Earlier this year, the agency that oversees the bus system in Pinellas announced a pilot partnership with Uber that was designed to get people to bus stops.
Now, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is prepared to expand that service and to announce another project with Uber. The new program and details of the expanded project will be made at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday as the closing event of the Floridians for Better Transportation Annual Conference at the Don Cesar Beach Resort on St. Pete Beach.
PSTA officials are being coy about the details. A press release says only, “The future of mobility in Pinellas County is twenty-four hour, on-demand public transportation—and the future is now.”
A PSTA spokeswoman declined to comment further.
The announcement will be part of a panel discussion featuring Brad Miller, PSTA CEO; Republican state Rep. James W. “J.W.” Grant; Paul Steinman, secretary of Florida Department of Transportation District VII; Steve Holmes, director of the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged; Marlene Connor of Marlene Connor Associates; Nick Cambas, owner of United Taxi; and Cesar Fernandez of Uber Florida.
While the new program is shrouded in secrecy, the expansion is of the PSTA’s Direct Connect pilot program, which was rolled out Feb. 14 in Pinellas Park and East Lake. The goal of the program was to get people who lived far from bus stops to the bus stop so they could take advantage of public transportation – the so-called first-mile, last-mile problem. Pinellas Park and East Lake were chosen because local bus routes in those areas were scheduled to be cut because of low ridership.
Under the 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 Walmart, 8001 U.S. 19 N. In East Lake, the bus stops are 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.