SAFETY HARBOR – The Safety Harbor City Commission voted Aug. 4 to endorse the proposed Greenlight Pinellas plan.
With Safety Harbor’s support, Greenlight Pinellas is now backed by a majority of cities in Pinellas County.
Of 24 cities in Pinellas County, the 13 cities that have joined together behind the Greenlight Pinellas plan include St. Petersburg, Largo, Clearwater, Treasure Island, Redington Beach, Dunedin, Indian Rocks Beach, Belleair Bluffs, St. Pete Beach, South Pasadena, Madeira Beach, Tarpon Springs and Safety Harbor.
“Growth is coming, and for us to pretend that’s not going to have an impact on traffic is a bit naive,” said Safety Harbor resident James Fogarty. “Having Greenlight Pinellas provide an alternative to that congestion will be important to make sure the mobility we’ve enjoyed will continue into the future.”
“In November, everyone here will vote,” said Safety Harbor vice mayor Cliff Merz. “Independent of that, we are making a decision on if the plan makes sense, and if the procedures that have been put in place are sound. You, the voters, will make the decision.”
PSTA chief executive officer Brad Miller said the Safety Harbor vote was a milestone in reaching governmental support.
“It marks a milestone for Greenlight Pinellas and for improved transit in Pinellas County, with a majority of cities backing the Greenlight plan,” he said. “We’re grateful for the Safety Harbor City Commission’s support, and their efforts to inform their citizens about the details of the plan. And we’ll keep sharing these details, the true facts about how Greenlight Pinellas will lower property taxes, provide new transit options for our residents, businesses and visitors, and benefit all parts of our county.”
At the heart of the countywide transportation proposal is a ballot measure set for Nov. 4 asking voters to change funding for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority from its current .7305 mill property tax to a 1 percent sales tax (not applied to groceries, medical items and limited to the first $5,000 of any purchase).
That change would allow for transformational improvements to the county’s transit service, enhancing transportation choices and options. Details of the plan, Q&A and background data can all be found at www.greenlightpinellas.com.
If approved, Pinellas residents will see a 65 percent increase in bus service including:
• Buses running more frequently and for longer hours of the day – especially on weekends.
• Service to Tampa at night and on weekends including TIA and Westshore Boulevard.
• Buses running every 15 minutes along core routes and every 30 minutes on the supporting network
• Park ‘n’ Ride lots
• Limited stop express lines
• Circulators connecting neighborhoods to the primary transit corridors.
Those enhancements will then form a foundation of quick, easy and convenient connections to a future passenger rail line from St. Petersburg to the Gateway/Carillon area and to Clearwater.
The recent recession reduced PSTA’s property tax revenue by more than $40 million since 2008. Nonetheless, despite service cuts, streamlining and fare increases, ridership has increased 19 percent over the same period.
To help prevent further cuts in service, the agency is currently using reserve funds to accommodate all-time record ridership. If the Greenlight measure doesn’t pass, those reserves will be depleted by the year 2017, which will force a 28 percent cut in overall bus service.