Long-time transit exec and newest Tourist Development Council (TDC) member, Robert Longenecker, says the area is behind in transit, but he has ideas on how to move things forward.
He has spent the past 10 years living in the St. Pete/Clearwater area, but before that he spent most of his career working around the world moving billions of packages for UPS. Now, he’s shipping more precious cargo with the Jolley Trolley, where he’s been at the helm since 2009. Longenecker, who was recently appointed to the Pinellas County TDC, took time out of his busy schedule to answer 5 questions for CVBeat.
CVBeat: You’ve worked all over the world in Germany and Belgium with UPS. How does the St. Pete/Clearwater area stack up?
RL: From a transit perspective, it’s certainly behind the European economies.
CVBeat: How do we catch up to the European model?
RL: I think the biggest complaint in this area and from Americans is they live too far off the routes to take advantage them. The implementation of circulators is the least expensive alternative to connecting people to the routes. These circulators would pick people up closer to their homes and take them to the routes.
In Europe, they have the connections and everything there built into neighborhoods. We’ve already built out America and we’ve done it without the network of transit.
We have proposed circulators for Island Estates, north and south Clearwater Beach and the Coastal Route. And the PSTA (Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority) is implementing circulators in the East Lake area, so they are coming soon.
CVBeat: What do you enjoy most about your position as Executive Director at Jolley Trolley Transportation?
RL: I think it’s the fact that, first of all, it’s an extremely fast pace. It keeps my wife and I connected with the community, involved with the chamber and several other non profits. We interact and know many of the general managers in the area.
Our careers were extremely demanding before. Long hours, international travel, very demanding schedules and one of the things we both committed to is we’d like to give back to local communities once we retired. When we left UPS we were able to do that. This job is the perfect fit.
CVBeat: What’s the biggest difference between transporting cargo at UPS and humans with the Jolley Trolley? Complaints?
RL: Even people over at PSTA said I’m going to hear some complaints. But at UPS moving 12 million packages a day, you had 1 million customers. So, you always have to please the customer. Really, they are very similar. From a network perspective, you have to understand the origin and destination of each person. At UPS you had classes of service with express, ground or whatever. With people, you’re really trying to serve different classes, too, with commuters, residents and tourists. We should tailor our services around all 3 groups.
CVBeat: What are you looking forward to most about being on the TDC?
RL: I think it’s extending some of the input and value that we feel like we provide the local community on a county-wide basis. The TDC is primarily a promotional entity but with taking care of the people while they’re here, there should be an enormous transit piece involved and that’s the role we play and I will bring.
The fact that transit is represented on the board is an important step. Most of the CVB activities revolved around getting people here and the chamber focus’ on how do we take care of these people so they come back. Transit plays a big part in that.
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