The facts on Greenlight Pinellas

Greenlight Pinellas

BY KEN WELCH, Pinellas County Commissioner

PINELLAS COUNTY — One of the most important issues facing our community is the need to improve our system of public transportation.

Ken Welch, Pinellas County Commissioner

Ken Welch, Pinellas County Commissioner

When public transportation is affordable, efficient and customer-friendly, it empowers our citizens to move around our county for work, school, church, shopping and other activities conveniently and reliably. For that reason, transportation is a key element of many of the issues that I’ve worked on as your County Commissioner.

Our constrained transportation system, tied to the lack of transportation options in Pinellas, often limits the ability of many in our community to obtain employment, access educational and medical services, and pursue other opportunities and activities.

The common thread is the need for transportation options to allow our citizens to access services, employment and activities beyond the local neighborhood. In many ways, transportation is the gateway to opportunity. And to move our community forward, Pinellas must invest in a modern public transportation system.

That’s what Greenlight Pinellas is all about – building a public transportation system that will provide affordable, convenient and dependable transit service to every part of Pinellas County. As we become more connected as a region, it’s also important that we work towards developing service to Tampa and to Pasco County. Greenlight Pinellas will set the foundation for those regional connections as well.

The Greenlight Pinellas plan

With the Greenlight Pinellas transportation plan, our bus system will improve quickly and dramatically in every part of the county. Wait times between buses will be shorter – 15 to 30 minutes on most routes – compared to the 1-hour wait that’s required on many bus routes now.  Buses will run later in the evening and more often on weekends, and the customer experience will be improved with additional bus shelters, Wi-Fi, real-time route information, and better ways to connect to PSTA buses (and eventually, light rail) by bicycling, walking, or by using park and ride lots for longer trips.

Greenlight Pinellas will transform our transit system to a system that many will choose to use, even if they have an automobile. And by doing that, it will take cars off of our often-congested roads.

Light rail

The plan also includes the most talked about element – light rail connecting Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park, Gateway and St. Petersburg, with a future connection to Tampa. Light rail will provide us with a proven, congestion-proof way to travel throughout the county, and eventually to other parts of Florida.

Like the High Speed Rail project that President Obama worked to bring to Florida, the light rail element of Greenlight Pinellas will provide an economic boost to our community, and will produce about 3,000 jobs a year through direct transit employment, while also creating opportunities for new development around the 16 train stations along the St. Petersburg-to-Clearwater route.

We have seen this new development, which is called transit-oriented development, occur in Charlotte, Denver, Orlando, and many other communities that have invested in light rail transportation.

A fair sales tax

These dramatic improvements to our bus system, the development of light rail, and the creation of thousands of local jobs will require an investment, and that investment must fairly distribute the project costs so that our community, and our visitors, all make a fair contribution.

The Greenlight plan incorporates a 1 percent sales tax, which will fund the local requirements for the improvements to the transit system. Pinellas voters will be asked to approve this 1 percent transit tax on November 4.

Unlike the current PSTA property tax, which is not levied countywide, everyone who spends money in Pinellas will contribute by paying the 1 percent sales tax. It’s estimated that as much as 30 percent or more of the new sales tax will be paid by the more than 5 million tourists who visit Pinellas annually.

It’s appropriate that our visitors help support the infrastructure that will keep our county vibrant and accessible. Meanwhile, the current PSTA property tax will be eliminated via contractual interlocal agreement between the County Commission and PSTA. Also, like the current sales tax, items like food and medicine will be exempt from the 1 percent transit tax. Polk County is expected to also have a 1 percent transit sales tax referendum on November’s ballot, and Hillsborough County is expected to follow with a transit plan and referendum in the near future.

Modern public transportation is critical for the long-term success of our community. Greenlight Pinellas will transform our current bus system into a truly countywide, efficient and dependable transit system for our community, will add a highly desirable, convenient light rail system, and will produce jobs and opportunities for new development.

Greenlight Pinellas will help us build a stronger community by connecting citizens with opportunities and services throughout Pinellas and Tampa Bay. For more information on the Greenlight plan, go to www.greenlightpinellas.com, or contact my Commission office at 727-464-3614.

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9 thoughts on “The facts on Greenlight Pinellas

  1. JoeInPinellasPark

    Shame on you Commissioner Welch. You knew the ridership numbers were falling. Brad Miller told you so in the PSTA board meeting prior to your presentation to the Tiger Bay club, yet you flat out told the Tiger Bay people that they are at record levels and increasing.

    “The issue about ridership, our ridership is increasing. The metric that is used nationwide is {boyas} or, or, rides, that is used nation wide, PSTA did not make that up, and if you look at our data, I’ll be at record levels of ridership, whether you measure that in rides, or trips, folks are using PSTA, transit in general, nation wide, more than they ever have. Those are the facts.”

    Reply
    • Jordan

      Actually PSTA ridership levels are increasing if you look at internal memos, and this is despite the fact that they’ve cut certain routes. We need to expand our transit options if we want to remain a successful viable region.

      As a St.Petersburg resident, I’ll be voting YES for Greenlight.

      Reply
      • JoeInPinellasPark

        I’ve downloaded all of the monthly ridership reports and loaded them into a spreadsheet. They haven’t tried to brag about ridership since February, and even then they were bragging about it being the second highest February in history. Their highest month on record was October 2012. Between December 2011 and November 2012, PSTA did enjoy a very strong upward momentum growth rate surge, but since then, the downward momentum has been equally as strong until in January, 2014 the trend had fallen flat. Feburary and March of 2014 actually show negative growth.

        PSTA has been intentionally misleading the public regarding its ridership.

        Reply
        • JohnB

          PSTA does not count riders, they count “rides.”

          If you are going to a destination that requires a transfer, that is counted as two rides.

          If you return to your original starting point, that is two more “rides.”

          Therefore, one rider with one transfer going to work and back home is counted as four rides.

          The increase in transfers means an increase in rides, not riders!

          Reply
  2. Bill Heyen

    It’s just a bad law.
    Does the law say:
    That bus service will go up 65%? No
    What will happen if it doesn’t? No
    What will happen if the train goes over budget or is not built on schedule? No
    Even a time stated for any of this? No
    Where the money will come from if the train is over budget? No
    Could the tax on property be reinstated if the train goes over budget or is late? Yes, as only the State can repeal it.
    What are the controls to ensure the train is built on budget or on time. None.
    Who is accountable if these things happen? No one.
    Is there an end to this tax? No

    Whatever you think of more buses or new rail this is a bad law to achieve it.

    Reply
    • JohnB

      Greenlight is not a bus or a train – Greenlight is an ordinance, a law. The only way we can vote the right way is to know what we are voting for.

      If you are planning to vote on Greenlight, you should read all of Doc Webb’s posts explaining the ordinance you will be voting for.

      NO ONE ELSE is explaining the issue in this way – everything else is an attempt to get you to vote for something you may not really understand. Here are all of Doc’s segments on the Greenlight ordinance. http://www.bpiol.com/

      Reply
  3. JohnB

    Yes, we do need better public transit in Pinellas, but Ken Welch is glossing over some of the details.

    Let’s look at the real facts:

    1. Greenlight is a $2.8 BILLION plan that requires a massive tax on the people of Pinellas County.
    The local tax revenue to PSTA will jump from $34 million/year (property tax) to $148 million/year (sales tax) if Greenlight is approved.

    2. The light rail/streetcar from St. Pete to Clearwater will cost $2.5 BILLION (90%) and is expected to have 9,000 daily riders in 2035, ten years after completion, less than 1% of the projected population.

    3. $300 million (10%) will be used to improve bus service by 65%. The current bus system serves about 20,000 riders daily. A 65% expansion should add about 13,000 riders.

    4. PSTA is BLACKMAILING voters by threatening to cut bus service 30% if Greenlight does not pass.
    PSTA desperately wants to spend $2.5 BILLION for a streetcar that will add only 9,000 riders, TEN YEARS after completion.

    5. The average fare on PSTA is 91 cents. PSTA could pay for the $300 million, 65% bus improvement without raising taxes. All they have to do is raise the average fare to $1.40-$1.50 for those riders who do not qualify for discounts.

    6. The increase of $114 million/year tax will be paid by those who do not own property.
    Property owners will pay about the same sales tax as they are now paying as property tax, which PSTA says will be eliminated. Maybe.

    7. Wealthy property owners will actually pay LESS tax and non-property owners will pay MORE tax (the increase of $114 million). Commissioner Susan Latvala explains that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ykd2vtjys8 (start at 6:45).

    8. All the facts are here on the Greenlight site: http://www.psta.net/PDF/Greenlight%20Pinellas%20Preliminary%20Financial%20Feasibility%20Analysis.pdf

    Reply

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