In a city like St. Petersburg, there are actually legitimate reasons not to use transit. The buses don’t go where you need them to. They don’t come frequently enough. The city and county are so decentralized that if you have to go any appreciable distance, you’ll spend half your day on the bus.
Some of those reasons are beyond the control of an agency like PSTA. Naturally, a transit agency cannot reverse sixty years of sprawl all by itself. Nor can a transit agency buy buses and hire drivers it can’t afford to pay for.
But some reasons for not riding transit are easily fixed. Like this, for example:
This stop can be found at the corner of 49th Street and 28th Avenue South, which is technically in the city of Gulfport. A nearby resident tells me that, while all the other houses on that side of the street use the alley for trash collection, the blue apartment building on the corner does not, apparently because there is no room for that great honkin’ can back there. So it sits there, seven days a week, right next to the bus stop, filled with the rotting and cooking garbage generated by several residential units and generally stinking the place up.
Now I ask you: would you wait for 45 minutes at this bus stop?
I realize that PSTA is not directly responsible for where that garbage can goes. But if it affects ridership – and it’s certainly going to reinforce a negative image of riding the bus, which can over time discourage people from riding – then it’s in PSTA’s interest to take the lead in fixing it. They could talk to the owner of the apartment building. They could call whoever’s in charge of the trash in Gulfport. If everyone put their heads together, I see no reason why something like this couldn’t be fixed quickly.
Yes, technological fixes like the smartphone-based system that tells you how long you have to wait until the next bus arrives are great. But there are a great many small fixes – like moving a giant garbage can away from a bus stop bench, for example – that would cumulatively have a huge impact on the overall experience of riding the bus.