award is a testament not only to the hard work of our safety staff, but to each one of our more than 500 professional operators and maintenance technicians who make safety and security their priority every day.

PSTA’s Safety, Security and Training Division works closely with Pinellas County Emergency Management to continually prepare for emergencies or disasters such as hurricanes as well as coordinating drills and activities with the Department of Homeland Security, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and other local emergency response agencies.

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The Many Ways Public Transit Protects our Environment

Who: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and transit agencies around the world
What: Protecting our planet by offering environmentally-friendly transportation
When: Every day
Where: Throughout Pinellas County and to Tampa
Why: To provide affordable and environmentally friendly transportation options

Hands on a globeDid you know that without public transportation Americans would lose $21 billion dollars a year due added traffic congestion? That’s just one of many amazing benefits that public transit provides for our society. Other benefits, detailed on the Public Transportation Benefits page of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) website (www.apta.com) include:

  • From 1995 through 2012, public transportation ridership increased by 34%—a growth rate higher than the 17% increase in U.S. population and higher than the 22% growth in the use of the nation’s highways.
  • 74% of funding for public transit is spent creating and supporting hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs.
  • Americans living in areas served by public transportation save 865 million hours in travel time and 450 million gallons of fuel annually in congestion reduction alone.
  • Every dollar communities invest in public transportation generates approximately $4 in economic returns.
  • Every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports and creates 36,000 jobs.
  • The average household spends 16 cents of every dollar on transportation, and 94% of that goes to buying, maintaining, and operating cars, the largest expenditure after housing.
  • Households that are likely to use public transportation on a given day save more than $9,700 every year.

Here in the Pinellas County, which offers far fewer transit options than other cities of similar population around the country, transit ridership has jumped 19% since 2008. During that same period, PSTA has cut service and raised fares- two factors that typically reduce transit ridership.  In Pinellas, however, ridership continues at all-time record highs. In fact, more than 14.45 million rides taken on PSTA last year.

Along with cutting demand for foreign oil, reducing pollution and offering affordable transportation options, PSTA protects our environment in many other ways such as:

PSTA Recycles:

  • Engine Coolant
  • Waste oil
  • Sludge from parts cleaners
  • Metal from used and unserviceable vehicle parts
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Fluorescent light bulbs
  • Water in the PSTA bus washing facility
  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Aluminum
  • Plastics
  • Ink and toner cartridges

PSTA also operates 40 fuel-efficient, diesel-electric hybrid buses (out of a fleet of 195 full sized buses) that average a 32% improvement in fuel economy over standard diesel models. The fuel savings for these environmentally friendly vehicles depends upon the route on which a bus operates.  Lower speed routes with many stops, such as Gulf Blvd., allow for the greatest use of the electric component of the diesel-electric technology and leads to the greatest fuel economy. PSTA is pleased to announce that the agency has eight more diesel-electric hybrid SmartBuses on order for 2014.

To learn more about using PSTA, visit www.PSTA.net and to learn more about the future of public transit in Pinellas County and to learn about the Greenlight Pinellas Plan, visit www.greenlightpinellas.com.

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Population Projections in Pinellas County

There has been some discussion about how PSTA came to the population projections used in the development of the Greenlight Pinellas Plan. Here is a summary of the methodology we used:

Greenlight Pinellas LogoFor the Greenlight Pinellas Plan, PSTA used population projections developed by the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Following Federal recommendations, the MPO developed projections for multiple land use and transportation scenarios, including the “Trend” scenario and a “Transit Investment and Land Use” scenario.

The Trend scenario assumes that no new major investments in transit are made and that growth reflects existing local land use policies. Because state projections don’t take into account these local polices, the MPO, in coordination with the Pinellas Planning Council (PPC) and local governments, develops independent population projections using an approved methodology. This method results in projecting an additional 64,000 people in 2040.

The Transit Investment and Land Use scenario assumes that the Greenlight Pinellas Plan is fully implemented prior to 2040. Based on the experiences of other places around the country, it’s reasonable to assume that population and employment growth will increase significantly due to the presence of a light rail transit system. Areas around and adjacent to transit stations have seen substantial investments in new development and have attracted new residents and jobs. This scenario results in projecting an increase of approximately 200,000 residents.

The Pinellas population and employment growth projections are based on the results others have experienced, as well as on the increased land use densities and transit oriented development (TOD) strategies adopted by the local governments in the light rail station areas. For this reason, the MPO determined that the Transit Investment and Land Use scenario, with its 200,000 additional residents, was a reasonable assumption and that’s the figure that PSTA used when developing the Greenlight Pinellas Plan.

To learn more about the plan, please visit www.GreenlightPinellas.com.

Source:  Pinellas Transportation Plan 2040 Socioeconomic Data Technical Memorandum – Forecast Scenarios, October 2013.

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Bus Driver Appreciation Day is Tuesday, March 18th!

2013 Driver of the Year Julio Palmer

2013 Driver of the Year Julio Palmer

As you’re out and about on Tuesday, March 18, 2014, be sure to give a wave and gesture of thanks to your local transit operators as part of the fifth annual international Transit Driver Appreciation Day. The special day was started by a group of transit riders in Seattle back in 2009. It was a way for them to acknowledge the great job that their transit operators do along with all of the benefits that they provide for the community. Organizers say the day is a great way to honor the many hard-working men and women who keep our economy and communities moving every day.

Leaders for the Transit Driver Appreciation Day like to point out that just because a job looks easy, doesn’t mean it actually is:  Throughout their day, transit drivers manage to keep a schedule, check fares, give directions, announce stops, remember stop requests and more – all while safely maneuvering an extra-large vehicle through unpredictable traffic, adverse weather conditions and some really tight spaces.  The fact is, transit drivers don’t have an easy job, they just make it look that way.

If you’d like to hop aboard and thank one of Pinellas County’s hard working and talented Bus Operators, as well as relaxing while they chauffeur you through traffic, just visit PSTA’s award winning website at: www.psta.net to plan a trip – or call the PSTA InfoLine for help at (727) 540-1900.  Then you can then use PSTA’s new Real Time Bus Information system to find out exactly when your next bus is due at your stop.

To keep up with PSTA’s plans for the future of transportation in Pinellas County, visit www.greenlightpinellas.org and learn about the Greenlight Pinellas Plan.

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