The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is getting a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation through its Access and Mobility Partnership Grants Program to improve transit in the Bay Pines area.
Congressman Charlie Crist, whose district includes Bay Pines, announced the grant Wednesday.
Funds will support better coordination among health care providers and transit agencies, as well as technology improvements such as mobility-on-demand shared transportation services and smartphone apps for booking services.
“Many veterans at Bay Pines VA Medical Center and residents in the surrounding community depend on responsive and efficient public transportation to get around,” Crist said.
“This grant supplements Bay Pines’ transportation system with additional funding for better coordination between services, eliminating gaps in connectivity and allowing residents — especially those with mobility issues — to get where they need to go safely and quickly.”
The grant comes as PSTA continues to grapple with an impending budget shortfall. The agency recently voted to not cut services even though that means depleting its cash reserves. Instead the agency is continuing to fund routes it would have cut, including some that serve the Bay Pines area, while they work to identify a stopgap funding measure.
Crist has fought for veteran services since before he was elected. Congressional District 13 has long been a hotbed for pro-veteran legislative efforts, spurred years ago by the late Congressman Bill Young.
The hospital is the only in Pinellas County that provides services for veterans and active military personnel. Many of its patients are disabled and rely on public transportation or public paratransit services to make doctor’s appointments.
The Florida Legislature this year approved a bill that would let ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft provide rides for Medicaid recipients. That measure is intended to further shore up transportation challenges among low-income or disabled Floridians, many of whom are veterans.