On Sunday, October 2, 2016; the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) enacted a major revamp of key bus routes with the goal of streamlining service and improving efficiency and reliability throughout the system. These changes include the introduction of four new bus routes and substantial changes to 12 others – including the Jolley Trolley. I was originally going to make three posts in the series, with this post discussing changes made to key central Pinellas routes. However, due to Hurricane Matthew, I’ve decided to combine the two into one post.
Improving Clearwater and Northern Pinellas Service
Various routes in Central and Northern Pinellas were revised to improve system efficiency and eliminate notoriously long runs that caused entire routes to be inefficient. The most radical change was in North Pinellas, where routes in Dunedin, Tarpon Springs, Countryside, and Clearwater were changed.
With almost never-ending construction on Ulmerton Rd, Route 59 was continually bogged down in delays – which in-turn caused the entire route to run inefficiently. To help remedy this problem, the 59 was truncated at the 34th St N Platform, with the southern sections being taken over by Routes 4 and 9. Weekday frequency was also streamlined to include 15-minute peak service with 30-minute midday service (with the exception of a 15-minute “pulse” during the noon hours), and 40 to 45-minute evening service (after 6:00pm). Weekend service was left unchanged due to funding constraints, but February 2017’s service changes will yield 30-minute Saturday service and buses running through 11:00pm on weekdays, 10:00pm on Saturdays, and 9:00pm on Sundays.
Route 60 saw no major changes, but did see adjustments made to running and departure times to improve efficiency.
Route 61 was extended to Westfield Countryside via SR 580 to create an additional option for those wanting to commute between the Countryside, Dunedin, and Clearwater areas. The area around Palm Lake Village continues to be served, but the segment of SR 580 between Pinehurst Rd and County Rd 1 is no longer served, and the north-south portion in Dunedin was re-aligned to Patricia Ave.
Route 62 no longer serves Safety Harbor, and has instead been realigned to operate along SR 580 and McMullen Booth Rd between Westfield Countryside and the Shoppes at Boot Ranch. Service lost from the 62 was compensated via a revised Dunedin/Palm Harbor Connector.
Since the implementation of the Jolley Trolley Coastal Route back in the late 2000s, service along Alt US Hwy 19 has seen duplication of what could be one single service. PSTA and the company operating the Jolley Trolley agreed to combine the resources of the 66 and the Jolley Trolley Coastal Route into one trolley route. The 66 numbering was retained for a limited stop service that would follow the original local 66’s routing between Clearwater and Tarpon Springs, but service only operates during peak hours on weekdays, in addition to the AM and PM runs to the Clearwater Fundamental Middle School when class is in session.
Route 67 was streamlined so that all trips serve the Nielsen Media Research Campus in Oldsmar. The Forest Lakes Blvd segment between Commerce Rd and Tampa Rd was eliminated. Those in the southern portion of the Forest Lakes subdivision can still use the Tampa/Oldsmar Connector.
Route 76 did not see significant changes to its routing or schedule, but an intermittent service area was added in Downtown Clearwater in the event that the route needs to be detoured due to downtown events.
Route 78’s Dunedin portion was re-aligned to serve the Douglas Ave portion of the 61. Scheduling changes were also made.
Changes to the North County Connector
The Tampa/Oldsmar Connector was re-aligned to serve Belcher Rd instead of Countryside Blvd due to demand. Schedules have also been streamlined to where buses now operate every hour on Saturdays, instead of every hour and 15 minutes with the prior route, and buses run a bit later in the day as well.
The Dunedin/Palm Harbor Connector was re-aligned to serve the Safety Harbor/Main St portion of Route 62, while the limited trips to the St. Petersburg College Tarpon Springs Campus was eliminated due to low ridership. Schedules have also been streamlined and buses run a bit later than they used to under the old route.
Starting February 5, 2017, PSTA will enact another round of service changes that will usher in expanded service for many Pinellas routes. This is able to be done thanks to the increase in the millage rate that PSTA receives from property tax revenues.
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