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Tarpon Springs Beacon
Tarpon Springs endorses Greenlight Pinellas
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TARPON SPRINGS – Tarpon Springs has joined nearly a dozen municipalities to endorse the Greenlight Pinellas plan, voting 3-2 on July 15.

“The bottom line is having viable public transportation in Pinellas County and Tarpon Springs,” said Vice Mayor Jeff Larsen. “Greenlight Pinellas is a step in the right direction.”

The Greenlight Pinellas plan, to be voted on during a referendum on Nov. 4, would be funded by a 1 percent sales tax, replacing the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s cut of the property tax currently paid by Pinellas homeowners; the county’s sales tax will increase from its current rate of 7 percent to 8 percent. If it passes, the plan calls for more frequent bus routes, longer hours and a 24-mile light rail from Clearwater from St. Petersburg to be opened by 2024.

On the current system, four trolley routes run every 15 to 30 minutes from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays, every 30 to 60 minutes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and every 30 to 60 minutes from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. Three connector routes run every 60 minutes from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Greenlight Pinellas has devised three different scenarios for the plan, including specifics for travel to and from Tarpon Springs.

• Optimal scenario (the ultimate goal for PSTA transit service to meet Pinellas County’s current and future needs): five trolley routes every 10 to 30 minutes from 5 a.m. to midnight on weekdays, every 10 to 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays and every 10 to 30 minutes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. Three connector routes would run every 30 minutes during peak weekday hours and every 60 minutes during off-peak weekday hours from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., every 60 minutes from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and every 60 minutes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.

• New revenue scenario (a system that would offer the benefits of the optimal scenario while fitting the budget set by the proposed sales tax): five trolley routes every 15 to 30 minutes from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays, every 15 to 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays and every 15 to 30 minutes from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. Three connector routes would run every 30 minutes during peak weekday hours and every 60 minutes during off-peak weekday hours from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., every 60 minutes from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and every 60 minutes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.

• Core/no new revenue scenario (an increase in public transportation that maintains the frequent local networks of the new revenue scenario without additional funding if the referendum fails in November): four trolley routes every 15 to 30 minutes from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays, every 30 to 60 minutes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and every 30 to 60 minutes from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. Three connector routes would run every 60 minutes during the week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with no weekend service.

Although Greenlight represents an increase in sales tax, PSTA CEO Brad Miller told the commissioners that the plan would spread the tax base out to include tourists instead of relying wholly on Pinellas County homeowners at the May 20 City Commission meeting. According to the Pinellas County website, about one-third of the sales tax revenue would be paid by tourists visiting Pinellas County.

If approved, the Greenlight Pinellas plan will take until 2024 to fully implement, beginning immediately with a restructured network, Safety Harbor Jolley Trolley service and Saturday service on the 100X Regional Express.

The sales tax is expected to start on Jan. 1, 2016, followed by a phased introduction of bus network improvements, increases in service span and frequency across the county and introduction of rapid bus service to key transit corridors (Central Avenue, 49th Street and East Bay Drive, Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, Fourth Street and Ulmerton Road, U.S. 19 and Seminole Boulevard) through 2021.

In fiscal year 2016, the system would expand night/weekend services and increase service without the immediate need for fleet expansion. In fiscal year 2017, PSTA would purchase standard and coach buses to facilitate increased frequencies. In fiscal year 2018, frequent local routes and trolleys would begin increases in midday frequencies and the new regional express service would begin. In fiscal year 2019, supporting local routes and the North County Connector

would increase local midday frequencies and the new circulator and seasonal trolley services would begin. By fiscal year 2021, all planned bus service expansions would be fully operational.

The final aspect of Greenlight Pinellas, the 24-mile light rail from Clearwater from St. Petersburg, would begin construction in 2021 and would open in 2024.

Pinellas County residents will go to the polls to vote on the Greenlight Pinellas plan on Nov. 4. For more information, go online to www.greenlightpinellas.com.
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