Taking a leisurely bike ride through downtown St. Petersburg or Tampa on a bike-share is pleasurable, but it’s not a consistently viable way to get from point A to point B, when point A is your house and point B is your job.
The Cross-Bay Ferry is a lovely, scenic ride across the bay, but it’s not a transit option from Tampa to St. Petersburg when it only runs Wednesday through Sunday November through April and barely offers 9-to-5 weekday rides.
And the Downtowner may be a great way for students to get from class to the grocery store, but it’s not a substitute for a car.
Let’s call these subsidized activities what they are: Nice amenities for tourists and some residents of Tampa Bay, but absolutely not mass transit.
St. Petersburg’s bike-share program
Fare: $15 an hour, $25 a month or $99 a year
Public cost per passenger: About $13, but that number comes largely from a $1.5 million start-up cost the city paid in 2016 to buy the bikes and set up the software. The bicycle management and operation is run at no cost to the city, other than a recurring, annual $60,000 connectivity fee. That means the overall $13 per passenger subsidy will go down over time.
Total trips a month: An average of 3,000 rentals a month
Public cost per passenger: $5.32
Total trips: 560,000 rides in the past three years; December 2019 averaged 448 people a day.
The Cross-Bay Ferry
Fare: $8 per person, discounts for students, children, seniors and military
Public cost per passenger: Roughly $14 per trip
Total trips: 33,000 rides in the last three months
So what’s the problem?
It’s lovely to see residents or tourists alike bicycling along the waterfront, ferrying along our waters or getting a free ride through downtown.
But none of those postcard scenes negate that these are assets to our community because they are amenities, not a viable form of mass transit. Let’s focus the public discussion on the real challenge: Whether it’s bus rapid transit in dedicated lanes, light rail lines or a new technology, Tampa Bay’s greatest challenge remains creating a viable mass transit system that moves people efficiently throughout the region.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.