PSTA to offer cab vouchers for rides to stops

Pinellas County's Public Transit Agency plans to take a second run at linking cabs and similar vehicles to its buses. 

"They call it like the first mile, last mile conundrum," PSTA Executive Director Brad Miller disclosed to FOX 13 News. "Not everyone lives right on a bus line, but maybe they can access it in a different way." 

Starting in February, PSTA plans to offer $3 vouchers through its smart phone app for rides to bus stops. 

"When you go on the app on your phone you'll see a PSTA coupon offer, you press that button and you get $3 off your trip" Miller explained.

Partners might include Uber and Lyft, and other network transit companies, including United Taxi of Clearwater. 

"We have our own app," United Taxi General Manager Allen Weatherilt demonstrated. "All you have to do is push the button there, book a taxi, and the taxi's on the way, you don't even have to put the address in." 

Weatherilt said the same interconnection was attempted years ago, but was too cumbersome in the days of phoning for a cab, unpredictable arrival times and paper records. Recently developed technologies might make a difference. 

"I think we can run a much more efficient system so we can be able to service more people with less cost," he said. "People are looking for the most cost effective way to get to where they need to go, and part of it's bus and part of it's taxis."

Miller expects the pilot program to start February 22 in Pinellas Park and the East Lake area of northern Pinellas county. The latter represents the savings PSTA seeks. 

"The cost of a [regular bus] route that we're running in East more than $150,000 a year," Miller said, "We think...providing the $3 discounts will be substantially less...Somewhere in the neighborhood we think of about $40,000 a year."

Bus patrons in Pinellas Park agreed there is a need. 

"People a mile away, they can't get to the bus stop and they gotta catch a cab or something," Tasha Hayes pointed out. "I think that $3 deal they're offering is good."