Category Archives: Projects

Help Us Test “OneBusAway”

oba_logoPSTA has partnered with USF and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) to add our Real Time Bus Info to an app called OneBusAway. This app will give PSTA riders one more way to use the Real Time system (texting, auto-voice call, and website are still available).

We’re looking for riders to help us test the app — How does it work for you? Are you getting accurate Real Time info? How do you feel about the interface?

Want to help? Download the test app from one of these links, give it a try, and tell us what you think using the help/feedback function in the app.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Thank you,
The PSTA Technology Team

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PSTA Partners with Uber and United Taxi

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is partnering with Uber and United Taxi to help address a very common barrier to public transit use: easy access to a bus stop. Often called the “first mile, last mile” conundrum, transit agencies all across the U.S. find that getting riders to a bus stop is the first step in turning them into public transit users.

“Once we make it easy for someone to get to the bus stop, riding the bus becomes a real transportation alternative,” says PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “PSTA is always looking for ways to deliver value to our riders and the community, and this partnership with Uber and United Taxi does exactly that.”

direct connectPSTA’s new program, called Direct Connect, allows riders to use Uber (in Pinellas Park) or United Taxi (in Pinellas Park and East Lake) to travel within a specific geographic zone to or from a series of designated stops. From there, riders can connect with the regular PSTA public transit bus system. On the return trip, they can use Uber or United Taxi to travel from the designated stop back home or to work (within the zone).

With this unique partnership, the first of its kind in the nation, PSTA will pay half the cost of the Uber or United Taxi ride, up to $3.

“PSTA is showing true leadership by entering into an innovative partnership that is among the first of its kind in the nation,” says Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) “This technology offers a great opportunity to mass transit providers and expands access to transit for Pinellas families. I hope that other providers in our region and throughout the state will follow the lead of PSTA and embrace this technology that Floridians have come to expect in their communities.”

DC Ribbon Cutting

Brad Miller (PSTA), Nick Cambas (United Taxi), Christine Mitchell (Uber Tampa Bay), and Bill Jonson (City of Clearwater/PSTA Board member) cut the ribbon launching Direct Connect service in Pinellas Park and East Lake.

The service launched with a ribbon cutting event at Pinellas Park Transit Center on Monday, February 22, 2016 and will run on a six month pilot basis. If successful, PSTA will consider expanding this new, innovative service.

“We are proud to partner with PSTA on our shared mission of improving access to safe, reliable transportation options for Pinellas Park residents,” says Christine Mitchell, General Manager for Uber in Tampa Bay. “By helping to bridge the gap on the first and last mile for commuters, this innovative public-private partnership will compliment and extend the reach of the existing transportation infrastructure in the region and open up more opportunities in the community.”

PSTA + Uber + United Taxi

“We’re so glad to be working with old friends to serve our community in a new way,” agrees Nick Cambas, principal owner of United Taxi. “The people on United Taxi’s management team, myself included, have devoted their careers to the ground transportation service industry in Pinellas and surrounding counties. Doing so has given the team a variety of opportunities to work closely with PSTA, building a relationship that is decades long and strong. PSTA’s Direct Connect exemplifies the ideal public-private partnership: PSTA reduces its costs, our drivers have increased business opportunity, and the public benefits by saving time and money. I call that a Win-Win-Win.”

To learn more about this new service, please visit www.psta.net/directconnect.

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Transit Safety and Security is Serious Business

Did you know that PSTA has a special division within its Transportation Department that’s dedicated to safety and security? Well, we do, and they’re a busy bunch of people! PSTA was recently notified that we scored 99% on a base assessment of our safety and security programs and procedures by the Federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Transportation Security Administration, which would make us eligible for their Gold Standard for the second time! Only those agencies with the best ratings receive the Gold Standard Award.

PSTA is a very safe transit system, with several state-of-the-art tools in place to help us keep it that way. We know where every bus is at any given time thanks to GPS technology on board every vehicle. Our Operators are trained how to respond and communicate with first responders in the event of an emergency on board, or if they witness a crime or emergency along their routes. And, all buses have audio and video surveillance systems so we record everything that happens inside and outside the bus (PSTA Customer Service Centers have similar surveillance).  We’ve funded many of these improvements as well as cameras and security measures at our facilities with DHS grant funds.  PSTA continues to have a successful relationship with our Federal security partners.

brochure coverSafety and security is very serious business, that’s why in 2010 we jumped at the chance to apply for additional grant funding from the Federal DHS. For Phase One of the 2010 project we wanted to encourage passengers, and the general public, to trust their instincts and report anything doesn’t look or feel right, or seems out of place. A special brochure that describes “suspicious activity” and “suspicious objects,” and how to report them, was distributed on board PSTA’s fleet of vehicles and at several large-crowd events in Pinellas. A second component of Phase One was the development of a first responder training module for local emergency responders and law enforcement use.

When we applied for Phase One funding, we also asked DHS for future consideration of a Phase Two to implement a mass media campaign to further promote public awareness of security issues related to public transportation.

Phase 2 real timeBecause a safe and secure transit system means more than combating terrorism and security measures, we decided to take a more people-centered approach to the mass media campaign. DHS officials told PSTA they favor this people-centered approach with all their supported outreach campaigns. The TV ads point out the safety and security features of our fleet such as the Real Time Bus Information system, which riders can use to find out exactly what time the bus is coming, and therefore minimize wait time at a bus stop. Another in the series talks about how PSTA’s Bus Operators are professionally trained and that the system has received national security awards. The final ad in the series talks about PSTA’s fleet of hybrid buses and how commuting on these vehicles helps protect the environment, as well as providing a safe and secure ride to work. The radio, billboard, and bus ads further enforce these messages.

We wanted people to know that PSTA is a safe and secure mode of transportation, and that PSTA is constantly striving to make improvements. That’s why in the last few seconds of the TV ad, viewers are invited to visit not just PSTA.net, which provides information about how to ride our services, but also GreenlightPinellas.com which is the repository for all info about our plans to improve our services

It is important to recognize that the message in the series of ads is public awareness of security issues related to public transportation. Improvements to frequency and service that would come with the Greenlight Pinellas Plan will reduce wait times, thereby making the system even safer. So, pointing people to both the website where we talk about the future vision of transit, and the PSTA website where they can see our current system, just makes sense. It’s another example of how PSTA leads the way in providing safe and secure transit options while serving our community with total transparency and fiscal responsibility.

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Press Release: Belleair Bluffs City Commission Endorses Greenlight Pinellas

belleair bluffsAfter 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.

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Press Release: Dunedin Leaders Endorse Greenlight Pinellas Plan

Who: The Dunedin City Commission
What: Endorses the Greenlight Pinellas Plan
When: February 6, 2014
Where: At regularly scheduled City Commission meeting:  542 Main St, Dunedin, FL 34698
Why:  To improve public transportation throughout Pinellas County

Pinellas County’s new plan to significantly improve public transit picked up another critical endorsement this evening. Leaders from the city of Dunedin voted unanimously to endorse the transformational, county-wide transit proposal known as the Greenlight Pinellas Plan. “One thing I’m excited about is that this is a comprehensive transportation plan, not just one mode or one area. We’re putting the right kind of transportation in the right communities throughout the county,” said Dunedin Commissioner and PSTA Board Member Julie Ward-Bujalski.

Dunedin endorsement pic“It can’t be understated as to what the increased frequencies and later service hours will mean to our community,” added Mayor Dave Eggers after hearing details about the bus service improvements in the plan.

At the heart of the proposal is a ballot measure set for the November 4, 2014 election asking voters to approve a funding change for the county’s transit system – PSTA – 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 improvements to the county’s transit service, and vastly increase transportation options throughout the county. Details, Q&A and background data can be found at www.greenlightpinellas.com.

If approved, Pinellas residents will see 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 TIA and Westshore.
  • Buses running every 15 minutes along core routes and every 30 minutes on the supporting network
  • Park ‘n’ Ride lots
  • Limited stop express lines
  • Circulators connecting neighborhoods to the primary transit corridors.

Those enhancements will then form a foundation of quick, easy connections for a future passenger rail line from St. Petersburg to the Gateway/Carillon area and to Clearwater.

The recession has reduced PSTA’s property tax revenue by more than $40 million dollars since 2008, however, service cuts and streamlining and record-setting demand have led to a 23% increase in bus ridership over the same period.  To help prevent further cuts in service, the agency is using reserve funds to accommodate the record ridership. If the Greenlight measure doesn’t pass, those reserves will be depleted by 2017, forcing a 28% cut in bus service.

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PSTA Leaders and Local Officials Celebrate New Hybrid Buses and On-Board Wi-Fi Pilot Program!

DSC_0636PSTA’s popular SmartBuses are getting even smarter. That’s just one of several transit improvements celebrated by elected officials, PSTA Board members and agency staff yesterday morning. Flanked by a beautiful new 40 foot SmartBus, they gathered outside of the PSTA Administrative Headquarters for a “virtual ribbon cutting” to mark the roll out of eight brand-new diesel-electric hybrid SmartBuses, some of which are being used in a new Wi-Fi test program. “We’re not only celebrating the addition of new buses to our growing fleet of hybrids, but we’re also celebrating a new test program for providing free Wi-Fi service for our passengers,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “We have outfitted 10 vehicles with Wi-Fi systems and so far the project is going very well.”

The pilot Wi-Fi vehicles are running along six different routes and officials say that if the initial successes continue, they could have the entire fleet outfitted with free Wi-Fi access within the next six months. Miller says the Wi-Fi service is just one of many improvements planned for the transit system to help give the community a better, more productive and more enjoyable riding experience. To demonstrate the Wi-Fi system, officials downloaded a video of a ribbon being cut and played it on a big-screen TV in lieu of cutting an actual ribbon. Click here to see the video: Virtual Ribbon Cutting Video

With the addition of the eight new hybrids, PSTA now has 40 of the fuel efficient buses out of a fleet total of 188 full sized vehicles. Additionally, eight more hybrids are on order and scheduled for delivery in late 2014. The diesel-electric vehicles average a 56% increase in fuel economy over standard diesel models and the new buses will be replacing older non-hybrid vehicles that have reached the end of their 12-year life span.

If you’d like to take advantage of Pinellas County’s increasingly popular transit system and ride one of the new hybrid buses, 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.

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Press Release: Independent Analysts Validate Greenlight Pinellas Financial Plan

Greenlight Pinellas LogoAfter nearly two months of in-depth analysis and study, experts from the engineering firm of HNTB and financial firm  Ernst & Young have confirmed the financial viability of the Greenlight Pinellas transit improvement plan. In a presentation to the PSTA Board of Directors today, CEO Brad Miller detailed the plan’s fiscal structure and the corroborating findings from the outside financial experts.

The Greenlight Pinellas plan is based on two comprehensive and detailed studies that have become the blueprint for a successful expansion of the county’s transit system. The first was the two and half year Alternatives Analysis (AA) study completed by Jacobs Engineering in partnership with PSTA, the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Florida Department of Transportation, and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. The second was the PSTA Community Bus Plan conducted by Transportation Management & Design, Inc.  Because the AA portion of the project used 2011 dollar figures, local leaders and members of the public asked for a validation of the cost estimates to ensure that the cost of the rail element of the plan is still within the original projection of $1.5-$1.7 billion.  HNTB examined the cost estimates completed by Jacobs Engineering and determined them to be valid and correct. HNTB’s estimate of $1.68B (2011$) was used by Ernst & Young Infrastructure Advisors as a key base case assumption along with other key assumptions to the financial model including cost escalation, revenue/grant forecasts, phased implementation and debt financing.

“The Greenlight Pinellas Plan is essential for the future of our economy and quality of life,” says PSTA Chief Development Officer Cassandra Borchers. “It is critical that we make certain that the financials are rock-solid. We were very conservative with our assumptions and it’s rewarding to have outside entities confirm that we are able to build and operate the bus and rail projects as promised in the county-wide Greenlight Pinellas Plan with the passage of the November 2014 referendum.”

PSTA officials and partner agencies engaged thousands of people from every sector of the community to help craft the Greenlight Pinellas plan. Leaders say that input has been integral to creating a plan that is reflective of the community’s desires and transportation needs. “Because this is a 30-year plan, we’ve included numerous contingencies so that we can easily adapt and modify it to accommodate future economic and cultural realities,” adds Borchers.

In November 2014 Pinellas County citizens will be asked to approve funding for the Greenlight Pinellas in a referendum that would, if passed, replace the current PSTA property tax with a 1% sales tax (not applied to groceries or medical-related products).  Details, background data and avenues for community input can all be found at the plan’s website: www.greenlightpinellas.com.

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