What better way to learn about a problem in your community then to see it firsthand.
We've told you before about Tampa Bay's poor transit system.
Some bus riders spend up to 5 hours a day commuting to and from work.
That's why Brad Miller, CEO of Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, spent every day in June using public transportation.
He wanted to see how they can help riders.
“It's really fantastic when the person who actually runs the system cares,” says PSTA bus rider Niiah Shah.
Since Friday was the last day on his journey, we rode along with Miller to ask what the most eye-opening experiences have been.
“The biggest challenge or surprise has been not on the bus but off,” says Miller. “It's amazing to see some places have no curb cut on sidewalk, or the sidewalk ends or coming across a very busy road that's not pedestrian friendly.”
Miller even noticed a small thing in the buses he wanted to make some changes on.
“Here on the bus, we have a big Wi-Fi sign that blocks the window for passengers. So, we're going to move that sign away so people can see easier,” says Miller.
We asked if there is money in the budget to get more buses for Pinellas County.
“No, we're going to stay with about 200 buses,” he says.
Miller says finances for PSTA are stable, but they're working on a shoestring budget.
That's why he wants to fix problems that are in his control, like adjusting the travel routes for buses and having them come more often.
“The buses I have been on will go on a deviation into a neighborhood, and if you’re not picking up any passengers, then that slows down the people that are on the bus,” he says.
That's one change bus rider Sheldon Richardson wants to see happen.
“A lot of the bus routes don't connect to the other bus routes when they should. To get somewhere in any other city it takes 2 buses, here it takes 3-4,” says Richardson.
Richardson's bus only comes every hour. He missed it this morning, making him late to work.
“They need to have more frequent buses,” says Richardson. “Every 20 minutes or every 30 minutes.”
The company does offer relief. Low income riders can get 23 free rides a month with Uber between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“We know the buses don't run late enough,” says Miller.
So, if you're a frequent rider, you'll likely see Miller more often as he plans to continue using the bus, even if it takes him an hour longer.
According to our Partners at the Tampa Bay Times, for the 2017 fiscal year PSTA had to dip into its reserves to cover $160,000 in costs.
The company has about $25 million available in reserves.
That means they can make small changes but it's not enough for a complete overhaul.
There are going to be some cuts to Hillsborough bus routes as well.
If you take Hillsborough Area Regional Transit and live in a smaller community like Ruskin, Apollo Beach or Sun City Center, expect to see fewer buses next year.
The number of HART routes will be reduced from 41 to 34. That will help increase the amount of service in the areas with more riders.
The Tampa Bay Times found HART has less funding than other systems nationwide.
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