Pinellas County bus passengers will get to keep all of their routes -- for now. Members of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's board decided last week to hold off on proposed route cuts.
But in order to keep the routes, the PSTA will have to come up with $5 million by July.
“Please keep in mind that PSTA provides the best service that we are able to do with the dollars that we have,” Chairwoman Janet Long said during the meeting. “Our mission here is to try to do whatever we can within our authority to not cut service as it exists today.”
The public was not a fan of the cuts, according to the PSTA comment summary. As of the meeting, no one had submitted comments supporting them.
Routes proposed for elimination included Route 22 (along 22nd Avenue North in St. Petersburg), Route 58 (along Bryan Dairy Road and Roosevelt Boulevard in St. Petersburg), the Safety Harbor Connector, the Dunedin/Palm Harbor Connector, the East Lake Shuttle, and some portions of Route 5 (along 5th Avenue North in St. Petersburg).
“There are a lot more people within the county, more than PSTA realizes, that rely on these routes as their lifelines,” said Walter Slupecki, a bus rider in attendance at the meeting. “To have these routes axed off the board would cause a detrimental negative impact to these riders’ lives.”
Although the board unanimously voted against the proposal, route cuts have only been ruled out until July.
According to Long, the transit authority’s total budget is $80 million -- making it one of the lowest-funded transit agencies in the country.
“In any other similar-sized community across the United States, a bus system with the … population that we have in our county -- they spend and their budget is approximately $220 million,” said Long. “When you think about that discrepancy, you know that no matter what we do, we are terribly, terribly underfunded in Pinellas County.”