After 42 years of service, Pasco County Public Transportation has finally graduated to its own department.
Pasco County commissioners last week voted to move PCPT from its division status with the county’s Community Services Department to its own department. Transportation manager Michael Carroll will stay in charge, albeit with a new title.
The move was warranted now that PCPT is now a $6.4 million department that employs 72 people, according to county administrator Michele Baker. The transition will not cost the county any money since Carroll’s salary will remain the same.
“I strongly support this,” Commissioner Pat Mulieri said at a meeting last week. “I think Mike has a vision.”
Creating a new department for PCPT could allow the transit service to get out of the shadow of being a service for just the economically disadvantaged and the underserved, Baker said. Carroll’s goals have been focused on increasing ridership, especially among young people who could be convinced to use mass transit instead of adding another car to already congested roads.
The service currently has 16 fixed-route transit buses traversing the county, including two that take passengers to and from Pinellas County, according to PCPT’s website.
Even if ridership increases, public transportation remains a service subsidized by taxpayers, and one commissioner feels it’s time to talk about that.
“This seems like one of the perfect times to talk about moving to privatize,” Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said. “I don’t know if anyone else has ever thought about it, and I’m not suggesting it now. But I am saying this is an opportunity for us to discuss if we ever want to have a discussion on privatization.”
Commissioner Henry Wilson said he would be interested in that discussion as well, although commissioners didn’t set a timetable on when such a conversation would take place.
Privatizing public transportation has become a controversial issue in some parts of the country. Those for it say it helps streamline the service so that costs can be cut without sacrificing quality. Opponents, however, say there are minimal if any cost savings, and a lot of that is lost by problems that arise from lack of government oversight, including higher accident rates and poor vehicle maintenance.
Public transportation privatization has not really reached too much into the Tampa Bay area as of yet, but some school districts like the one in Hillsborough County have explored privatizing school buses in an effort to manage a $60 million transportation budget, according to published reports.
Published May 28, 2014
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