ST. PETERSBURG – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority announced that 23-year veteran Julio Palmer is the 2013 Driver of the Year.
Palmer has an outstanding record and will now vie for the title of Florida Driver of the Year, facing off against the best drivers from other transit agencies across the Sunshine State.
Before joining PSTA, Palmer spent 23 years in the U.S. Army, serving as a tank commander and drill sergeant. He said that training is invaluable when it comes to navigating a bus along the roads of the most densely populated county in Florida.
“There’s a lot of responsibility when it comes to protecting the safety of our riders,” he explained. “But, I wouldn’t have spent my last 23 years driving a bus if I didn’t enjoy it.”
When asked what he likes best about his job, Palmer smiled and said he enjoys the fact that every day is a new experience, plus there’s a special joy of getting to meet and know the people who regularly ride his routes.
Those who know Palmer and his calm, easy-going demeanor are usually surprised to find out that he was a drill sergeant for much of his military career. In fact, that experience has helped develop his ability to keep cool and not let outside influences rattle him, that he credits with being the key to winning Driver of the Year honors.
“Letting things roll off of my back, like a car cutting me off, is essential,” he said. “Ensuring the safety of a busload of passengers is too important to let little things get to you.”
Palmer credits his mother for his healthy dose of empathy as well.
“She always taught me that you never know what other people are going through or what they’re dealing with, so try to put yourself in their shoes before you make any judgment,” he said.
As a driver, Palmer has learned that something, even as simple as a smile and a pleasant greeting, can change person’s day … and when you can do that, he said, it’s a great feeling.
Palmer is currently driving PSTA’s new North County Connector routes.
For more information, visit www.psta.net. To keep up with PSTA’s plans for the future of transportation in Pinellas County and participate in a community conversation helping to shape those plans, visit www.greenlightpinellas.org.
PSTA continues to set ridership records
In other news, PSTA reports that July’s ridership was up 6 percent over June and was the second highest July on record with more than 1.2 million boarding PSTA buses last month.
The 1,203,964 rides were only slightly lower than July, 2012 with 1,208,915, but still a 6 percent jump over June 2013. PSTA officials say such strong ridership during what has traditionally been considered an “off” month is proof of the growing demand for better transit in the Tampa Bay area.
Riders can also keep up with the agency’s plans for the future of transportation in Pinellas County and participate in the community conversation helping to shape those plans at www.greenlightpinellas.org.
PSTA recently announced that Go Cards are now available at 48 CVS/Pharmacy locations throughout Pinellas, nearly doubling the number of locations where the public can purchase bus passes.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the community as it will make buying GO Cards easier than ever,” said PSTA Board Chair and St. Petersburg City Councilman, Jeff Danner. “PSTA ridership is at an all-time record high and this new partnership will make it much easier to meet the growing demand for GO Card outlets.”
Danner joined officials from CVS/Pharmacy Aug. 5 at the store on Fourth Street and Ninth Avenue North in St. Petersburg to celebrate the new partnership. On hand were CVS/Pharmacy District Sales Manager, Brian Bache, Store Manager, Scott Greer and Assistant Manager Joe Sferrazza.
Pinellas CVS/Pharmacy locations now carry all PSTA passes except for Passports, Haul Passes and the 20 Ride Premium GO Cards, which can be purchased online at www.psta.net.