Over the past couple of months, I’ve been making some major revisions to the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) subsection of The Global Transit Guidebook website. These revisions include the addition of over 100 new transit vehicle photos, the creation of a new retired transit vehicles subsection, & updating route info to reflect the newly minted service changes for the fall. I hope that you’ll spend some time going through the changes I’ve made to this subsection & let me know what you think!
In the coming months, I intend to make the same revisions to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) subsection, which you’ll notice that I’ve temporarily taken down in preparation of this. What you see on the revised PSTA subsection will be similar to what you’ll see on the revised HART subsection.
With the above said, it’s about time for me to embark on another adventure! Where am I going exactly? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned to my social media channels to find out. If you’re not already following me on social media, please take a moment to do so via the links found at the bottom of the post. I also suggest that you follow my HARTride 2012 page on Facebook, as this is where you’ll see my check-ins & other musings during my adventure.
As always, there will be no website updates or new blog posts until I return & social media activities will be somewhat limited. However, my social media moderators are available to answer any questions or concerns that you may have. If you’re not already a member of The Global Transit Guidebook Forum Facebook Group, I highly encourage you to join! Before I wrap up this post, I want to go over a few things that you’ll see in November.
The November Showcase photo & corresponding blog post will be posted/uploaded on Saturday, November 2, 2019.
The HART subsection revisions will begin on Sunday, November 3, 2019 & will continue through the month. My goal is to have the revised subsection up by the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Veterans Day Holiday Transit Service Schedules blog post will be posted on Sunday, November 3, 2019.
The 2019 Winter Holiday Transit Service Schedules blog post will be posted on Thursday, November 14, 2019.
Episode 7 of my Transit 101 series will be posted on Wednesday, November 20, 2019.
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) is enacting its fall, 2019 service changes on Sunday, October 20, 2019. While most of the changes comprise of minor scheduling adjustments, some big changes are coming to Routes 18, 73, the Central Ave Trolley, & the North County Connector network. In this post, I’ll first highlight these four significant changes & what they mean for riders, then briefly highlight which routes will see the minor changes. Such minor changes include running time &/or time point changes.
For many years, Route 18 has made several trip deviations off Seminole Blvd in the northern Seminole/south Largo area to serve the Heritage Presbyterian Apartments complex – a low income senior living apartment complex on 122nd Ave. These trip deviations are currently made 6 times a day Monday through Saturday & 5 times a day on Sundays. While these trips allow apartment residents to catch the 18 during these selected trips, the deviations often cause buses to run well behind schedule – especially during weekday rush hours. On top of this, overall boardings/de-boardings along the deviation have been rather low. I’ve witnessed this for myself while riding the 18 through one of these deviated trips & noticed that no one had gotten on or off the bus at the Heritage stop. Because of the overall low usage of this deviation, along with the need to keep buses running on time, PSTA has proposed eliminating the deviation several times over the past decade, but ran into opposition from apartment residents.
Since the Direct Connect partnership between PSTA, Uber, United Taxi, & Wheelchair Transport went countywide a couple years ago, many customers like myself have been able to enjoy a seamless first-mile/last-mile link that we previously did not have. In order to compensate for the removal of the Route 18 deviation, PSTA has been working very closely with residents & staff at Heritage, as well as with United Taxi, to come up with a solution. That solution is a new Direct Connect stop located near the intersection of Seminole Blvd & Walsingham Rd, which would allow residents to summon a United Taxi cab & traverse to or from the stop at little to no out-of-pocket cost to them. To me, this is definitely a huge win-win for both PSTA & the residents at Heritage.
In addition to this major change, many bus stops along the Route 18 corridor will be balanced out as part of a systemwide effort to consolidate & balance out bus stops. As a result of this, some closely spaced stops may be combined & others with very low usage may be removed entirely. This will in-turn allow for faster travel along the already very long route. In conjunction with the overall bus stop balancing, the three stops currently in place at the Largo Mall complex will be consolidated. Stop #’s 3634 (Dollar Tree) & 3667 (Bealls/Rue 21) will be eliminated, while Stop # 3651 (Target) will remain active. Routing within the mall’s parking lot will also change as a result. Finally, as a result to both of these changes, scheduling changes will be enacted with more uniform frequencies throughout the day.
While on the subject of bus stop balancing, Route 73 will be seeing faster travel times & a scheduling adjustment due to these changes.
Central Ave Trolley
The Central Ave Trolley (CAT) will also undergo some bus stop balancing, but the biggest change will take place in St. Pete Beach.
If you reside in Pinellas County, then chances are, you’re already aware of the discord between PSTA & the community of St. Pete Beach. I won’t go into details as to what it’s all about, but to give a brief synopsis for those who aren’t familiar with the situation; St. Pete Beach is NOT a member city of the PSTA network. They’ve simply paid PSTA an “a-la-carte” fee every year to have CAT service provided to Pass-A-Grille beach. This agreement remained intact with few (if any) changes for many years until the Central Ave Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project came to light.
With the BRT project, there have been some miscommunication between PSTA & St. Pete Beach leaders by which have resulted in not only these leaders not supporting the BRT project wholeheartedly, but also effectively ending the prospect of CAT service serving Pass-A-Grille for at least the foreseeable future. Instead, city leaders have signed an agreement with a microtransit provider that will be running electric golf cart-like vehicles (you may have seen these in Downtown Tampa & Downtown St. Pete previously) through the community.
With these changes come the loss of what was a very convenient one-seat ride for those who wanted to visit Pass-A-Grille, which is often times far less congested than Clearwater Beach. In my personal opinion however, if St. Pete Beach is unwilling to work with PSTA & would rather play blame games & spew misinformation about the BRT, then I’d say, let these leaders do what they wish & see who suffers later. Because it won’t be these elected leaders who feel negative repercussions later on, it’s the countless number of residents & workers who rely on the CAT each day to get to & from work, school, & other necessary places.
Commentary aside, here’s what to expect over the next couple of months.
Sunday, October 20, 2019:
CAT service will begin to be phased out of the Pass-A-Grille area of St. Pete Beach. New schedules & maps reflect this change.
An 8-week transition period will take place between CAT service ending & the start of the new St. Pete Beach microtransit service.
Sometime in December, 2019:
The St. Pete Beach microtransit service, provided by BeeFree, will begin. An exact date is yet to be determined.
Sometime in February, 2020:
Very likely during the February, 2020 service change cycle – depending on when modifications to the Pinellas County beach access at 4600 Gulf Blvd can be completed, CAT service will begin truncating here & will no longer proceed south of 46th Ave on Gulf Blvd.
Changes to Route 90 may also be enacted during this time. Right now, it’s business as usual for the 90 (no changes will be enacted on 10/20/19).
Due to current ridership patterns, PSTA has decided to convert all three North County Connector flex routes into standard fixed routes. Few people were making flex reservations & when such reservations were made, vans were often thrown behind schedule – despite several efforts to try & build such time into account. The new routes will go by the current internal numbering for the flex routes – which are 812 (Tampa/Oldsmar), 813 (Dunedin/Palm Harbor), & 814 (Safety Harbor). Additionally, the 812 & 813 will see a shift back to their pre-2018 routings in the Countryside & Dunedin areas respectively. During the past year, the 812 was removed from Countryside Blvd in favor of Belcher Rd & the 813 was shifted off Alderman Rd in favor of Nebraska Ave.
A lot of questions have been raised as far as how much longer these routes would remain in operation due to the overall low usage. In my opinion, I can see the 813 & 814 being combined into one fixed route in the next couple of years that would run limited Monday through Saturday trips. For the 812, once the All For Transportation money in Hillsborough is available & transit system improvements are able to kick into high gear, that route will be eventually replaced by a HART-operated limited express service. Both changes would allow for the current line of vans to be used elsewhere in the PSTA network – for maybe circulator shuttles or special events.
Minor scheduling changes will be made to Routes 9, 14, 20, 52, 52LX, 59 (Largo Mall routing/stop consolidation), 62, & 300X.
This post was originally going to be a part of my overall Transit 101 series. However, I thought it would be best to make it a completely separate post so that I can emphasize how important it is to not only have a peaceful bus or train ride, but to also ensure that others on board have that same level of peace as well.
While some transit agencies may have specific rules & regulations regarding fare collection, pets & bicycles on transit vehicles, & other matters, the following is a relatively universal list of do’s & don’ts while using public transit.
Have your fare media ready for immediate use & inspection before boarding a transit vehicle or entering a station turnstile. If you are qualified to pay reduced fares, please have appropriate accompanying ID ready as well.
Dress appropriately. While this doesn’t necessarily mean dress up in your Sunday’s best each time you use transit, please be thoughtful in what you wear because you are in a public place. Virtually all transit agencies require you to wear a shirt, appropriate bottoms, & shoes at all times.
Remain seated at all times. If standing due to capacity issues, please do not stand in prohibited areas of the transit vehicle – which are clearly marked.
If bringing a folding cart, please make sure that the cart is folded & not blocking aisles.
You are welcome to listen to music or otherwise use your portable media device or smartphone while on board transit vehicles. However, you are asked to use headphones when playing any sort of media.
If taking a cell phone call while on board, please keep conversations as quiet as possible & to a minimum.
Always dispose of trash & recyclables into their respective receptacles.
Do not talk to the transit operator while he or she is driving the transit vehicle.
Do not eat or drink while on board the transit vehicle (note that bottled water & baby formula are typically considered exceptions – assuming that the container can be easily sealed closed.
Do not bring alcoholic beverages on board the transit vehicle – these are strictly prohibited in most jurisdictions.
Do not smoke while on board the transit vehicle (this includes electronic cigarettes & the like – transit agencies are taking notice & are banning such devices accordingly)
Do not bring other unsafe electronic/mobility devices on board the transit vehicle (things like hoverboards & motorized gas bikes).
Do not bring flammable or otherwise hazardous chemicals & such on board the transit vehicle.
Do not lean against, hold open, or block exit doors.
Do not travel in between moving train cars – unless a provision exists to do so – such as articulated gangways.
Do not solicit products or services while on board the transit vehicle. Many transit agencies prohibit solicitation while on board a transit vehicle or at a transit facility.
Some additional don’ts…
Do not commit any act of violence against anyone on board the transit vehicle – including transit employees.
Do not commit any act of vandalism to a transit vehicle or other piece of transit agency property.
Do not engage in any other disruptive, aggressive, disturbing, or otherwise discourteous behavior towards others – including transit employees.
Do not litter – especially at rail stations, where trash can easily fall onto the tracks & result in track fires.
Roller skating, roller, blading, and skate boarding are not allowed.
Below are some additional, but specific things to keep in mind while on board a transit bus.
Yellow Safety Line
When the bus becomes standing room only, it’s important not to step forward of the yellow safety line that is located just behind the operator’s seat. This is so you’re not encroaching upon the operator’s field of vision – especially if he or she needs to look towards the right for any reason. Additionally, you risk violating the operator’s personal space if you do. Also, you don’t want to be in the way of the wheelchair ramp if it needs to be activated.
Some buses have opening windows in the passenger area. Unless instructed by the operator, you should not open the windows.
When boarding the bus, if at all possible, allow the customer using the mobility device to board first. Or, if that individual is boarding after the fact, board and remain clear of the “Priority Seating” area towards the front of the bus so that the individual can board & be secured. When exiting, please use the rear door if one is present, or allow the individual using the mobility device to exit first.
Never inhibit the operator’s duties to ensure that the mobility device is properly secured!!!
Below are some additional, but specific things to keep in mind while on board a passenger rail train.
Yellow Safety Line
While I’ve discussed the subject of the yellow safety line on board the transit bus, it takes on a slightly different context when relating to passenger rail networks. Here, the safety line is to indicate the edge of the elevated platform so that you don’t accidentally fall onto the tracks. While many systems indicate the platform edge via a yellow line, some may indicate this via a blue, orange, or red line. In order to comply with accessibility laws, these platform edge markers are often comprised of ribbed surfaces so that those with visual impairments can be alerted.
Too often, I hear of situations where a passenger rail train – especially a subway train – being stopped suddenly because someone has pulled the emergency brake handles. This is not only heavily inconvenient for those on board the train, but it’s also a major safety implication for the entire rail network because transit agency staff have to reset all of the necessary mechanisms to get the train moving again, which also in-turn, leads to system-wide delays. Thus, pulling the emergency brakes should only be done in an actual emergency.
Dangers of walking between trains
Another thing I hear of too often, especially in the realm of the subways, is people traveling in between railcars. Unless a provision exists – such as an interconnecting gangway that allows for safe passage between train cars, you should never try to travel between train cars unless instructed to by transit agency staff. Doing so can lead to serious injury or even death if you wind up getting thrown off the train.
Other things to keep in mind
The seats closest to the operator on board buses & select areas on board (subway/metro & commuter rail) trains are often marked as “Priority Seating”, meaning that you should always offer these seats to those who need them – including the elderly, persons with disabilities, & expectant mothers. But also, these are the areas that are often designated for those who use mobility devices – such as wheelchairs. If a customer boards using a mobility device, you will need to immediately vacate your seat & allow space for the customer’s mobility device to be secured.
Pets on Transit
Some transit agencies allow small pets to travel on board vehicles, but only if they are in a carrier & is not blocking any aisles. Please check with your respective transit agency for details.
Allow arriving customers to exit the vehicle first before boarding
As a courtesy, you should always allow arriving customers to exit the bus or train first before boarding.
Treating the transit operator with respect
Whether you’re riding a bus or a train, it’s important to treat the operator & other transit agency staff members with the utmost respect. They have a very tough job to do & the pay & benefits may not be as good as you may think they are, so please…be kind, courteous, & respectful to them.
With all of the above said, please have a safe & wonderful transit journey!
By now, you most likely have heard about the horrible incident that occurred near the historic French Quarter in New Orleans, LA. The Hard Rock Hotel, which was under construction, partially collapsed – leaving many injured, as well as claiming at least one or two lives. Our thoughts & prayers go out to all those affected by this incident & their families.
What to expect if using transit in the area.
Due to numerous streets surrounding the hotel site being closed off, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority has detoured bus routes that would typically traverse these affected streets. Additionally, the Riverfront & Rampart – St. Claude Streetcar Lines have been suspended in their entirety while the Canal Streetcar has been partially suspended. Bus substitutions will be in effect during these closures.
Previously, affected Central Business District bus routes have been congregating at the NORTA headquarters at 2817 Canal St. Since 10/23/19, temporary transfer hub operations have shifted to Duncan Plaza at 343 Loyola Ave. This second shift was supposed to occur on 10/19/19, but due to difficulties caused by the demolition of the cranes surrounding the Hard Rock site, the move was postponed.
Customers should expect longer than normal travel times as a result. The RTA will be dispatching additional staff to help assist customers in getting to where they need to go. For further information, please contact the New Orleans RTA.
Our September Showcase photo came in a bit late here on the website due to some personal obligations. However, it’s better late than never that I get this next post up, so…with that, we continue our journey across the US. Where to next you ask?
This month, we travel back to the New York City region. But once again, we’re not focusing on the New York MTA. Instead, we’re shifting to the transit agency that operates immediately north of the Bronx – which is Westchester County & Westchester Transportation, known as the Bee Line. The Bee Line is owned by the Westchester County Department of Public Works and Transportation, though services are contracted out to Liberty Lines Transit and PTLA Enterprise.
The Bee Line operates over 40 bus routes spanning Yonkers, White Plains, New Rochelle, Hartsdale, Hawthorne, Peekskill, Pleasantville, and many other communities within Westchester County, as well as southeastern Putnam County. Additionally, some bus routes in the southern & central county extend down to the Bronx – allowing customers a seamless connection between the Bee Line system & the MTA system. These routes are in addition to the White Plains to Midtown Manhattan Express – Route 28, which is coded as the BxM4C to match the MTA style of route numbering. Also, the Bee Line honors the MTA MetroCard & is on track to adopt the new OMNY tap-&-go fare payment system by 2022.
Bee Line’s fleet comprises of mostly Orion V units – like the one pictured above. However, with Orion no longer in existence, the agency made its first New Flyer Xcelsior purchase in 2018 – with a batch of hybrid articulated buses. It is likely that more New Flyer Xcelsiors will gradually replace the aging lineup of Orion, Neoplan, & North American Bus Industries (NABI) buses – all of the latter having gone out of business in the past two decades.
Want to see your photo featured?
This month’s Showcase photo was courtesy of The Global Transit Guidebook Forum member G.D.W.