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Jeff Brandes: PSTA needs to rethink its mission, be open to options

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Transportation is undergoing a “profound change” with an uncertain future that requires officials to be open to as many options as possible, state Sen. Jeff Brandes told a Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority Committee on Monday.

“This is as profound as it was a hundred years ago when we were transitioning from horse and buggy to the Model T,” Brandes said. “The best thing we can do is open ourselves to as many options as we can … [to] maximizing our options.”

Much of the change, Brandes said, is being driven by rapidly changing technology. Electric carmaker Tesla, for example, predicts it will have an autonomous vehicle on the roads in two years. And technological advancements have made it possible for companies like Uber and Lyft to provide low-cost, responsive transportation to customers. Brandes, a Republican, has long supported the concept behind Uber and Lyft.

Brandes said he believes this will impact agencies like the PSTA. Ridership will peak, he said, then private industry will begin to siphon off many riders. Yet, PSTA will still be providing a service to some. That means, he said, PSTA must rethink its metrics. The measure of success will no longer be the number of riders on a bus, but who those riders are. The goal will be moving people from point to point.

“I think we’re going to find we’re in the mobility business,” Brandes said.

That could mean buses for some because, for some routes, a bus makes sense. But for other routes, a bus makes no sense and transportation – or mobility – can use other methods.

PSTA officials, he said, need to be open to those other possibilities. As time goes on, the less workable options will fall by the wayside.

“We find ourselves in a really fascinating time,” he said.

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