The PSTA Board of Directors made a historic advancement in improving Pinellas County’s transit service.
With a unanimous vote at its monthly meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 23, the transportation board agreed to ask the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners to include a transit improvement sales tax on the November 2014 ballot moving more than 30 years of planning forward.
Financial data shows that PSTA’s current revenues will not be enough to maintain current service levels in the coming years, let alone improving the transit system. On the heels of several years of record-setting ridership and higher-than-ever demand, PSTA CEO Brad Miller advised his Board today, “We are at point where we either ask the county to put a referendum for a new funding source on the ballot in 2014 or start planning to dramatically reduce bus service.”
Without additional funding, Miller says the agency would be forced to cut up to 30 percent of its bus service by 2016. That would be in addition to recent rounds of streamlining and service cuts PSTA has implemented since the recession began in 2008.
Today, numerous board members stated that it is their responsibility to plan for Pinellas County’s future. “I truly believe that this comes down to a quality of life issue for citizens in Pinellas County,” said County Commissioner Janet Long. “The infrastructure in our community is not the best that is can be and our citizens deserve better than that. We cannot afford to stay stuck in the moment and it’s time to plan for the future.”
Fellow County Commissioner Susan Latvala agreed adding, “This is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”
“This is just the first step in the process and all we’re doing today is asking the county if they’ll give us permission to ask the voters,” says PSTA Board Member and Dunedin City Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski.
Several PSTA Board members also emphasized the need for properly developing a comprehensive plan to present to the voters. “We need to more fully develop the plan,” said County Commissioner Norm Roche.
PSTA Chair and St. Petersburg City Councilman Jeff Danner added that the public will play an integral role in shaping the county’s transit improvement plans, “This will be a full county-wide, multi-modal transit plan that we will be refining with the help of the community over the next year and a half.”
In fact, those efforts are already underway throughout Pinellas as part of PSTA’s Community Bus Plan. County residents are encouraged to participate and give their input by visiting the Pinellas Community Bus Plan website.