Need a ride to the bus stop? Hail an Uber from anywhere in the county to a PSTA bus stop and PSTA will pick up the tab.
That’s the gist of the Direct Connect program created by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority to solve the problem of the so-called first mile/last mile obstacle to the use of public transportation. Agency officials say the public-private partnership is the first in the country to solve that problem.
At issue is the rider’s ability to get to a bus stop in order to catch a bus. Many stops are not within walkable distance from a rider’s home. Under the Direct Connect program, a passenger can call one of PSTA’s business partners — Uber, Lyft, United Taxi, or Wheelchair Transport — to hitch a ride to and from the bus stop.
Details were not available, but the program is likely an expansion of the Direct Connect service the PSTA piloted last February in East Lake and Pinellas Park.
Pinellas Park and East Lake were chosen because local bus routes in those areas were scheduled to be cut because of low ridership.
Under that pilot, someone who lives in those areas could summon Uber, United Taxi or Care Ride for a lift to a bus stop.
In the case of Pinellas Park, the available stops are the transit center at the Shoppes at Park Place, 3801 70th Ave. N, or the Super Wal-Mart, 8001 U.S. 19 N.
In East Lake, the bus stops are at the Shoppes at Boot Ranch, 246 E Lake Road S, or Tarpon Mall, 40932 U.S. Hwy. 19 N.
PSTA will pay half the fare, up to $3 for rides to and from the designated stops in those zones. The service is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
A second pilot, that extended service to more people was announced last October. Riders could call Uber, Lyft, United Taxi, Care Ride, or Wheelchair Transport for a ride to the nearest designated bus stop. PSTA would pay an average of $1 to use the program.