Getting Around Pinellas During Spring Break 2019

Avoid parking & traffic hassles, use transit this Spring Break!



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 begin with the award-winning Clearwater Beach, which is a consistent hotspot for tourists & residents alike. Because of the immense amount of people who visit Clearwater throughout the year, peak tourist seasons always bring forth massive amounts of traffic across the Memorial Causeway bridge, & this year will certainly be no exception.

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.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) Clearwater Beach Transit Center – which was constructed last year – will once again become the focal point of beachside transit operations in Clearwater Beach. While this facility provides a safe avenue for tourists & residents to board or de-board a bus on the westbound side of the causeway, the eastbound side has remained a challenge. This year, the agency – with its partners at the City of Clearwater – has constructed a second transit platform by the Clearwater Beach Marina to allow those heading back to Downtown Clearwater a safe avenue to board without having to circle the roundabout.

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 2019 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.

Please keep peeled to the PSTA website for special Spring Break transit promotions!


The Clearwater Ferry

For those who enjoy being out on the water, the Clearwater Ferry is a fun & convenient alternative to crossing the Memorial Causeway. Ferry landings are located alongside Downtown Clearwater, the Clearwater Beach Marina, Island Estates, and the northern end of Clearwater. There’s also a separate route that serves Dunedin, so you can take advantage of that avenue as well! Further information regarding the ferry, including current fares, are available through their website.


Transportation Options to St. Pete Beach

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)
    • Connection to Route 68 is available at John’s Pass. Simply exit the trolley at the stops across from the shopping district and board Route 68 at the northbound-facing stop along Gulf Blvd. You may also transfer by exiting the trolley at any stop along Gulf Blvd between the shopping district & 150th Ave (Tom Stuart Causeway).
  • Reddington Beaches (including Reddington Shores)
    Indian Shores
  • Indian Rocks Beach
    • Connection to Route 59 is available at 4th Ave. Simply exit the trolley at the Gulf Blvd stop by the CVS Pharmacy at 4th Ave & walk one block east to the stop on 4th Ave @ 1st St.
  • 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 into other counties?

If you plan to visit Hillsborough, Pasco, or Manatee County, please see the resources below for further information.


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HART Route 51X Park-N-Ride Change

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) will be enacting a service change on Monday, July 17, 2017 for Route 51X, which serves Downtown Tampa, New Tampa, and southeastern Pasco County during weekday rush hours. The change being made is regarding the Park-N-Ride lots that the route currently serves.

In an effort to better serve the southeastern Pasco communities, and to better position HART and Pasco County Transit for future system growth; a new Park-N-Ride lot is nearing completion in the Wiregrass district of Wesley Chapel, on Bruce B. Downs Blvd just south of the Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel campus.

The opening of the new Park-N-Ride will replace two existing Park-N-Ride facilities, one at the Victorious Life Church on Old Pasco Rd, and the other at the Tampa Korean United Methodist Church on County Line Rd. The last day of operation for the two latter Park-N-Ride lots will be on Friday, July 14, 2017.

To view the new routing and schedule for HART Route 51X, please see the flyer below. Please also check for further updates on www.goHART.org.

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Improving Regional Bus Connections in Tampa Bay

Making inter-county travel via transit even better!

With the launch of an improved Purple Bus Route in Hernando County and the upcoming cross-bay connection between Pinellas and Manatee Counties, traveling from one county to another couldn’t be any easier!

An illustration showing all intercounty bus routes, as well as key local connections. Please bear in mind that the lines shown on this map may not actually reflect the true routing of the bus lines. Created by HARTride 2012 using Google Maps and Microsoft Paint.
An illustration showing all intercounty bus routes, as well as key local connections. Please bear in mind that the lines shown on this map may not actually reflect the true routing of the bus lines. Created by HARTride 2012 using Google Maps and Microsoft Paint.

As shown in the illustration above, various transit agencies have launched cross-county bus services in order to improve regional connectivity and provide better services overall to their customers. While many of these services only operate during peak weekday hours, they are no less vital to the overall transit structure and will serve as part of the broader plan for a regional fare structure that is currently in development.

Current Services

Now that I’ve outlined which services operate, let’s take a look at each inter-county route in a bit more detail.

Route 18 – Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT): This local Monday through Saturday bus route travels from the Cross Bayou K-Mart near US 19 to Tarpon Springs, where connections to Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) Route 66 are available.

Route 19 – Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT): This local Monday through Saturday bus route travels along US 19 from Tarpon Springs, where connections to PSTA Routes 19 and 66 are available, to Bayonet Point Plaza, where connections to PCPT Route 21 are available. Route 21 in-turn connects to the Scheer Commerce Center, where connections to the Hernando Bus Purple Route are available.

Route 20X – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART): This peak weekday express bus route was established back in the 1980s and allows for customers to connect to Downtown Tampa from Lutz and Lake Magdalene. In 2011, the route was extended into the southern fringe of Central Pasco County, where it begins its AM runs from the Super Target parking lot on County Line Rd and Dale Mabry Hwy. Future expansion of the route could allow for connections to Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT) Route 54.

Route 51X – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART): Introduced during the 2000s, this peak weekday express bus route provides connections between Downtown Tampa, New Tampa, and the Wesley Chapel area of Pasco. PCPT Route 54 connect to the HART service at the Victorious Life Church Park and Ride Lot during selected trips. Future modifications of the route will allow it to better serve Wesley Chapel by serving the Shoppes at Wiregrass and the Florida Hospital campus. Use of the Victorious Life Church Park and Ride Lot will eventually discontinue.

Route 99 – Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) and Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT): Launched in 2004, this Monday through Saturday local route connects Palmetto to Bradenton and Sarasota. Connections to both agencies routes are available along the way.

Route 100X – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA): Introduced in 1985 as a HART route, PSTA took over the 100X in 1993 and midday trips have since been added to what was originally a peak only weekday express route. This route currently connects Downtown Tampa to South Tampa and the Gateway region of St. Petersburg, but future plans have the route being extended towards Downtown St. Petersburg and the addition of Saturday service is not too far off either.

Route 200X – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART): Route 200X started out as a state-operated experimental shuttle in the 1970s. By the 1980s, it had become a vital connection between Downtown Tampa and eastern Clearwater. The route currently operates during peak hours, Monday through Friday, but modification could occur if a planned Clearwater Beach to Tampa International Airport express route is launched.

Route 300X – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA): Launched in 2003, this peak weekday express route provides connections between the Ulmerton Rd Park and Ride Lot on Ulmerton Rd and Starkey Rd, and Downtown Tampa. Midday trips are provided and future expansion could hold more trips for this service.

The Oldsmar/Tampa/Countryside Flex Connector – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA): Launched in 2012, the OTC Flex Connector provides Monday through Saturday cutaway van service to the Countryside/Boot Ranch area of Pinellas, as well as Oldsmar and Town-N-Country. The route’s western terminus is Countryside Mall and the eastern terminus is HART’s Northwest Transfer Center. Both transfer hubs provide connections to both agencies own routes. Customers wishing to continue from Town-N-Country from the Flex route can use HART Route 30, and those wanting to connect from Countryside Mall can use PSTA Route 19 to get to St. Petersburg’s Grand Central Station, the Pinellas Park Transit Center, or Tarpon Springs. For those wanting to travel toward Downtown Clearwater, PSTA Routes 76 and 78 can get you there.

The Longboat Key Trolley (Route 18) – Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) and Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) Not Shown on the Map Above: The Longboat Key Trolley provides a cross-county beach-side connection from Downtown Sarasota to Longboat Key. Those wishing to go northward can connect to the Anna Maria Trolley, and connections to MCAT Route 6 is also available.

The Hernando Bus Purple Route: While the Purple Route has been in service for some time now, the western terminus fell short of the Pasco/Hernando County Line. In January of 2016, this changed when the route was extended to the Scheer Commerce Center, allowing for connections to PCPT Route 21. The Purple Route operates only Monday through Friday.

The Skyway ConneXion – Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT): Launching on April 1, 2016, the Monday through Friday two-round-trip express route will allow for connections between the MCAT and PSTA systems via I-275. The route will operate as a pilot for the first few months to evaluate ridership demand.

Megabus Service to Orlando and Miami Not Shown on the Map Above: Megabus.com launched its Florida intercity bus services in 2014 and allows for connections to nearly all major Florida cities.

Redcoach and Greyhound also provide intercity bus services to many major Florida cities.

Filling in the missing links

While the above services lay the foundation for vital inter-county connections, more funding is needed to expand upon what we have and allow for even more connections to other counties in the future. PSTA and HART are both currently planning  additional connections between Pinellas and Hillsborough, specifically to connect to Tampa International Airport, which is currently only served by HART Route 30. HART also has short term plans to enhance its New Tampa and Central Pasco service, as well as longer term plans to provide even more service to Pasco, as well as create connections to Manatee and Polk Counties. Hopefully one day, one can be able to seamlessly travel throughout the entire Central Florida Region via transit; including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, Manatee, Sarasota, Polk, Osceola, Orange, Lake, Seminole, and Volusia Counties.


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