After 15 straight months of record setting ridership, PSTA leaders were hoping for a new all-time record for the month of February. Even with only 28 days of ridership this year, compared to 29 last year, PSTA still managed to re-write the all-time February record by giving 1,179,259 rides – a 1% increase over February 2012. “To set a record with one less day of ridership? Well, that’s pretty amazing,” says PSTA spokesperson Bob Lasher. The new mark also extends the agency’s record setting streak to 16 straight months. Transit officials say that such ridership gains can typically be attributed to numerous factors including an improving economy, record tourism and higher gasoline prices.
The increased ridership has also led to a growing number of standing-room-only runs on various routes. To help with the overcrowding, PSTA recently replaced eight of its oldest buses with new diesel-electric hybrid models that have more seats and can carry an additional 14 passengers each. “It helps, but it’s not nearly enough,” Lasher says. “The only way that we can meet this kind of demand is by getting more buses on the road.” In order to do that, agency leaders say they need more funding, which simply isn’t available under PSTA’s current financial structure. That’s why the PSTA Board of Directors and the County Commission have agreed to place a one cent sales tax initiative on the November 2014 ballot. If approved by voters, the new funding would allow the agency to offer more frequent bus service throughout longer periods of the day.
PSTA is now conducting a study of the current bus network to help streamline service and maximize resources. This analysis will ensure that Pinellas County residents are getting the most efficient and economically viable transit service possible.