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Meet Cassandra Borchers!

Cassandra Borchers
Chief Development Officer
Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority
St. Petersburg, FL
Member, APTA Mobility Management Committee; Planning,  Policy and Program Development Steering Committee; Metropolitan Planning Subcommittee; Research & Technology Committee; Mid-Size Operations Committee; Streetcar Subcommittee; High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Committee

Please describe your agency's size and scope.

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) provides public transit for Pinellas County, located in the Tampa Bay area. With nearly one million people in just 600 square miles, Pinellas is the most densely populated county in Florida.

PSTA operates 210 buses on 43 fixed routes, providing more than12 million rides a year. We also have several first-in-the-nation partnerships with Uber for first-mile, last-mile and late-night services and continue moving toward being mobility managers in our region.

What attracted you to the public transportation industry?

While studying for my Master of Urban Planning degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, I teamed up with the university’s East St. Louis Action Research Project for my thesis topic and completed an economic development study for the Emerson Park Light Rail Station in East St. Louis, IL, one of the poorest cities in the U.S. I fell in love with learning how public transit changes neighborhoods and improves access to economic opportunity, as well as how public spaces can elevate the way that people interact with their community.

Please describe the length and scope of your involvement with APTA.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend several APTA conferences early in my career. I found the committees were the best places to obtain information and really connect with ­people in the industry. I was able to gain a deeper understanding of all APTA activities and benefits as a member of the ­Leadership APTA Class of 2016.

What do you like most about the public transit industry?

I continue to be fascinated by how public transportation shapes our community and how we can work to get that message heard. We have an opportunity with our construction projects to create beautiful public spaces where we can demonstrate respect for our riders and the community.

How does your role embrace the concept of “mobility management”?

In my department, we are not only responsible for scheduling, short-term and long-term planning, but also innovation. This is where our agency projects start. Our focus right now is on how to deliver what people demand for convenience, flexibility and frequency in the most cost-effective way for our community.

We have also structured our public engagement team to reside within the planning department, which heightens our attention on listening to the public as a significant part of developing our technical work.

We have several successful innovative mobility programs for our riders that have come out of this work. Our “TD Late Shift” uses Uber and local taxis to get low-income riders home when our regular service has finished for the day. Many users have been able to secure second- and third-shift jobs, and keep them, because of this program.

We also have a first-mile, last-mile service, also with Uber and local taxis, called Direct Connect that helps riders get to and from bus stops. We’ve used our experience developing those two partnership programs to put together a test project with Lyft for bringing on-demand service to our paratransit riders.

It’s all about the rider experience and finding ways to meet the changing needs and expectations of our public.

What would readers find interesting about your organization?

We have a wet bathing suit policy—and sometimes have to detour service because of alligators in the road!

Pinellas County is home to the world’s best beaches and, like the rest of Florida, we have a very tourism-driven economy. We are always looking at ways to balance the needs of our residents while also creating a “visitor experience” for our tourists and travelers. That makes us think a little differently when we’re designing services and even providing training to our customer service team and our operators.
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