PSTA Board votes to purchase two battery electric buses

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At the February 22, 2017 board meeting, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board voted to purchase two 35-foot battery electric transit buses, plus a charging station from BYD Motors at a cost not to exceed $2,200,000. Nine members voted for the purchase while five voted against. One or two members were not present at the meeting.

The vote to purchase the two buses caps off what has been nearly two years of analysis and discussion within the agency, and between elected and community leaders, and citizens. The move also quells what could have been a very heated debate between environmental advocates who championed the agency to take part in the pilot project and Tea Party conservatives who were insistent that PSTA had broken a prior obligation to revert to purchasing only straight diesel transit bus purchases following the failed Greenlight Pinellas initiative.

The idea of PSTA taking part in an electric bus pilot project surfaced sometime in 2014, but gained momentum in 2015. During the course of mid 2015; four manufacturers were brought in to showcase their vehicles and convey their benefits to PSTA leaders, elected officials, and riders. First was Proterra Inc., followed by BYD, Complete Coach Works, and New Flyer.

In 2016, further analysis and research was done to examine costs and benefits to PSTA, as well as decide whether the investment was well worth it. During this time, there was a lot of misconceptions going around that the initial costs of the purchase would far outweigh the long term benefits of the electric buses, as well as misconceptions that straight diesel buses were a much economical choice over the battery electric buses and even the existing hybrid buses that the agency was purchasing.

In late 2016, the issue was brought up as to how to pay for the charging station, as PSTA only had resources available for the buses themselves. Pinellas County leaders ultimately voted to allocate a portion of settlement money from the 2010 BP oil spill incident in the Gulf of Mexico towards the purchase of the charging station. The City of St. Petersburg has also expressed chipping in funds for the pilot project and ongoing operation of the buses, and Duke Energy has expressed its desire to assist with the project as well.

Concerns regarding the cost of the electric buses and whether it was worth it for the agency to purchase them stirred the five board members who ultimately voted against the move. County Commissioner Brian Scott was specifically concerned about a recent report that came out from the Tampa Bay Times regarding the dire financial limitations on both PSTA and neighboring Hillsborough Area Regional Transit. Tea Party conservative Barbara Haselden, who served as head of No Tax For Tracks Pinellas, voiced criticism towards the board for not following through on what she sees as taxpayer wishes to create an economically sound and efficient transit system by reverting back to only purchasing straight diesel transit buses.

Once the buses are in operation, it is very likely that they will be used as part of an enhanced circulator route in Downtown St. Petersburg. There is currently a study underway to re-evaluate downtown circulator service. The buses will also complement three 35-foot Gillig Low Floor Hybrid Drive BRT style transit buses that are in place for the agency’s 2018 bus fleet order. While no official timeline has been set for the production and delivery of the BYD buses, it is likely that they will arrive sometime in late 2018. The Gillig buses will likely be numbered 18101 through 18103, while the BYD buses will likely be assigned unit numbers 18110 and 18111.

Read the full Meeting Agenda


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February, 2017 Photo of the Month

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The Photo of the Month for February, 2017 was taken by my photo contributor Jake. He resides in Orange City, FL, which is just west-southwest of Daytona Beach, and has taken many photos of the transit buses in Volusia County, as well as neighboring Seminole and Orange Counties. The transit systems that he has photographed include Volusia County Transit (Votran), the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (d.b.a. LYNX), and SunRail. In addition, Jake often takes photos and videos of various First Responder vehicles. You can check out his YouTube Channel and Flickr Feed when you have a few moments.

The photograph shown here is of one of many LYNX transit buses. Over the past several years, the Gillig Low Floor BRT style transit bus has become the mainstay transit bus for the agency – with their one-piece windshields and sloping front and rear. LYNX has recently been ushering in CNG-powered transit buses, which means that the newer Gillig BRT+ style transit buses began making their debut in 2015. Making their debut in 2016 was a line of New Flyer Xcelsior CNG articulated buses, along with another batch of Gillig Low Floor BRT+ style CNG buses. LYNX also has several Nova LFS artics and two NABI BRT style artics in its fleet.

Winter 2017 Service Change Roundup – PSTA, Votran, and HRT

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It’s that time again; time to implement another round of service changes. This time, I was a tad late in posting the January, 2017 changes for Hampton Roads Transit and Volusia County Transit. So I decided to roll in those changes into one blog post with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s February, 2017 service changes.

This round of changes saw mostly frequency and/or span of service increases for both PSTA and Votran, while HRT saw a round of scheduling and/or routing adjustments and two route eliminations. The biggest change for HRT is the discontinuation of hold requests.

What exactly is a hold request? Let’s say that you’re on the last trip of the evening and need to make a transfer. But the bus that you’re transferring to departs three minutes before the bus that you’re on is scheduled to arrive at the transfer point. Some transit agencies will allow you to place a hold request so that the bus that you’re transferring to will wait a few extra minutes for you to arrive.

With transit agency budgets getting tighter and efficiency improvements becoming more important than ever before, many transit agencies have decided to do away with hold requests to help keep buses running on time. PSTA is one of the transit agencies in West Central Florida that continues to honor hold requests. HART revised its hold request procedures a few years ago to where customers can only place a hold request during the last two trips of the evening, though exceptions may be made during the first trip of the morning.


Hampton Roads Transit (HRT)

Here’s a brief overview of the service changes that took effect for HRT back on January 16, 2017.

  • Route 25: Minor scheduling changes were enacted to improve efficiency.
  • Route 33: Routing changes were enacted near the Artic Ave & 19th St Transfer Point to improve efficiency. Please see the graphic below for details.c9231ce1-34f0-4790-96f0-7eb0a38b2182
  • Route 55: The last three trips departing Greenbriar Mall were adjusted to improve connectivity to other routes at the Robert Hall Transfer Point.
  • Route 57: Western terminus adjusted from Sunkist Rd/Airline Blvd. to Airline Blvd. and Quailshire Ln.
  • Route 58: The Mains Creek Rd deviation was discontinued. Buses now stay on Libertyville Rd between Mullen Rd & Great Bridge Blvd. Please see the graphic below for details.

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  • Changes to the Robert Hall Transfer Point: The transfer point was split into two boarding zones to expedite easier and quicker transfers. Zone A serves Routes 14, 55, 57, & 58, while Zone B serves Routes 6 ,13, & 15.
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Credit: HRT
  • Route 101: Minor scheduling changes were enacted to improve efficiency.
  • Route 107: Scheduling changes were made to improve connectivity other routes at Patrick Henry Mall.
  • Route 111: Routing changes were made to the Jefferson Ave segment to where buses travel bi-directionally along Jefferson Ave, Thimble Shoals Blvd, Fishing Point Dr, and City Center Blvd.  Northbound buses previously traveled clockwise via Jefferson Ave, City Center Blvd, Fishing Point Blvd, Thimble Shoals Blvd, and then back to Jefferson Ave and City Center Blvd. Please see the graphic below for details.

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  • Route 968 (Route Elimination): This route was operating on a test basis to evaluate transit service to key employment centers. Unfortunately, it was eliminated due to ultra-low ridership.
  • Route 969 (Route Elimination): This route was operating on a test basis to evaluate transit service to key employment centers. Unfortunately, it was eliminated due to ultra-low ridership.

Changes to the HRT Website

Locating bus schedules on www.gohrt.com has changed.  All routes are now separated by area (i.e. Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton) with separate pages on the Peninsula Commuter and Metro Area Express routes remaining intact. Previously, you could view a list of northside and southside bus routes without having to go through the area pages.


Volusia County Transit (Votran)

Here’s a brief overview of the service changes that took effect for Votran back on January 24, 2017.

  • Route 20: Frequency was increased from hourly service to every 30 minutes Monday through Saturday, interlining with Route 60 was discontinued, and the northern terminus was shifted to the Amelia Ave SuperStop (Transfer Point) by the Northgate Shopping Center. The DeLand WalMart on US Hwy 17 is now only served by southbound trips to the Market Place Transfer Point.
  • Routes 21 & 22: Departure times from the Market Place Transfer Point were changed to :25 past the hour to allow quicker transfers between these routes and the improved Route 20. The first trips of the morning on both the 21 & 22 no longer enter Deltona City Center.
  • Route 23: Departure times from the Market Place Transfer Center were changed to :20 past the hour.
  • Route 33: The SunRail weekday feeder route between DuPont Lakes and the DeBary SunRail station is no longer classified as an express route. Buses will stop at all marked Votran bus stops along the route.
  • Routes 40 & 41: Timepoint changes were enacted to alleviate confusion with the Julia St/US Hwy 1 interline point.
  • Route 60: Frequency was increased from hourly service to every 30 minutes Monday through Saturday, interlining with Route 20 was discontinued, and the western terminus was shifted to the Amelia Ave SuperStop (Transfer Point) by the Northgate Shopping Center. Customers wishing to visit the WalMart on US 17 will need to transfer to Route 20.

View updated schedules at www.votran.org


Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)

Here’s a brief overview of the service changes that took effect for PSTA back on February 5, 2017.

  • Route 4: Sunday service now ends after 9:00pm, instead of ending after 5:00pm.
  • Route 7: Saturday service now ends after 9:00pm, instead of ending after 6:00pm. Sunday service now ends after 8:00pm, instead of ending after 5:00pm.
  • Route 11: Sunday service now ends after 6:00pm instead of ending after 4:00pm. Also, Sunday frequency is now hourly throughout the day. Previously, buses ran every two hours throughout the day on Sundays.
  • Route 14: Service now ends after 9:00pm Monday through Saturday and after 8:00pm on Sundays. Service previously ended after 8:00pm on weekdays, after 7:00pm on Saturdays, and after 5:00pm on Sundays. Sunday frequency has also increased from every two hours to hourly service.
  • Routes 18 & 19: Sunday service now runs through 8:00pm (Route 18) & 9:00pm (Route 19) respectively. Both routes used to end after 5:00pm on Sundays.
  • Route 23: Sunday service now ends after 7:00pm, instead of ending after 5:00pm. Sunday frequency has also increased from every two hours to hourly service.
  • Route 52: Saturday frequency was increased from hourly service to every 30 minutes.
  • Route 59: Saturday frequency was increased from hourly service to every 30 minutes; and weekday service now runs through 11:00pm, instead of ending after 8:00pm.
  • Route 61: Minor scheduling changes were enacted to improve efficiency.
  • Route 66L: A northbound trip from the Park St Terminal in Clearwater was added, with the bus departing at 6:05am.
  • Route 73: Saturday frequency is now hourly throughout the day. Previously, buses ran roughly every two hours throughout the day.
  • Route 76: Minor scheduling changes were enacted to improve efficiency.
  • Route 78: The last three weekday round trips now depart the Park St Terminal in Clearwater at 6:10pm, 7:25pm, & 8:35pm. These trips previously departed at 5:40pm, 6:55pm, & 8:05pm respectively. Saturday frequency was increased from hourly service to every 30 minutes. Sunday frequency was increased from every hour & 10 minutes to every 35 minutes.
  • Route 79: Minor scheduling changes were enacted to improve efficiency.
  • Route 98: Whitney Rd deviation was discontinued. Buses now stay on East Bay Dr/Roosevelt Blvd at the US 19 interchange. Those wishing to make transfers to & from the 98 can do so at the stop along Roosevelt Blvd & Dodge St.
  • Route 813 – North County Connector – Dunedin/Palm Harbor: Route has been split into two separate routes to allow for better flex service in the Safety Harbor area. The 813 will continue to serve Westfield Countryside, the Dunedin & Palm Harbor areas, & the Palm Harbor WalMart, and departure times have changed to reflect the split.
  • Route 814 – North County Connector – Safety Harbor (New Route): The Safety Harbor portion of the 813 is now the 814, serving Westfield Countryside, the Safety Harbor area, & Philippe Park every hour Monday through Saturday. The new route replaces the Safety Harbor Jolley Trolley.
  • Jolley Trolley – Safety Harbor Branch (Route Elimination): After a three-year run, the Safety Harbor branch of the Jolley Trolley was eliminated due to funding changes (the city of Safety Habor elected not to continue funding for the trolley beyond 2016).
  • New Hours for TD Late Shift: 10:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m.

View updated schedules at www.psta.net


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