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Category Archives: Transit Data
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) has set another all-time ridership record, as riders boarded PSTA vehicles nearly 1.2 million times in the month of June.
The 1,188,625 boardings by riders were a 4.4% increase over June 2013. This continues a strong upward ridership trend for PSTA, coming after a record year in 2013 with 14,459,180 riders. The June 2014 ridership level is the highest June on record in Pinellas County’s 102-year history, and follows record May ridership on the North County Connector route to Tampa.
“PSTA is one of the few transit systems to see continual ridership growth over the last five years including the recession, despite service cuts due to a major loss of property tax revenue,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “We’re glad that demand for PSTA service is up, we thank the nearly 1.2 million Pinellas County residents, visitors, tourists and workers who made the choice to ride PSTA, and we look forward to offering them expanded service and new options through Greenlight Pinellas.”
PSTA’s single busiest route, the Route 19, has seen a 20% ridership increase over the last three years with an average ridership of nearly 6,000 per day; the Route 19 is also the longest route in the PSTA system, from Tarpon Springs to Gulfport. PSTA has also recently added additional increased service from Clearwater to the Gulf beaches, in response to high demand of beach and tourist industry employees needing to get to Clearwater Beach jobs without paying for scarce beach parking.
About PSTA: The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is the public transit provider for Pinellas County, providing more than 14.4 million rides per year. PSTA operates nearly 40 bus and trolley routes with a fleet of 203 vehicles. More information is available at www.psta.net.
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.
Safety 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.
Because 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.
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:
The 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:
This 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.
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
Did 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:
- 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
- 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.
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:
For 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.
Who: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)
What: Continues trend of robust ridership
Where: Throughout Pinellas County
When: January 2014
2014 kicked off with another strong month of transit use in Pinellas County. Last month, PSTA provided 1,158,951 rides throughout the county and to Tampa – making for the second highest ridership ever for the month of January. Agency officials say they were hoping for another all-time record, but that Mother Nature didn’t cooperate thanks to a stint of unusually cool and rainy weather. Transit leaders say they tend to see a bigger impact on ridership from rainy weather this time of year as opposed to the warmer months. Nonetheless, the agency is still struggling to meet demand along many routes as supervisors scramble to ensure that riders are not passed by because of full buses. “I was driving yesterday and there were people at almost every single stop,” says PSTA Road Supervisor Lloyd Jernigan. When told that opponents of the county’s new transit improvement plan insist that PSTA buses always run empty, Jernigan’s eyes steel and he counters, “Those have to be people who never ride the bus. No one who rides would ever say that.”
To help meet increasing demand for service, PSTA and county leaders will be asking voters to change the agency’s funding from its current property tax to a 1% sales tax this coming November. If approved, PSTA will then eliminate its current property tax of .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 a 65% increase in countywide bus service along with the implementation of a future light rail system. Details, questions and answers along with study data and videos 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 for more information.