Category Archives: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)

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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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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OneBusAway Support For PSTA Ends 1/31/18

Update: As of 2/7/18, entries for the PSTA routes are still showing on OBA, but data is no longer being fed over to the interface. The entries will be removed entirely around 2/18/18, when PSTA performs its next GTFS update to coincide with the 2/18/18 service changes. As of 2/25/18, all PSTA GTFS data has been removed from OBA.

I first reported on March 24, 2016 that the OneBusAway interface for the Tampa Bay region began showing General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) in addition to data for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART). The two were working together for a time on a common real-time transit tracking application that could one day be rolled out region-wide as part of the broader Regional Fare Collection Project.

However, since late 2017, I’ve learned that those collaboration efforts were coming an to end, partly because the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) was unable to obtain funding needed to expand OneBusAway (OBA) functionality across Pasco, Hernando, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties. This effort was further complicated by the recent restructuring of TBARTA and other issues.

By the end of 2017, it was decided that while collaboration work would continue with Flamingo Fares Tampa Bay, work to bring the two agencies together on OBA would not proceed. HART decided to build upon OBA Tampa on its own, while PSTA officially endorsed the Transit App. Transit App works similarly to OBA, but with different functionality – including the ability to show Direct Connect zones, which PSTA heavily favors over OBA. Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) in the Long Island region of New York also uses the Transit App and has found much success with it so far.

Because the collaboration between HART & PSTA is coming to end when it comes to real-time transit tracking, PSTA will officially remove all of its GTFS data from OBA – for good – after Wednesday, January 31, 2018. PSTA customers who are needing to access real-time transit arrivals information will have access to one of the following avenues:

  • Clever Devices: The Clever Devices interface, which PSTA installed back in 2012, will remain in place. This includes the desktop site, electronic message boards at transfer points, InfoLine capabilities (by calling 727-540-1900), and automated on-board announcements.
  • Transit App: The Transit App for smartphones can be downloaded for both Android & iPhone users. The app is free to download and very easy to use. I will demonstrate how to use the app at a later date.

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My experience using the MCAT Skyway ConneXion bus line

Travelling between Pinellas and Manatee Counties has always been a challenge. Being that there has been no public transit services, outside of any intercity bus lines (i.e. Greyhound), everyone is pretty much left to drive from A to B. That picture changed on April 1, 2016 with the introduction of Manatee County Area Transit’s Skyway ConneXion express bus line (Route 203).

The route operates Monday through Friday between MCAT’s DeSoto transfer station and the Bay Pines VA Hospital near St. Pete. Stops in between include MCAT’s Palmetto and Bradenton hubs, Tyrone Square Mall (street-side stop), and a stop near the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)’s Grand Central Station. While there are only two round trips along the route (one AM and one PM), there are longer term plans for expansion should funding and ridership dictate. From what I’ve heard, many Manatee County area residents like the route and PSTA has been working with MCAT to try and spread the word about the route in Pinellas. If you are a PSTA rider, you probably have noticed links to MCAT’s website on the recently revamped PSTA.net, along with a link on the Schedules/Maps page to the MCAT route. On MCAT’s website, references to PSTA.net are up as well.

In April of 2017, roughly a year after the route’s launch, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council awarded MCAT and Manatee County Government a first place award as part of the 25th annual Future of the Region Awards. This award recognized MCAT’s efforts to plan and launch an innovative regional service at a time where regional transit connectivity is becoming more important to Tampa Bay but few avenues are available to establish new regional services.


MCAT bus #50746 making its northbound AM trek to the Bay Pines VA Hospital.

Travel Log

With the above all said, I’d like to now take a few moments to share my own experience using the Skyway ConneXion service. Now to be very honest, when the service was first announced in March of 2016, I thought it was an April Fools scheme, and it took me a while to realize that it indeed wasn’t. Once I did realize that this service was becoming a reality, I began planning a day where I could hop aboard the bus and take a trip to one of my favorite Manatee County destinations.

Every now and then, I like to stop by the Red Barn Flea Market on US Hwy 301 in Bradenton to see what kinds of items I can find. Usually, I would make the drive down I-275 and the Sunshine Skyway, and then park my car at the market’s parking lot. However, on May 20, 2016, I decided not to make that drive. I instead left my car at my apartment and walked down to the bus stop off MLK St N and 94th Ave N. I then connected to PSTA Route 59 (this was prior to Route 59 being truncated to Ulmerton Rd only) to Downtown St. Pete and the Central Ave Trolley to Grand Central Station. I then walked over to the stop on US Hwy 19 near 1st Ave S to wait for the MCAT bus to arrive.

I made sure to time my departures correctly so that I could catch the MCAT bus on time, given the limited schedule. I also made sure to have $10.00 cash on hand for the day pass. $10.00 may seem pricey for some, but when you compare riding the bus to driving and having to pay tolls, $10.00 can go a long way. The day pass issued on board the Route 203 bus is also valid for all local routes in the MCAT system.

Catching the bus to Bradenton was a breeze!

When the bus pulled up, I was greeted by a very friendly operator and I immediately informed her that I was getting a day pass. I inserted my $10.00 bill into the farebox and obtained my pass. Turning around to take a seat, I quickly realized that I was the only customer on board the bus – and it would remain that way for the entire duration of the trip.

The bus made a quick stop at the Palmetto Station in Palmetto before stopping at the Downtown Bradenton Station, where I got off and transferred over to Route 3. I then took Route 3 to US Hwy 301 and 9th Ave and walked the rest of the way to the Red Barn. All in all, the journey from Pinellas to the Red Barn took roughly an hour and the same was said for the journey back. I decided to spend about an hour at the flea market before having to return to the Downtown Bradenton Station for the return trip back to Pinellas. While I did not find the items that I was looking for at the market, I was able to allot enough time to grab a bite to eat at the food court. The Red Barn has over 500 vendors, including the farmer’s market outside.

To return to the Downtown Bradenton Station, I decided to walk along US Hwy 301, 9th Ave, and 13th St W, as the Route 2 already passed by when I was still eating my lunch. However, the weather was not bad considering it was still a cooler time of year. Once I returned to the terminal, I only waited about ten minutes before the bus pulled into the station with the same operator behind the wheel as that morning. I quickly boarded the bus, swiped my pass, and relaxed for the trip back to Pinellas.

It’s great when you’re not having to do the driving over the Sunshine Skyway!

While the Skyway ConneXion is definitely a good start for Manatee/Pinellas bus service, more needs to be done to improve the regional transit connectivity in Tampa Bay. One step to achieve that be adding limited express routes from Hillsborough into Manatee as well as Hillsborough into Polk – both of which are on Hillsborough Area Regional Transit’s long-term radar. Of course, we have no clue if or when the funds will come around.


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PSTA, four other FL transit agencies, snag FTA Low-No Grants

Even though Hurricane Irma brought a lot of uncertainty to Florida’s transit agencies this past couple of weeks, there has been some very good news to help balance things out.

On September 15, 2017, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the 51 recipients of the Low or No Emission (Low-No) Vehicle Program grant. The grant, totaling $55 million dollars across 39 states, is aimed at helping transit agencies across the nation to obtain, improve, and expand bus fleets that emit little to no carbon emissions – including battery electric buses.

If you’ve read my previous posts about the battery electric bus journey at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), then you’ll be very delighted to hear that PSTA was among five agencies here in Florida to be awarded some of the FTA Low-No grant money! The $1 million awarded to PSTA will be used to help cement the agency’s commitment to purchase 2 battery electric buses per year, starting in FY 2020, by being able to have the funds available to purchase additional battery electric bus charging stations and buses.

As some of you already know, PSTA will be getting its first 2 battery electric buses towards the end of the year or early 2018 to be used on a planned shuttle route along Downtown St. Pete’s Beach Drive. PSTA leadership has shown their commitment to expanding the battery electric bus purchases beyond the initial pilot, and being granted the FTA money will allow the agency to fulfill that commitment.

The other four FL transit agencies that earned Low-No grant funds from the FTA include Tallahassee’s StarMetro – which already posses a small fleet of battery electric buses, Broward County Transit, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, and Gainesville’s Regional Transit System.

Please join me in congratulating all five of these wonderful transit agencies, as well as all of the recipients of the FTA grant!


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Updates to the OneBusAway interface for Tampa Bay

During the past week, a couple of updates have been made to OneBusAway for Tampa Bay, particularly the smartphone app.


Bike Share Layer

The folks at Coast Bike Share have been working with Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) and the Center for Urban Transportation Research to add capabilities to the OneBusAway smartphone app that would all customers riding a HART or a Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus to not only find bike share hubs, but also view how many bikes are available and even initiate the reservation process – all in one place! Thanks to a new layer added in the app, you can now do just that!

When you open up the OBA app, you’ll notice the new Layer button above the Geolocation button. Tap the Layer button to view the options available.

When you view the list options to display, anything in gray will not be viewable until you tap the option that you wish to view. For now, only the Bike Share option is available. In the future however, added capabilities will allow for other options to be added – yes, I sense a HyperLINK option being added later on for HART.

When you’ve tapped the option that you want to view, the button will turn blue.

Now you can view all of the Coast Bike Share hubs, indicated by the blue “P” marker. These will show in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties – allowing you to plan what bus route to take to your particular destination AND view where the closest Coast hub is to your destination bus stop.

To view how many bikes are available at a particular hub, tap the hub marker that you wish to view and then a box appears showing the total number of spaces at that hub – and how many bikes are available to reserve. Once you’ve zeroed in on the hub that’s closest to your destination stop (that has bikes available), tap on the “Tap to reserve a bike” link and you’ll be directed to the Social Bicycles application to begin the reservation process.

If you have questions about how to use the Social Bicycles application or to learn more about Coast Bike Share and how it works, please visit the Coast Bike Share website.


HART Mission MAX Updates

In addition to the Bike Share capabilities, HART is also making gradual changes to the app to reflect the upcoming “Mission MAX” system restructuring.

The OBA Desktop Interface showing the existing and re-aligned (MAX) Route 5 through the USF area. Click the image for a larger view.

When you open the OBA app, or view the desktop site, you’ll notice that some routes will have additional placeholders for the post-restructured routing and stops. The existing routing and stops will be viewable until October 8, 2017 – when the system restructuring takes effect – but HART is getting the work done now so that customers can be able to catch a bus without worry once the restructuring takes effect.


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PSTA June 4, 2017 Service Changes

On Sunday, June 4, 2017, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) will be enacting scheduling changes to the Central Ave Trolley, as well as Routes 18, 34, 66L, and 67. The most significant changes will be to the trolley and Route 34.

New schedules are available at www.psta.net.


Central Ave Trolley

The Central Ave Trolley (Route 35) will see the following changes to improve efficiency and also allow better connections to the Suncoast Beach Trolley during the week.

Monday through Thursday:
*Streamlined departures (buses will depart every 20 minutes during the day, and every 30 minutes during the evening).
*6:10AM trip from Grand Central will now travel to Pass-A-Grille.
*First AM trip leaving The Pier Parking Lots will now be at 6:05AM.
*10:50PM trip to Downtown St. Pete, will travel all the way to The Pier Parking Lots.

Fridays:
*Streamlined departures (buses will depart every 20 minutes during the day, and every 30 minutes during the evening).
*Last departure to Downtown St. Pete will now be 11:50PM
*Last departure to Pass-A-Grille will now be 10:35PM
*Last departure to 75th Ave/Gulf Blvd will now be 11:05PM

Saturdays:
*Streamlined departures (buses will depart every 30 minutes all day).
*6:30AM trip from 75th Ave/Gulf Blvd will be eliminated (unproductive trip).
*Last departure to The Pier Parking Lots will now be at 11:00PM.
*10:10PM round trip from The Pier Parking Lots will still terminate at Grand Central Station on the eastbound return, but will now depart from the lots at 10:15PM.
*After the 10:15PM departure from The Pier Parking Lots, buses will run to 75th Ave/Gulf Blvd only (these departures will be at 10:45PM, 11:15PM, and 11:45PM). Last buses leaving 75th Ave/Gulf Blvd will be 12:05AM and 12:30AM.

Sundays:
*Streamlined departures (buses will depart every 30 minutes all day).
*Last departure to The Pier Parking Lots will now be at 11:00PM.
*10:10PM round trip from The Pier Parking Lots will still terminate at Grand Central Station on the eastbound return, but will now depart from the lots at 10:15PM.


Route 18

*Downtown St. Pete terminating point will now be at 1st Ave N and 6th St N, instead of 1st Ave N and 3rd St
N.
*Last southbound Weekday trip (at 11:05PM) will now terminate in Downtown St. Pete, instead of Seminole City
Center.
*Minor running time changes.


Route 34

*Sunday frequency will increase from every 60 minutes (running two buses) to every 50 minutes (running three
buses).


Route 66L

*The 5:10AM and 6:15AM southbound departures from Pinellas Ave and Dodecanese Blvd will now start at Tarpon
Ave and Huey Ave (behind Tarpon Mall) at 5:00AM and 6:05AM respectively.
*Timepoint and running time corrections have been made.


Route 67

*Minor running time changes.


For more information regarding the above changes, or to voice any questions or concerns, please contact PSTA at (727)-540-1900, or visit www.psta.net.


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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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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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PSTA OCTOBER 2, 2016 SERVICE CHANGES – PARTS 2 AND 3

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.


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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.


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route-60Route 60 saw no major changes, but did see adjustments made to running and departure times to improve efficiency.

 


IMG_20160325_072210route-61Route 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-62Route 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.


route-66lSince 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.

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route-67Route 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-76Route 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-78Route 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.


What’s Next?

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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(Note: All links above have been updated to reflect the new website)