Getting Around Pinellas During Spring Break 2018

It’s hard to believe that March is just around the corner, and with that comes the rush of college students and families from all across Pinellas County and beyond to enjoy the county’s award-winning beaches. Also along with that, comes a lot of traffic and parking headaches. In this post, I will break down some of the alternatives available to you should you join in on the Spring Break hustle and bustle.


Extra Transportation Options in Clearwater Beach

Looking towards Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach, a hotspot of tourist activity during Spring Break.

Let’s first begin in Clearwater Beach, which is extremely popular amongst county residents and visitors alike. In fact, the beach was just named the best beach in the United States by TripAdvisor, based on reader reviews. It’s also one of the most congested beach communities in Pinellas due to the massive amounts of traffic that come across the Memorial Causeway bridge each day during the peak tourist season.

To help alleviate some of the congestion and to promote an alternative option to get to and from Clearwater Beach, the City of Clearwater and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) collaborated last year to provide additional bus trips between the beach and designated park-and-ride lots in downtown Clearwater. While the initiative was considered a success, it was met with many challenges – including where to let customers on and off at once at Clearwater Beach.

For this year, PSTA – along with the City of Clearwater – constructed the Clearwater Beach Transit Center along the westbound lanes of the Memorial Causeway, just east of the Clearwater Beach roundabout.  This facility includes a bus pull-in bay that can accommodate up to three transit vehicles, as well as shelters for customers. The PSTA Suncoast Beach Trolley, as well as both Jolley Trolley routes (Beach and Coastal), will serve the facility.

Whether you’re driving into the Clearwater area, or using a PSTA bus route to connect to the trolleys, you can leave the driving to your bus operator and not have to worry about changing lanes or battling other visitors to find a parking space. I will tell you right now that finding parking in Clearwater Beach is extremely difficult during the peak tourist season, and you could be waiting over 15 minutes in some cases just to find a parking space.

For the Spring Break 2018 season, PSTA has created a page on its website where you can learn more about the expanded trolley service and park-and-ride lot locations. Buses will depart the park-and-ride lots every 15 minutes (with PSTA and Jolley Trolley vehicles alternating trips) and customers will be able to park at the lots for free. Once at Clearwater Beach, you will be able to exit at the Clearwater Beach Transit Center and will only need to walk a short distance to get to the powder white sand of the beach, or other nearby shopping and dining destinations.

Anyone who parks their vehicle at one of the designated Park-and-Ride Lots will receive a FREE day pass for use throughout the entire PSTA system.

In addition to the PSTA and Jolley Trolleys, the Clearwater Ferry is also making improvements to handle this year’s Spring Break crowds – by adding boats and boosting its schedule. The service is also planning to execute an expansion to Dunedin, with further plans to expand to other beachside destinations. Fares are $4.00 each way, with discounted fares available for Seniors, active Military members, and children.


Transportation Options to St. Pete Beach

A Central Ave Trolley vehicle at Pass-A-Grille.

St. Pete Beach is another tourist hotspot during Spring Break, but isn’t as congested as Clearwater Beach. Nonetheless, roadways can get jammed at times and parking can be a hassle. Additionally, roadway construction around Pass-A-Grille is making getting around a headache of its own.

PSTA provides trolley service to St. Pete Beach and Pass-A-Grille via the Central Avenue Trolley. The trolley operates every 20 minutes during the day on weekdays and every 30 minutes during the evening and all day on weekends. Please note that some trips may be delayed or rerouted due to construction in Pass-A-Grille. PSTA is currently exploring the possibility of truncating Central Avenue Trolley service at the Don Cesar Beach Resort stop, and having customers transfer to a shuttle bus or van to complete their trip to Pass-A-Grille.

St. Pete Beach also serves as the southern terminus for the Suncoast Beach Trolley – which departs every 30 minutes. You can catch either trolley at the Gulf Blvd/75th Ave transfer point and quickly get to and from the beaches – whether you’re coming from St. Pete, Clearwater, or somewhere in between.


What if I’m going to another beach?

Most of Pinellas’ award-winning beaches are served by either a PSTA bus or trolley, or the Jolley Trolley lines. The only exceptions are Fort Desoto Park/Beach, Honeymoon Island, Sunset Beach, and Fred Howard Park, as there is no transit service to these destinations. However, bicyclists can ride to these areas without having to venture too far off from a bus route or The Pinellas Trail system.

The Central Avenue Trolley serves the following destinations:

  • Pass-A-Grille Beach
  • St. Pete Beach (transfer point to the Suncoast Beach Trolley is at 75th Ave @ Gulf Blvd)
  • South Pasadena
  • Central Avenue Corridor & the historic Grand Central District
  • PSTA Grand Central Station
  • The Edge (Arts & Entertainment) District
  • Downtown St. Petersburg (including Beach Dr, Sundial Shoppes, and The Pier District)

The Suncoast Beach Trolley serves the following destinations:

  • St. Pete Beach
  • Treasure Island
  • Madeira Beach (including the John’s Pass Shopping District & Boardwalk)
  • Reddington Beaches (including Reddington Shores)
  • Indian Shores
  • Indian Rocks Beach
  • There are no stops in the Belleair Beach or Belleair Shores areas. Unfortunately, these communities are not very friendly to transit and do not wish to place any funding towards transit service, so thus there are no trolley stops in these communities.
  • Sand Key Beach
  • Clearwater Beach (including dining and entertainment)
  • PSTA Clearwater Beach Transit Center
  • Island Estates (early morning trips only)
  • PSTA Park St Terminal
  • Downtown Clearwater dining and entertainment
  • The Jolley Trolley Beach Route serves Island Estates after 10:00am. The route also serves many popular Clearwater Beach destinations throughout the day. Departure times are staggered so that you don’t have to wait too long for either a PSTA Suncoast Beach Trolley or a Jolley Trolley vehicle to arrive if you’re traversing the island.

The Jolley Trolley Coastal Route serves the following destinations:

  • Sand Key Beach
  • Clearwater Beach (including dining and entertainment)
  • PSTA Clearwater Beach Transit Center
  • Island Estates
  • PSTA Park St Terminal
  • Downtown Clearwater dining and entertainment
  • Various coastal destinations throughout Dunedin, Ozona, and Tarpon Springs – including the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks.

Regardless of where you venture off to via PSTA, be sure to download the Transit App before you go!


What other transportation options are available?

For those who aren’t using transit to get around, but still don’t want to rent a vehicle, you can utilize Uber and Lyft. Just keep in mind that surge pricing may be in effect during periods of high demand. Taxicab companies will also be busy shutting people around the area.

If you’re visiting Downtown St. Petersburg, you can also take advantage of Coast Bike Share. Fees are affordable and there are numerous hubs located throughout the city.


Going to Manatee County?

If you decide to venture into Manatee County during the week, Manatee County Area Transit continues to provide its award-winning Skyway ConneXion bus route (Route 203) with two trips per day, Monday through Friday. A one-way fare is $5.00 (with the intercounty fare being $3.00). A day pass can be purchased on board the bus for $10.00, which can be used on all MCAT bus routes. For more information, please visit the MCAT website.


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MCAT & SCAT Winter 2018 Service Changes

It’s that time again, time to enact service changes across multiple transit districts. In this post, I will be discussing the various service changes going into effect for Manatee County Area Transit & Sarasota County Area Transit.


Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT)

MCAT enacted the following changes on Saturday, February 3, 2018

Select the route number to view the new schedule.
I will post the Route 99 schedule link once SCAT has enacted its changes.

  • Route 1Overall span of service will reduce to reflect ridership patterns. The first northbound trip from Palmetto to Ellenton, leaving the Palmetto WalMart at 5:03am was eliminated.
  • Route 2: The northbound trip starting at Manatee County Public Works at 5:38 a.m. via the Red Barn Flea Market was eliminated. Start of service will now be the first southbound trip to DeSoto Station at 5:50am.
  • Route 4: The first westbound trip from the Downtown Bradenton Station, departing at 5:15am for Blake Hospital, was eliminated.
  • Route 6: A new late night westbound trip was added, departing at 8:05am from DeSoto Station. This trip will not serve Blake Hospital and will end at 75th St W.
  • Route 13: The current southbound trip at 6:20 p.m. will end at Palmetto Walmart/US 301 at 6:47p.m. This trip will no longer continue to Palmetto Station.
  • Sunday/Holiday Beach Express Trolley: Westbound service will now begin at 9:15am from the Downtown Bradenton Station instead of 9:00am from the State Rd 64 WalMart.
  • Joint MCAT/SCAT Route 99: Evening service span will be adjusted to reflect ridership patterns. Some trips may leave earlier or later than they currently do, and other trips may be eliminated due to lower ridership.
    • MCAT added a southbound trip from the DeSoto Station, departing at 8:02pm, to travel to Downtown Sarasota. This trip will skip stops serving State College of Florida and depart the Downtown Sarasota Transfer Center at 8:40pm, terminating at SRQ Airport.
    • SCAT will eliminate the 10:00pm run between SRQ Airport and Downtown Sarasota.

View the schedule change flyer.

Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT)

SCAT will enact the following changes on Saturday, February 10, 2018.

Schedules are not yet available.

  • Route 1: The first westbound trip will depart Cattlemen station 5 minutes earlier, at 5:44am, to arrive at the Downtown Sarasota Transfer Center at 6:05am. This change is being made to provide better connectivity to Route 18.
  • Route 1A: Saturday service will be eliminated. Service will only operate Monday through Friday.
  • Route 3: Overall span of service will be reduced to reflect ridership patterns.
  • Route 9: Saturday service will be eliminated. Service will only operate Monday through Friday. Combined Route 17/13 will take over for Saturday service. Weekday schedule adjustments will be made to help keep buses running on time.
    • The southern terminus will change to include the North Port Suncoast Technical College/NP Library on North Cranberry Boulevard as the end of the line. SCAT will continue to serve the North Port Memorial Hospital Emergency Room in one direction.
  • Route 11: Segment between Downtown Sarasota & Westfield Siesta Key (formerly Southgate) will be eliminated. Alternative services will be provided by Routes 14 & 17. This change also applies for the Sunday variant.
    • Sunday variant will have a reduction in overall span of service.
  • Route 14: Service will be extended to Downtown Sarasota on all service days, including the Sunday variant.
  • Route 15: Buses will no longer perform the loop via US 41 & Proctor Rd and will instead terminate at the Sarasota Pavillion Transfer Center. Alternative service along US 41 will be provided by Route 17 on weekdays and Route 17/13 on weekends. Alternative service on Swift Rd will be provided by Route 5.
    • Sunday variant will have a reduction in overall span of service.
  • Route 16: Two AM trips & two PM trips will be added between Venice & Englewood.
  • Route 17: Saturday service will be eliminated. Service will only operate Monday through Friday. Combined Route 17/13 will take over for Saturday service.
  • Route 26 (Seasonal): Seasonal service began in December, 2017.
  • Route 28: Saturday service will be eliminated. Service will only operate Monday through Friday.
  • Route 30: Overall span of service will be reduced to reflect ridership patterns.
  • Route 33 (Seasonal): Seasonal service began in December, 2017.
  • Joint MCAT/SCAT Route 99: Evening service span will be adjusted to reflect ridership patterns. Some trips may leave earlier or later than they currently do, and other trips may be eliminated due to lower ridership.
    • MCAT added a southbound trip from the DeSoto Station, departing at 8:02pm, to travel to Downtown Sarasota. This trip will skip stops serving State College of Florida and depart the Downtown Sarasota Transfer Center at 8:40pm, terminating at SRQ Airport.
    • SCAT will eliminate the 10:00pm run between SRQ Airport and Downtown Sarasota.
  • Route 17/13: Hourly service will commence on Saturdays and will mirror the Sunday schedule. The route will also be extended to Toledo Blade Blvd and Cranberry Blvd.

View the schedule change flyer.


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HART, PSTA, Votran, & Miami-Dade Winter 2018 Service Changes

Post updated on 2/13/18.
Received updated info from HART regarding the TPA Airport Shuttle.

It’s that time again, time to enact service changes across multiple transit districts. In this post, I will be discussing the various service changes going into effect for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, Volusia County Transit, & Miami-Dade Transit.


Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART)

HART will be enacting the following service changes on Sunday, February 25, 2018:

Schedules are available by visiting the Maps & Schedules page, then selecting the route drop-down menu, then scrolling down to the service changes section at the bottom.

  • Route 6: Weekday frequency will increase to every 15 minutes during the day.
  • Routes 15 & 32: Westbound buses will begin serving the on-property bus stop at International Plaza. Scheduling changes will be made in accordance to this change.
  • Route 19: Bi-directional service to Tampa General Hospital will be restored & thus the 19A shuttle will end. Scheduling changes will be made in accordance to this change.
  • Route 20X: Service will be extended to MacDill/South Tampa. Scheduling & map changes will be made in accordance to this change.
  • Route 24LX: Service will be restored to 5 trips during the AM & 5 trips during the PM. While extra buses were already running due to overcrowding, formal scheduling changes were able to be made at last.
  • Route 33: Minor weekend scheduling adjustments will be made.
  • Route 34: Weekday frequency will increase to every 15 minutes during the day & to every 30 minutes on weekends.
  • Route 36: Scheduling changes will be made to adjust departure & running times on weekends. This is in connection to the changes for Route 19, since the two interline on weekends.
  • Route 35: New route will be introduced to replace the 60LX between Tampa International Airport & Northwest Transfer Center.
  • Route 46: Weekday frequency will increase to every 15 minutes during the day. Routing will also change to keep buses on Brandon Blvd (SR 60).
  • Route 60LX: Buses will no longer travel to Northwest Transfer Center. Buses will terminate at the Tampa International Airport Hub.
  • HART Flex Brandon: Routing adjustments will be made to have vans travel on Parsons Ave instead of Vonderburg Dr.
  • Tampa International Airport Shuttle%: Service will end with the opening of the SkyConnect Automated People Mover between the Tampa International Airport Main Terminal & the airport’s Consolidated Rental Car (CONRAC) Facility.
  • In addition, scheduling changes are slated for Routes 15, 16, 39, 51LX, & The TECOline Streetcar.

% Change will take place on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 or Thursday, February 15, 2018, but is subject to changeHART has clarified that the shuttle will continue until the rest of the service changes take effect. After further discussion between HART & TPA Airport officials, HART will end the shuttle after 2/14/18. Please see this flyer for details.

View the schedule change flyer (does not include the TPA Airport Shuttle).

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)

PSTA will be enacting the following service changes on Sunday, February 18, 2018:

Select the route number to view the new schedule.

  • Route 4: Departure and running times will be changed, with some trips departing earlier or later than they currently do. Overall span of service will be adjusted accordingly to reflect ridership patterns – resulting in some early morning or later evening trips being adjusted or eliminated.
  • Route 11: Buses will begin serving Gandy Blvd, Gateway Business Park, 28th St N, and the PSTA 34th St Transfer Center on weekends. Service to the Carillon Business Park will be discontinued to improve efficiency along the route. Departure and running times, and overall span of service will be adjusted accordingly.
  • Route 14: Departure and running times will be changed, with some trips departing earlier or later than they currently do. Overall span of service will remain largely unchanged.
  • Route 18: 10:40pm weeknight trip will terminate at Seminole City Center instead of Tyrone Square Mall.
  • Route 23: An updated schedule timetable has been produced. There does not appear to be any departure or running time changes, time point changes, or changes in the overall span of service.
  • Route 38: An updated schedule timetable and map have been produced. There does not appear to be any departure or running time changes, time point changes, or changes in the overall span of service.
  • Route 58: Overall span of service has been increased to include three full trips in each direction. The last westbound buses to Seminole City Center will depart Gateway Mall at 6:30pm, 7:30pm, & 8:10pm. The last eastbound buses to Gateway Mall will depart Seminole City Center at 7:20pm & 8:20pm. The 6:40pm trip will now run to Gateway Mall, instead of terminating at 49th St N as it currently does.
  • Route 59: Weekday schedule has been adjusted to match Route 4 at the PSTA 34th St Transfer Center. Midday departures will now have 15 minute headways, allowing for more frequent service throughout the day.
  • Route 74: Weekday frequency will be restored to 20 minute headways between 6:00am & 5:00pm, allowing for more frequent service. When the route was split up in 2016, weekday frequency was reduced to every 25 minutes.
  • Route 79: An updated schedule timetable has been produced, with minor changes in departure & running times.
  • Route 444: Due to ultra-low ridership, this route will be eliminated outright. Customers will have access to DART (Paratransit) & Direct Connect (Link) services.
  • Beachside Trolley Services: The PSTA Suncoast Beach Trolley, as well as both Jolley Trolley services (Clearwater Beach & Clearwater Coastal) will all begin to serve the newly constructed Clearwater Beach Transit Center on the Clearwater Memorial Causeway – just east of the roundabout. Some scheduling & map changes have been made to the SBT, including the addition of an intermittent Downtown Clearwater extension that will be activated during Spring Break season. Updates will be made accordingly to the Jolley Trolley schedules as needed.

Visit the PSTA Website

Volusia County Transit (Votran)

Votran enacted the following service changes on January 29, 2018

Schedules are not yet available.

  • Routes 7 & 11: Monday through Saturday frequency was increased to every 30 minutes from hourly service. Overall span of service was adjusted accordingly.
  • In accordance to the above changes, bus assignment bays at the Downtown Daytona Beach Transfer Plaza were changed.
    • Gate N2: Route 11
    • Gate N6: Route 7
    • Gate S1: Route 5 (buses previously boarded at Gate N2)
    • Gate S2: Route 8 (buses previously boarded at Gate N6)

Visit the Votran Website

Miami-Dade Transit (M-DT)

M-DT will enact the following service changes on Sunday, March 11, 2018

Schedules are not yet available.

  • Routes 35 & 70: Routes will be merged to help streamline service along the respective service corridor. Overall span of service and schedules will be adjusted in accordance to these changes.
    • Route 35 will become the new designation for the combined routing.
    • The 35A branch will be created to cover the current Route 70 alignment between Naranja and Florida City. This branch line will operate on weekdays only.
    • Some areas will lose transit service as a result of the changes. Please see the flyer for details.
  • Routes 7, 71, 137, & 338: Buses will travel on NW 17th St instead of NW 14th St, between Dolphin Mall & NW 107th Ave. Please see the flyer for details.
  • Routes 38 & 120: Routing & scheduling changes will be made.
  • In addition, scheduling changes are slated for Routes 3, 7, 8, 11, 24, 27, 31, 77, 95 Express Golden Glades, 115, 137, 183, 207/208, & 210.

Visit the M-DT Website


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