PSTA claims increased ridership, yet has no underlying ridership data

PSTA’s response to an extensive public records request shows it has no underlying data to base its ridership claims on. PSTA (Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority) said that they had “no records” when asked for data showing what the ridership counts are, much less that data broken down by route or date.

After five years of declining ridership,  PSTA switched to an Automatic Passengers Count (APC) system to count riders in its fiscal year 2020. Previously, it had relied on driver tabulation at the farebox, which witnesses had observed was being inflated.

PSTA CEO Brad Miller (picture from his Twitter feed)

In a footnote at the bottom of every monthly ridership report, PSTA has said “APC data validated and approved by FTA for NTD reporting” for over two years. The FTA is the Federal Transit Administration and NTD is the National Transit Database). But how can non-existent data be “validated?”

Worse, with a new fiscal year and its new troubled Sunrunner bus line in service since October 21st, PSTA appears to be trying to gaslight its board and the taxpayers about ridership. Here are all the articles we’ve published on the Sunrunner.

Here’s how: the aforementioned footnote on APC  data validation has appeared on monthly reports for over two years, including its September report at the end of FY22. But that footnote was removed from its October report.

Thus PSTA no longer claims that its ridership numbers are based on data, nor that such data is “validated” or even exists. Freed from the constraints of reality, could ridership do anything but go up in PSTA’s new fiscal year?

Sure enough, PSTA’s October ridership report claims a 19% increase in its “total passenger trips” compared to the same month last year. However, last year’s claimed ridership numbers may also be questionable – the Guardian has previously reported on how PSTA inflated ridership by 15% in 2020.

We emailed this article to PSTA CEO Brad Miller and General Counsel ahead of tomorrow’s board meeting, offering them an opportunity to comment. They had not responded by 7 P.M.

As always, the Guardian reports and the readers decide. Please like our Facebook page to find out when we publish new stories.

(below: our public records request and PSTA’s response – the red text is our summary of the matter)


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