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This week’s highs and lows across Tampa Bay
Area bus systems, Hillsborough schools and St. Pete’s parking meters highlight the week.
Michael Ryals Sr., 58, of Largo smiles in front of a PSTA booth at the PSTA Career Fair on Wednesday in St. Petersburg. Ryals Sr. got off work at 7 a.m. before heading to the career fair. "Even though I'm tired I still need to make this," he said.
Michael Ryals Sr., 58, of Largo smiles in front of a PSTA booth at the PSTA Career Fair on Wednesday in St. Petersburg. Ryals Sr. got off work at 7 a.m. before heading to the career fair. "Even though I'm tired I still need to make this," he said. [ LAUREN WITTE | Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Aug. 13

Every nickel counts. Why would a cash-starved bus system that already underserves this community leave money on the table? That’s what the board of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority needs to examine as it considers its 2023 budget. As the Times’ Olivia George reported, the authority proposed cutting its advertising revenue to $500,000 from $1,233,398 in 2022. Officials said the bus agency is not walking away from advertising, but that it wants to prioritize ad space for its own branding efforts. “What we are looking to do is no longer wrap our vehicles with brands and advertisements that really don’t elevate our HART brand,” said CEO Adelee Marie Le Grand. Every operation should be concerned about its image. And ad revenue next year would comprise only about 0.4% percent of the operating budget, making the amount relatively small in the overall scheme. But HART needs every penny it can get. Riders are used to seeing advertising on buses. What they want to see foremost is the bus arriving on time and headed somewhere they want to go.

Buses and jobs. Talk about a good idea — look at the bay area’s other bus system. The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority organized a job fair this week that introduced riders to employers along some of the bus system’s major routes. With about half of its riders using the bus to get to and from work, the agency saw a chance to accomplish two worthy goals at the same time. It advertised the event and attracted about 60 job seekers, a smart and simple idea for Florida’s most densely populated county, where mass transit can mean the difference for stable employment and housing. This is a great example of an organization thinking of its customers and its larger stakeholders alike.

Helping the homeless. The beauty of St. Petersburg’s Power of Change program is its simplicity: Drop your spare change into the bright yellow parking meters downtown to help the homeless. As the Times’ Victor Swezey reported this week, the money since 2019 has added up — and sat largely untouched at the St. Petersburg Police Department. This inattention, first reported by Creative Loafing, resulted in less than 15% of the $11,497 in donations being spent on homeless services in the past three years. While not a huge amount, the money could have helped families struggling at a critical time. Luckily, the city’s homeless manager intends to transfer the money to her department. Let’s hope these donations finally get the attention they deserve.

Hillsborough’s Latino students. Florida has the third-largest Hispanic student population in the country, and school leaders need to be proactive in serving that population. That’s why the Hillsborough County School District deserves credit for a three-day event this week at Leto High School. The program was designed to give new immigrant students and their families help with registration, enrollment and immunizations. As the Times’ Juan Carlos Chavez reported, most came from Latin America and the Caribbean, and school staff who spoke both English and Spanish were there to help ease the transition. The school district is meeting a need and serving its community. In the Tampa Bay area, the percentage of Latino students has been on an upward trend for the past five years, with more than 80,000 students in Hillsborough County identifying as Hispanic. During the 2021-22 school year, 38% of students identified as Latino in Hillsborough, compared to 19% in Pinellas and nearly 25% in Pasco. And experts expect a new wave of Cuban migrants will bring thousands more to the Tampa Bay area. Everyone benefits from helping them succeed.

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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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