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Light Rail, Fast Buses — 'Greenlight' Wants 'Penny' for Your Thoughts, Dunedin

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority officials believe a one-cent sales tax increase would help create a faster, more efficient bus system for all residents.

Kerry Afflitto's 26-year-old son is visually impaired. He depends on public transportation to get around independently.

One of his most recent attempt to get from Publix in Palm Harbor to a friend's house in New Tampa using the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus system took him five hours and $25.

"It needs to be fixed," Afflitto said while perusing PSTA's voter-dependent plans for light rail and faster, more efficient bus service during an informal gathering at East Lake Library on Monday, Aug. 19, led by "Greenlight Pinellas," a public relations movement to inform, educate and converse about Pinellas County's transportation future.

Several PSTA officials, including CEO Brad Miller and Chris Cochran, were in attendance to answer questions from north county residents who wanted to know what's in it for them if they vote "yes" to a one-percent, countywide sales tax next year that would be used to fund faster bus service and light rail between downtown Clearwater and St. Petersburg.

The important thing for people to realize is the sales tax is needed for "the big improvements in bus frequency to happen," Cochran said Monday.

"Money-wise, rail is the biggest investment," Cochran said. "But the core is an improved bus system." 

The extra taxpayer funding would allow for more buses on the road and a move away from the hub system, which lengthens some passenger wait times to 45 minutes, to a street transfer system, which shortens waits to 5 to 7 minutes. The transfer system, Cochran explained, is how public transportation in major metro areas works. 

People are increasingly moving to areas where they don't need a car, Cochran said. A quick and efficient transfer system would help create that environment for Tampa Bay, he said.

"When you look at other cities, it's time," he said.

Afflitto said she would love for her son to not have to depend on her for mobility. She's hopeful Pinellas County residents will see the value behind a one-percent sales tax that funds PSTA's transportation plan.

Until then, he "has to go someplace where he can depend on transportation," she said.
Deb Furlin August 21, 2013 at 07:52 AM
Well worth it. Go for it!
Bill Storck August 21, 2013 at 08:05 AM
Why is the request always raise taxes??? First of all, why did a handicap person send 25 bucks when PSTA has a disability rate. Also if you use psta.net they will plan your trip for you. We don't need more buses, my God most of them are empty when I get on them. What we need is to make the system more efficient and accountable for their spending. I wonder if the CEO uses his own system to travel, I bet there are plenty of company cars for all the bosses...
Maryellen Farinas August 21, 2013 at 08:20 AM
Government is totally used to just getting more money/taxes rather than studying the situation and becoming more efficient. We don't need more taxes, we need honest politicians and good administrators.
tmurt4 August 21, 2013 at 10:40 AM
Ladies and Gentlemen, I think that light rail would enhance the quality of life in Pinnelas County due to improving the ability of people to get to where they wish to go for a relatively cheap cost. Tom
morris hensley August 21, 2013 at 10:42 AM
I can't get from just east of McMullen Booth to Downtown Dunedin on the regular bus lines in less than 2.5 hours and a bus transfer. The new shuttle bus line cost more for me to use than driving my 12 mile/gallon SUV to Dunedin. This only about 5 miles. If it weren't for having to cross McMullen Booth intersection and US 19 I think I would ride my bike to work and get their quicker than riding the PSTA bust line. I don't see how raising taxes would help. there should be a job/position that is already on payroll that is the expert on adjusting or reassigning routes for the buses.

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