East Lake Connector: Another Empty PSTA Bus

7 people per day. If Greenlight  Pinellas passes, we will have more of these. That is if they don't rob bus expansion to pay for the train.

Seven people per day -that’s how many people the Eastlake Connector carries. If Greenlight Pinellas passes, we will have more of these. That is if they don’t rob bus expansion to pay for the train.

Greenlight Pinellas supporters like claim they  will grow bus service 65% if voters approve the $110 million annual PSTA tax hike (even though they are likely to rob expansion to build the train). Yet the phenomenon of the empty bus is well known. Last night the Council of North County Neighborhoods held a community forum on “regional transporation” set up by CNCN President and “Yes on Greenlight” co-chair Don Ewing.  Things didn’t go to well for Mr. Ewing.  Multiple members of the audience, residents in theses CNCN neighborhoods asked essentially this:  Why is the East Lake Connector always empty? Good question. Because it carries at most 7 people per day on average. That’s right. Seven. Per day.

The Connector is a small bus that runs along East Lake Road from Tampa Road to the Tarpon Mall. It is a small bus, costing about $144,000 to buy.  One of the CNCN forum audience members pointed out that he sees the bus pull up to the supermarket parking lot regularly and witnesses the same phenomenon over and over. The driver gets out, gets a drink, and then comes back to the bus about ten minutes later. He arrives with an empty bus and leaves with an empty bus. Another person asked paid Greenlight Consultant and former PSTA Board chair what the ridership numbers were for the route. The stunned Mr. Danner referred him to the web where the “transparent” PSTA would give him the data. Not so much. While the PSTA claims to be transparent (by publishing names of those who make information requests), it is not on their website. They only have summaries of all routes together. Luckily The Sunbeam Times had obtained this information in the past, but that is not available on the PSTA site as it should be – only the fact the request has been made, not the documents.

east lake connector routeA review of PSTA data reveals that the East Lake Connector has a “ridership” of 396 “rides” per month. A ride counts the same person twice. It is safe to assume that the person getting on for one destination is going to go back to their origination site. So it is a highly likely to put the number of riders per month at 198. Dividing those numbers of monthly riders by 30 days in a month gives an average of 6.6 riders per day. So the PSTA has a “connector” that costs $144,000 to carry about 7 people a day with a paid government employee to drive it and a massive government bureaucracy to support it at the $40 million Taj Majal headquarters. The PSTA would do better to merely give out vouchers for these folks for tax rides. At 396 rider per month, and about $20 per cab ride, they could spend $95,040 per year on cab vouchers. They could sell the bus, fire the bus driver, get rid of the cost of gas on that route and the administrative functions to manage the route and come out ahead on the deal. Better yet, they could move these small buses to the other underperforming routes with large $650,000 buses and save money on gas on those routes. Everyone wins. Well, the taxpayers win, PSTA loses cash in their coffers and a way to justify their existence.

Seven riders per day on the East Lake Connector. And the PSTA and all the politicos want us to raise takes to the highest sales tax in the county to add more empty busses. Another reason to vote “no” on Greenlight.


14 Replies:

  1. curtis a holmes

    Sunday last (17 Aug) actually saw TWO “Jolly Trollies,” one going to and one coming from Clearwater Beach, with a total lack of clients, yep, ‘cept for the driver NO ONE was on either of the Disney “A ticket rides.” Lest I forget evening last the Greater Largo Republican Club voted to endorse NO TAX for TRACKS.

  2. Noeletta DeBord

    I applaud your efforts, your tireless investigations into corruption and over-spending. I very much enjoy reading your blog. I don’t even live in Pinellas County (rather Hillsborough), but I know it’s likely that what Pinellas does with transportation, Hillsborough is likely to follow. Thank you, and keep up the good work!

  3. Dave "Scooterman" Kovar / Ron Thompson

    It is obvious that people in north county would rather drive cars than use transportation. Unless they have to. Unemployed, disabled, too young or old, no license / lost license, one car family. Its funny to hear people that consider transit an unnecessary waste based on their world view. You have people willing to spend literally tens of thousands of dollars annually on second and third cars. God bless your good fortune. And are willing to force others do it as well.

    It is not uncommon within this group to take actions against their own interest on political principle. There are members for whom the GLP property tax elimination will be larger than the sales tax increase. They, personally, will pay less taxes if GLP passes, but political principle prevents them personally from supporting GLP. There are those whose teenage children could enjoy the independence of trips to the beach or mall, but political principle makes them deny the opportunity or demand it tie up a parent’s time and burn a gas guzzling car. There are those with an elderly relative, who could live an extended period on their own, enjoying the freedom to enjoy all the county has to offer, but is instead shuffled off to an assisted living or nursing home, all on political principle.

    Cars, alcohol, money, square footage in your home and yard, parties, number of television sets: how much is enough? For some, their very identity is defined by never being caught dead on transportation. Pinellas is a big county and has room for them as well.

    Sometimes, negative politics is the strongest motivator of all. America is a big country full of many viewpoints. That’s what makes America great.

      1. Dave Scooterman Kovar

        Dr M, that’s quite a reach. I could not care less if you were barefoot or wore slippers made of gold. I know that you consider the thought of taking transit, a bicyle, or walking to perform a task in leiu of a car would harm you self image, byour identity.

        You own a car, maybe five or ten. I neither begrudge or envy you them. If you have the mony to buy, maintain, fuel, and insure a garageful of cars, great! Make the econony hum.

        But hum where? Who is going to buy that surgery, and how will they get to your office? If you insulate you business by only servicing the upper class, how will THEY maintain their wealth unless their workers can get to their job sites?

        Sooner or later the working class needs affordable transit, affordable housing, adequate food and clothing, appropriate education and skills. You can throw the poor out of the lifeboat and order them to swim, but when they drown they will take your business and the entire econony down with them.

        1. Sun Beam Times Post author

          You may want to read how the Pinellas Democrat Party Executive board is AFRAID to let their members vote on Greenlight. They KNOW that they would vote against this regressive tax. Talk about class warfare! See 8/21 post on this blog. They know putting new taxes on 665,000 people who currently DON’T pay taxes to PSTA at all is NOT POPULAR with Dems.

          I have two cars. I nurse them. They are both over 100K miles and will be with me to 200 k. Toyotas. Made in the USA!

          The “Working class” needs jobs created by a FREE ECONOMY, not an economy controlled by self-interested corrupt politicians in bed with corporate cronies. They have a word for that. Oh, yeah. Fascism.

    1. JohnB

      Mr. Kovar/Scooterman/Thompson,
      “They, personally, will pay less taxes if GLP passes, but political principle prevents them personally from supporting GLP.”
      That is true, we believe that those who do not own their homes are most likely to have trouble paying their bills and therefore should not be burdened with another tax, especially for something they will most likely never use. IF Greenlight passes, those of us who own our homes will pay about the same tax, those who do not own property will pay an additional $114 million/year in additional sales taxes. And….those who are very wealthy
      and own homes valued at more than $170,000 will pay LESS tax so the less fortunate will pay MORE tax.

      $2.5 BILLION, 90% of the Greenlight scheme, is for a train that PSTA projects 9,000 people will ride weekdays (commuters to Gateway?) in 2035, 20 years from now, less than 1% of the population. You would have the poor, middle class, senior citizens and even children pay for a train they do not need and will most likely never ride.

      PSTA will spend $91 million this year, riders pay $14 million (91 cents/ride). That leaves $77 million for taxpayers to support about 17,000 daily riders, which is $4,500 per rider per year. That’s pretty close to giving them a car. Maybe even a Leaf electric car.

      1. We need to fix the bus system we have, that requires new management.
      2. We DO NOT heed a $2.5 BILLION train.
      3. WE DO NOT NEED A $148 million/year SALES TAX INCREASE.

        1. JohnB

          “We” is us, the voters in Pinellas County. “We” are our own worst enemy.
          Both being informed and turnout are important. The voters turned out in 1996 and voted overwhelmingly for “Eight is Enough,” limiting BOCC to two (2) terms or eight (8) years. The commissioners literally ignored the wishes of the voters and continued as if nothing had happened.

          Welch, Seel, Latvala and Morroni are in their 14th year and have stayed in office because voters allow them to do so. Their power grows every year and that is why we have the Greenlight scheme today. Morroni is running for re-election, only Latvala is retiring this year.

          We the people are allowing this to happen and this time the BOCC has gone all the way in their attempt to drain $2.5 Billion from our economy for a train we do not need. The only thing slowing Greenlight down is a small group of unpaid volunteers. You will notice that everyone who publicly supports Greenlight is paid to do so, mostly by taxpayers, a few by big money corporations through a political committee (Jeff Danner being the primary example).

          PSTA CEO Brad Miller was brought to PSTA to develop the justification for a train based on his experience orchestrating the same scheme in Charlotte, where he was successful in obtaining state and federal grants to fund much of the cost of a 9.7 mile train that costs taxpayers about $15 every time a rider boards the train. Federal and state money is not “free,” it is all taxpayers money flowing to those who can grab the most out of our pockets.

  4. Boss Tweed

    You have to love how government counts, 1 becomes 2 and 2 becomes 4, just to keep the tax money flowing, for our children of course. In case you don’t know, we are http://tiny.cc/jz13fx

    Anyway Scooterman, wouldn’t it save resources to just buy all of these people scooters or give them free taxi rides, or are you really just interested in government controlling our lives?

    1. Dave Scooterman Kovar

      How is peoviding one million citizens, with one million different needs, capabilities, life status, conditions, employment, skills, and savings multiple transit options “government controlling out lives”?

      Does it bother you that US-19 run north south, that east bay and ulmertom are parallel, that the bayside bridge and us19 btwn bellaire and druid are paralkel logjams every morning and night, now adding belcher and starkey to the list.

      Alll of our roads, paid by government tax theft of our personal money, land taken with eminent domain, patterns laid out built and managed by croney corporationd picking the pocket of the taxpayer by government payola. How can you stand to use these roads, tolerate them being maintained and resurfaced, and allow the billion dollar projects to widen , relocate, and regrade entire roadbeds to handle obsolete traffic volumes?

      In your world, THIS is NOT “govrrnment control”

      1. Sun Beam Times Post author

        Uh, the congestion won’t go down Dave. Read the blog here to see why.
        Uh, adding more CHOICES would be more buses, not a static 19th century train for the “robber barrons”.

      2. JohnB

        People have the right to choose how they will meet their transportation needs – they obviously have chosen personal vehicles in Pinellas County. That choice allows them the ultimate freedom to go where they want to go, when they want to go. All roads are paid for by the people in every respect. 100% of the people benefit from the existence of roads, even if they do not have a car and ride some form of “public transit.” Less than 2% of the Pinellas population uses public transit (PSTA buses). PSTA projects the $2,5 Billion train will serve 9,000 weekday riders in 2035, 20 years from now, less than 1% of the population, yet 100% will pay for the train.

        Here are a couple of interesting articles if you are interested in learning a more about different perspectives on how public transit might be improved, in general or specifically in Pinellas County:


        We have the right to vote; if we are not well-informed, how can we vote intelligently?

      3. Margo

        Yes, we have those log jams because US-19 and Ulmerton Rd have been ‘under construction” for how many years if not decades now? If we actually had OPEN roads to drive on (along with adjusted light sequences) there wouldn’t be so many of these ‘log jams’.
        Also, if those ‘log jams’ bother you now what are people going to do when even more major roads such as East Bay Drive etc are ALSO closed and ‘under construction’ for the next, minimum of 10 years (and from current examples more like over 15). How many people do you think will be getting anywhere much less even staying in this county? And all this while we pay more in sales tax than the whole state? Based on lies no less….God help us all….

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