As a direct result of the failure of Greenlight Pinellas, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) has been exploring ways to keep its existing system running while trimming down under-performing routes and cutting expenses. In the coming weeks, PSTA officials will be talking with Pinellas County residents about revising or eliminating lower ridership bus routes, as well as planned fare structure changes.
PSTA’s “Path Forward” plan comprises of ten phases over the course of three years and is structured with current “status quo” funding parameters in mind. With the chances of another sales tax referendum being extremely slim to none prior to 2020, and state and federal transit funding in limbo; PSTA is doing whatever it can to keep existing bus services and routes in place. However, sustaining existing services with limited funding will not be easy without some service cuts.
For the first phase of “Path Forward”, PSTA is examining either revising or eliminating the following low ridership bus routes:
Route 1 – Tyrone Square to Gateway (Currently runs Monday through Saturday with limited trips)
Route 18 – St. Petersburg to Clearwater via Seminole Blvd (Currently runs 7-days a week)
Route 30 – 30th Ave N (Currently runs Monday through Saturday with limited trips)
Route 58 – CR 296 (Currently runs Monday through Friday with limited trips)
Route 444 – Pinellas Park Shuttle (Limited Trips)
East Lake Shuttle – Limited Shuttle Service (Operates similar to Flex/Connector Routes)
East Lake Flex Connector – Part of the North County Connector system
If PSTA wants to make any of these corridors worthwhile, I would suggest the following:
First, eliminate Routes 1 and 30 and replace them with a Flex/Connector zone that can better serve area residents through the use of cutaway vans instead of traditional transit buses. Those buses can then be distributed to other routes that are in need of expansion.
Second, convert Route 58 into a peak-only commuter route, running bi-directional between 5:30am and 9:00am, and then again between 3:30pm and 7:00pm.
Third, reduce weekday peak headways on Route 58 from 20 minutes to 30 minutes, and re-evaluate the routing and also time points (For example, I have to question whether this route really needs to go all the way to Williams Park, or if it can be truncated to Grand Central Station).
Fourth, eliminate Route 444 and replace it with a Flex zone. Buses can be distributed to other routes that need them, while cutaway vans can deviate through the neighborhoods.
And finally, evaluate the East Lake Shuttle to see if it can be ultimately immersed into the North County Connector system, instead of it continuing to be a stand-alone shuttle.
Please visit the PSTA website for meeting times and locations. The first meeting was held yesterday in the East Lake area. There will be a meeting today in Seminole, and two meetings next week.