In a presentation about PSTA’s new Sunrunner bus line yesterday, PSTA’s Director of Communications & Marketing Whitney Fox said it was “really exciting to see that we are getting people out of their cars.” Fox was talking about a “very small survey” (her words) which showed that half of passengers would have taken their personal vehicle for that trip had they not taken the Sunrunner.
Fox’s alarming statement shows that PSTA is no longer providing transit to those who need it or choose to use it, but instead wanting to force people out of their personal vehicles.
The loss of 20 miles of travel lanes and many parking spots in front of people’s home that the Sunrunner has resulted in provides further evidence of this “forcing role” that PSTA has assumed.
Fox’s analysis is also flawed. One Largo resident the Guardian spoke to said that when she has out of town visitors, she drives them in her personal vehicle and parks near Central Avenue and 66th Street. They then take the Sunrunner to St. Pete Beach in order to not have to pay for beach parking.
Therefore, while they would have used a personal vehicle to make that short trip to the beach, the existence of the Sunrunner didn’t “get them out of their car” except for the last part of their journey. They still used a car. All the Sunrunner did was save them money on beach parking.
Such predictable human behavior is likely true for many other Sunrunner riders, especially since PSTA says it’s focused on sponsoring events to attract Sunrunner riders. In such situations, the Sunrunner is therefore serving more as a parking subsidy, a “parking lot extender,” than causing any fundamental change in people’s use of personal vehicles.
“All we see are almost empty or totally empty buses as they drive by our winery on South Pasadena Avenue,” Vince Shook told the Guardian. Shook founded the iconic Florida Orange Groves Winery with his parents in 1991, and also commutes along the Sunrunner route. Shook’s son Lance also works full-time in the business since many years.
“On 1st Avenues North and South as I travel to and from work, we are often down to one lane of traffic as the Sunrunner buses and regular PSTA buses end up easing into and blocking part of an additional lane as they either travel or make stops,” Shook said. “So much for fixing traffic congestion and related frustrations. We used to have three lanes, now there are one-lane choke points.”
Shook said that although the windows on PSTA buses are darkened, there are enough times when the light is at the right angle so that you can see in. “That’s when you see that they are empty or almost empty.”
Ahead of yesterday’s board meeting, we sent the PSTA board an email with links to our concise articles showing that PSTA is lying and gaslighting, and the line’s operational problems. We sent the following articles:
Despite our email to PSTA board members with these links and urging them to ask critical questions about the Sunrunner, no board member asked even what could be called a mildly probing question. Instead, they engaged in cheerleading. Chairman Gina Driscoll, a St. Pete City council member, said that the Sunrunner project is “very exciting,” and told social stories, as did Largo City Commissioner Jamie Robinson.
Is the PSTA board overlooking PSTA gaslighting or providing the oversight taxpayers deserve? There are homeless people in Pinellas County living in their cars – will PSTA also find it “really exciting” to get these people “out of their cars?”
As always, the Guardian reports and the readers decide. Please like our Facebook page to find out when we publish new stories.