Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton B. Forbes advocates for transit funding before Florida State Legislators

Feb. 24, 2021
Forbes spoke to the dire need for more funding from the state to ensure Florida transit agencies continue operations and regain what was lost.

Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton B. Forbes advocated for support of transit agencies statewide before the Florida State Senate Transportation Committee February 2, 2021, testifying to the impacts of the pandemic on transit. Forbes is the Chair of the Florida Public Transit Association (FPTA) Executive Committee, one of the most active transit associations in the nation, comprised of 40 transit properties.

“For the first time in the 25 years of my transit career, I was in the awkward position of asking people not to ride transit unless absolutely necessary,” Forbes stated to the Committee. “It was a paradigm shift for us because we were all about ridership, but we understood the importance of not gathering.”

During the pandemic, transit agencies like Palm Tran remained operational, yet only about 50 percent of passengers remained on board.  Transit workers are essential workers and management and employees alike reacted quickly to make adjustments ensuring the buses were safe to ride.   

Some of the measures taken at Palm Tran included: mandating masks, limiting ridership capacity, installing heavy-duty shields known as “bus operator office doors,” utilizing UV light to eliminate bacteria and enhancing cleaning protocols. He also highlighted other innovations by transit properties all across Florida, including the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s (JTA)’s use of its four autonomous vehicles to transport COVID-19 tests and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) essential services program using Uber, Taxi, etc.

“In our industry, we did not capitulate, we adapted, we innovated and remained running during the pandemic,” said Forbes.  

Forbes highlighted that not one public transit system in Florida has shut down, however, transit agencies throughout Florida will need to work arduously to restore ridership numbers to pre-pandemic levels.

Public transit received financial assistance through pandemic relief packages like the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This funding allowed transit agencies to continue running their service. However, many riders have found alternate modes of transportation.

Forbes concluded his presentation stating there is a dire need for more funding from the state to ensure Florida transit agencies continue operations and regain what was lost. He recommended to the 2021 Legislature to increase the State Public Transit Block Grant and make grants more flexible.

“We have to fight hard to get our riders back,” he said. “Everything we have done so well; we now have to do like those initiatives are on steroids.”

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