Sunday, November 19, 2017
Editorials

On the road to better Pinellas transit

RECOMMENDED READING


The last time the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority conducted a comprehensive study of ridership and inefficiencies in delivering service, Bill Clinton was running for president, David Fischer was mayor of St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay Rays were but a distant dream and Sam Wyche was guiding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 5-11 season. Two decades later, the PSTA is about to commission a long-overdue $700,000 study of its bus lines to rethink its routes, enhance travel times, improve service and examine costs. It's about time, because the lack of a vigorous mass transit system in Tampa Bay is making it hard for the region to reach its economic potential.

Though late in coming, the PSTA study ought to bring the transit agency into the 21st century. But it needn't wait for the final consultant's report to act immediately to address a number of glaring shortcomings. Among the most notable: the onerous $2 additional cost for a transfer, underutilized routes, inefficient hours of service, and the lack of weekend service to Hillsborough County.

The study, to be conducted by Transportation Management & Design, will also gauge voter attitudes toward approving a much-needed 1-cent countywide sales tax to help pay for improving bus service and building a light rail system. Without additional financial support, PSTA, which operates on a $60 million annual budget, could face an $8 million budget shortfall by 2016, leading to reductions in service at a time of record ridership.

As PSTA chief executive officer Brad Miller has noted, the single biggest barrier facing public transportation arises when someone attempts to use a bus or light rail system for the first time and is confronted by a confusing fare structure. The PSTA study will for the first time conduct onboard ridership surveys, as well as seek neighborhood input aimed at answering a fundamental question unasked for two decades: Where are you coming from and where do you want to go?

Even as the PSTA has been forced to reduce service, ridership has steadily increased over the past two years. But ridership service could be smarter and more consumer-friendly. Miller, who has only been on the job for about year, acknowledged that the lack of weekend service from Pinellas County into Hillsborough County and Tampa International Airport is a "missed market." And regular Pinellas users of the bus system need more efficient and reliable hours of service.

As the Tampa Bay area learned from the Republican National Convention and its transportation problems, if Hillsborough and Pinellas counties hope to emerge as world-class destination points, they need a world-class transportation system. It shouldn't take another two decades to address that simple question.

Comments

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17