PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Over 1,000 people who rely on Pinellas County buses to get to doctor's appointments, the grocery store and work are relieved after county leaders voted Wednesday not to cut several bus routes.
Members of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority Board decided not to make the cuts after more than 300 people begged them to save the routes they rely on.
The cuts would have impacted routes 58, 22 and 814 buses and would have partially eliminated buses 5, 16 and 38. It also would have impacted portions of the DART program, which helps disabled residents get to doctor’s appointments, grocery stores etc.
More than two dozen residents pleaded with board members not to take away their "lifelines."
Austin Llewellyn of Palm Harbor says he relies on the DART program to get him to cancer radiation treatments.
Nereida Perez of St. Pete says she relies on the bus to get to courses at St. Pete College. She worries without it, she would be forced to drop out of school.
Mark Shaw told PSTA members he and his wife have relied on public buses to get to work over the past 10 years.
Wednesday’s vote buys PSTA board members time to find other ways to fund bus transportation, which could mean all county residents will need to fork over money to keep the services intact.
Some options include increasing the gas tax, reallocating a portion of the county’s bed tax or raising property taxes.
Either way, Pinellas County residents will likely have to pay more to make up the difference, even if they aren't bus riders.
PSTA says they are one of the largest and most underfunded public transportation authorities in the nation and they've reached the point where they have to consider eliminating bus routes.
“This is just a short term solution to a much bigger problem we are facing in Pinellas County. We are behind the times for getting public transportation to where it needs to be today," explained Whitney Fox, who works in the PSTA's marketing department.