St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) announced the countywide launch of Direct Connect — a program that gets riders to a bus stop through the use of ride-hailing apps and taxis.
A combination of modern day technology and innovative partnerships is ultimately what led PSTA in forming the nation’s first public-private partnership to solve the one of the most common transportation barriers — getting people to a bus stop.
“The solution to most transit-related issues lies in our ability to get the right people working together at the right time,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “PSTA identified a solution to a problem and got all the players together, but our transportation partners are a big key to our success.”
Direct Connect uses Uber and United Taxi to pick up bus-stop-bound riders within eight specific zones throughout the county. Riders who remain within their embarking zone and either begin or end at a bus stop will receive a $5 discount off their ride.
“The way we designed our 8 Direct Connect zones is so that no rider should be paying more than $1 to get to a bus stop,” said Miller. “If you plan on sharing the ride with a friend, you can end up paying even less.”
Riders who are familiar with using ride-hailing apps can opt for a ride from Uber. Perks of using Uber include a cash-free transaction and the ability to view your ride as it approaches through GPS technology.
“Uber has become an integral local transportation option and an extension of current transit systems in communities across Florida,” said Tom Maguire, Uber GM, Tampa and Orlando. “We are excited to help keep even more Pinellas residents connected and moving through the expansion of this program.”
Those who are more accustomed to trip-planning over the phone or using cash can choose to book a ride through United Taxi — although the company also has an app.
PSTA has also partnered with Wheelchair Transportation Service (WTS) to offer similar on-demand discounted rides for riders with disabilities.
As part of an introductory promotion, PSTA is offering a free day pass to riders who arrive at their stop using Direct Connect. To qualify, riders need to show their receipt that is no more than one hour old, either digital or paper, to their bus driver.
Direct Connect is available in eight zones across the county, seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. The program is budgeted at $100,000 for the first six months.