Pinellas County, Florida -- Pinellas County bus riders are learning more about a referendum that would affect their every day commutes.
A local group, called the Peoples Budget Review, has been surveying riders for three weeks about their knowledge of a November ballot referendum called Greenlight Pinellas: the mass transit plan.
"We have found that out of 1,600 surveys, so far, only 52 percent of those surveyed have never heard about half the referendum about PSTA bus services improvements. But 66 percent did hear about the other half, which is about starting a light rail system from Clearwater to St. Petersburg," said the Peoples Budget Review Group lead organizer, Aaron Dietrich. "If residents are not really aware of what this all entails we are concerned that people are going to go out there to the ballot box and vote on something that is just light rail when it's actually more inclusive."
The referendum votes to raise sales tax one percent -- from seven to eight percent. It would bring in $130 million a year.
The PTSA uses federal and state grants to fund its transit, plus the bus fairs and the $32 million property tax. They would lose that property tax funding if the referendum passes and instead use the $130 million.
The Greenlight Pinellas referendum means a 65 percent increase in bus services, which means buses would run every 15 minutes.
The PTSA said they want the ballot to pass. Last year, they spent about $400,000 to educate the public, but because of budget and lawsuit concerns, they only spent just over $20,000 of that on advertisements.
"We are being careful not to sway voters, but to make them aware of this ballot and its details," said Bob Lasher, spokesperson for the PSTA.
Barbara Haselden, with No Taxes for Tracks, a group voting against Greenlight Pinellas said their group's surveys show once people do now about the referendum, they don't want it to pass.
"What we are finding is once people learn about the numbers, the numbers just don't work," said Haselden. "We don't need a train in Pinellas County. We need to fix the bus system we currently own. Some buses are running without anyone on them."
Haselden believes increasing the sales tax one percent is not worth it.