Category Archives: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)

PSTA Bus Fleet – September, 2018

Something that I don’t talk about too often via a blog post is bus fleet changes. And for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), there’s been a ton going on recently – old buses leaving, new buses arriving or on order, and sadly…buses getting into accidents.

#2116 at Williams Park. I last saw this bus in operation back in February, 2018.

First and foremost, let’s begin with the oldest fleet of buses in the PSTA fleet, the 2001-series 40′ Gillig Low Floors. These buses were true powerhouses back when they were new. One of my bus operator friends loved to drive them regularly in fact because of how they drove. While many of them still ran good up until 2016, the usual reliability issues came into play and the lifespan of a few – including #2109 – exceeded 15 years. Because of this, the 2100s were utilized solely as contingency spares (in the event that another bus broke down) after 2015. Many had been retired in 2016 and 2017, but a few – including #2109 – remained on the roster through the beginning of 2018. In fact, I last spotted #2109 on contingency duty as recently as April of 2018.

Since June of 2018, I’ve noticed that all of the remaining 2100s are no longer going out on the road. This can only mean that they’ve been officially decommissioned in preparation for the arrival of 9 new 2018-series 35′ Gillig Low Floors and 2 new 2018-series 35′ BYD K9 Battery Electric buses. The Gillig order will be virtually identical to the 2017-series buses that hit the road last year. In addition to the 11 new buses, 8 new 2018-series 27′ Freightliner Defender cutaway vans have arrived – slated to replace the aging 2002 and 2005 29′ Gillig Low Floors that are currently in use on the North County Connector routes. The original order of 2012 27′ Ford E450 cutaway vans were retired early in 2015 due to various mechanical defects – thus resulting in the holdover of the 2002 and 2005 “baby” Gilligs.

Between now and late 2020, a total of six 35′ BYD K9 battery electric buses (like this one) will be delivered to PSTA. Four are slated to be used on the Downtown St. Pete “Looper” system and two for a future circulator route in the Carillon Business Park.

With all of these new vehicles coming into the fleet, it made sense to completely phase out the 2100s to make room at the yard for them. In addition, the 9 remaining 2002-series 40′ Gillig Low Floors – which have also been running contingency duty – will be slowly phased out of the fleet over the next year to make way for 9 more 35′ Gillig Low Floor buses and 2 more 35′ BYD K9 buses (both 2019 models). In 2020, PSTA is slated to order 6 more 35′ Gilligs and now there are 2 more 35′ BYDs on the list due to another wave of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) “Lo-No” funds that were granted to the agency just last month. This makes a grand total of 38 buses that will be coming to the PSTA fleet – mostly to replace older vehicles that have exceeded their useful lives.

Created by HARTride 2012.

Now, let me go ahead and get into the last part of this post, since I’ve discussed both the old and the new buses. I have to now bring up the ugly – which is that several PSTA buses were recently involved in accidents. Bus # 15104 (a 2015 40′ Gillig Low Floor hybrid with the BRT design) was rear-ended by a municipal garbage truck last year while finishing a run on route 59 and has been out of service since. The PSTA board recently voted to allow the agency to have the bus hauled off to Tavares, FL – where Coach Crafters will make the necessary repairs to get the bus back in tip top shape for revenue service. See board meeting agenda (item 5E).

The second incident to note involved #2706 back in June of 2018. The bus operator apparently suffered a medical episode and wound up crashing the bus into a concrete utility pole – but not before a good Samaritan jumped aboard the bus to try to stop it. Miraculously, there were no other vehicles involved in the incident, no contact with pedestrians, and no other major property damage. However, due to substantial front-end damage to the bus caused by the collision with the utility pole, it will be out of service for quite a while. I’m not sure if #2706 will follow the same fate as #15104.

Regardless of the incident, any kind of accident involving a transit bus puts strain on the overall fleet because operational spares have to be used more often when breakdowns occur. Just the other day, I saw half of the 2200s out in revenue service to fill in for those buses who had either broken down or were involved in recent accidents.

As I wrap up this post, I want to give a quick shout out to transitaddict327 for giving me inspiration to create this post. I invite you to read up on his blog about the VIA Metropolitan Transit system in San Antonio, TX.


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Summer Service Changes – PSTA, HART, LYNX, SunRail, Votran

This post was last updated on 06/19/2018
More information has been released regarding the upcoming service changes for LYNX, SunRail, & Votran

It’s that time again…service changes, service changes, service changes!

In this post, I will outline some of the key changes that are coming to the following transit agencies: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (d.b.a. LYNX), SunRail Commuter Rail, & Volusia County Transit (Votran).

Please note that with some of the agencies, further detailed information may not be available immediately as of this posting. Updates will be made when that information becomes available. This post is meant to present a general level overview of some of the key changes that will be enacted during the course of the next two months.

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)

PSTA is enacting several map/scheduling/time point changes on Sunday, June 17, 2018, which can be viewed on the PSTA website. The most significant changes however will take place the following day, Monday, June 18, 2018 – when Routes 100X & 300X will be officially re-launched as extended versions of their current selves. This will allow both routes to each serve a key area in the Tampa Bay region that wasn’t previously served by a PSTA express bus route.

  • Route 100X – St. Petersburg/Gateway/Tampa Express: Thanks to additional Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Urban Corridor Project funding, the 100X will be extended southward to serve Downtown St. Petersburg via Interstate 275. All existing points (Gateway Mall, Britton Plaza in South Tampa, and Downtown Tampa) will continue to be served as they are today, with the limited trips to the Fidelity National (FIS) complex on Roosevelt Blvd & 16th Ct N being kept. The overall span of service within the existing route will largely remain the same, but adjustments to the schedule have been made to account for the Downtown St. Petersburg leg, thus creating an expansion to the overall span of service when the extension is accounted for.
    • The redesigned Route 100X will continue to operate Monday through Friday only, but will have a peak-hour frequency of roughly every 45 to 50 minutes, instead of the current 30 to 60 minute frequency. The midday trips have also been re-timed.
    • Buses will originate in Downtown St. Pete, at The Pier District (2nd Ave N, just east of the Sundial Shoppes where the Central Ave Trolley terminates), with the first trip of the morning departing at 4:42am.
    • From The Pier District, buses will circulate through the downtown area – serving all designated bus stops along the way – before entering the interstate system via I-375. Buses will then exit I-375 and enter I-275 north, then exiting at 54th Ave N.
    • From 54th Ave N, southbound/westbound buses travel along MLK St N while northbound/eastbound buses use 4th St N to enter/exit Gateway Mall.
    • From Gateway Mall eastward, the existing routing is used. The last trip from downtown St. Pete will be at 5:42pm.
  • Route 300X – Gateway/TPA Airport/Tampa Express (re-branded as the “Airport Express”): With the opening of the bus transfer hub at Tampa International Airport’s Rental Car Center, PSTA began formulating plans to alter Route 300X service while longer term plans for a direct express route from Clearwater Beach to Tampa continue to materialize. FDOT Urban Corridor funding will allow for the 300X to serve the TPA Airport Bus Hub on most trips while maintaining hourly peak service & the limited midday trips. Two trips (one AM eastbound & one PM westbound) will be kept as direct trips between the Ulmerton Rd Park-N-Ride Lot & Downtown Tampa via I-275. The overall span of service will remain largely the same – with a slightly earlier start time & somewhat later end time.
    • The redesigned Route 300X will continue to operate Monday through Friday only, with peak frequency changing to operate hourly versus the existing schedule. The midday trips have also been re-timed.
    • Buses will continue to originate at the Ulmerton Rd Park-N-Ride Lot on Ulmerton Rd, just east of Starkey Rd. The only major routing change is that most trips will now serve the TPA Airport Bus Hub, where customers from Pinellas can easily transfer to HART Routes 30, 32, 35, 60LX, & 275LX. Future plans also include Pasco Transit launching its own express route from central Pasco County to the bus hub.
    • The first eastbound trip of the morning will be at 6:10am, with the last trip being 6:20pm.
    • Only the 7:00AM Eastbound trip from the Ulmerton Rd Park-N-Ride Lot & the 4:55PM Westbound trip from HART’s Marion Transit Center will skip the airport. These trips will travel between Downtown Tampa and the Gateway area directly. These trips are being retained as direct trips to/from Downtown Tampa due to concerns from customers who use the existing 300X during the height of rush hour to get to/from work.
  • Other Changes: Minor map/scheduling/time point changes will be made to Routes 5, 7, 14, 15, 16, 20, 68, & the Dunedin/Palm Harbor Flex Connector (Route 813).

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART)

HART will be enacting similar changes to some of its bus routes on Sunday, July 1, 2018, which can be viewed on the HART website (Select the Routes drop-down menu and scroll to the “HART Service Changes – Effective 71/18” section to view maps and schedules). The most significant changes will include the replacement of Route 51LX with Route 275LX, the addition of Route 48 – which restores service to key areas of northeastern Hillsborough that was lost when Route 57 was eliminated in October, 2017, and the elimination of the Downtown Tampa In-Towner Trolley Services due to ultra-low ridership.

  • Route 14 – Armenia Ave: Weekday service will be completely re-timed to reflect traffic patterns during the day. Buses will now depart roughly every 30 to 35 minutes. Weekend frequency will remain unchanged.
  • Route 48 – Temple Terrace: One of the biggest complaints by far that I’ve seen since the Mission MAX system restructuring was implemented back in October of 2017 was the elimination of Route 57 through Temple Terrace. The 57 was eliminated due to lower ridership & high upkeep costs, but many residents complained that they were left with no avenue to get to work or other destinations in Hillsborough without the route in place. While these residents clamored for HART to revive the 57, the route in its previous form was not going to return due to certain areas having ultra-low ridership levels. However, talks for a replacement service to serve key areas where residents were left with no service begin gaining traction during the late winter of 2017, when Hillsborough County officials began discussing the possibility of additional funding for the transit system. While a recurring funding arrangement failed to be reached, a one-time infusion was agreed upon to provide additional funds for service maintenance and expansion through FY 2018.
    • The routing for the 48 will be similar to how the 57 operated, with buses originating at the NetPark Transfer Center on 56th St & Harney Rd. Buses will leave the transfer center going south on 56th to Harney Rd, then 78th St, Temple Terrace Hwy, Davis Rd, Morris Bridge Rd, and then Fowler Ave. The previous segment of the 57 along 56th St and Fletcher Ave will not be served by the 48 due to the 6 already serving those areas. 42nd St & Skipper Rd just north of the USF Tampa campus will also not be served by the 48. Buses will instead continue down Fowler Ave to 30th St, where they will connect to the University Area Transit Center.
    • Service will run hourly, with weekday service starting at 5:30AM & running through 9:30PM. Weekend service will pretty much mirror the weekday schedule.
  • Routes 51LX/275LX: Due to the continuing decline in ridership of Route 51LX, which runs from Pasco County to Downtown Tampa via Temple Terrace, HART will be eliminating the route entirely & replacing East Pasco to Downtown Tampa Limited Express service with Route 275LX. The 275LX will operate all week long instead of just during weekday peak hours with hourly frequency, plus service to Tampa International Airport. The agency is re-allocating its funds through the FDOT Urban Corridor Project to fund the 275LX service.
    • With the 275LX, buses will originate at the Wiregrass Park-N-Ride Lot in Wesley Chapel, then travel down Bruce B. Downs Blvd to the Lowe’s Park-N-Ride Lot near I-75 in Tampa Palms. From there, buses will make a stop at the University Area Transit Center via Bruce B. Downs Blvd, then to Downtown Tampa & the Marion Transit Center via Fowler Ave & I-275. The segment along Bruce B. Downs Blvd & Fowler Ave will essentially restore basic service to areas along these corridors that were lost when Route 45 was re-aligned & Route 57 was eliminated back in October, 2017.
    • From the Marion Transit Center, buses will re-enter I-275 and terminate at the Tampa International Airport Bus Hub at the Rental Car Center, with departures synchronizing with Route 60LX so that customers traveling between the airport & downtown can enjoy a roughly 30 minute headway. Service on the 275LX itself will be hourly, with service starting up at approximately 5:10AM & running through about 10:00PM. Two trips will originate at the Marion Transit Center going to Tampa International Airport & the other two will originate at the University Area Transit Center going to Wiregrass. In the evening, trips will stagger to end at either transit center between 9:50PM & 11:00PM. Weekend schedules will basically mirror the weekday schedule.
  • In-Towner Services: Due to the continuing decline in ridership, Routes 96 & 97 will be eliminated. Customers wishing to traverse through Downtown Tampa can utilize Routes 1, 8, or 19, with Routes 1 & 19 serving western Downtown & the Riverfront, & Route 8 serving eastern Downtown & the Channelside District. Customers can also use the Downtowner free shuttle service provided by the Tampa-Downtown Partnership. Talks are currently underway as to the possibility of the partnership transferring operation of the shuttle service to HART.
  • HyperLINK Service: Despite the initial success of the HyperLINK ride-share type program, various factors – including whether there would be future commitments to run the service by private sector vendors – have prompted HART to end the service. Service in all zones will wind down on July 31, 2018.
  • Other Changes: Minor map/scheduling/time point changes will be made to Routes 1, 25LX, 31, 42, & 45.

Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (d.b.a. LYNX) & SunRail Commuter Rail

In anticipation of the opening of Phase II of SunRail from Sand Lake Rd in southern Orlando to Poinciana, LYNX is making key changes to the bus network in Osceola County, along with changes to other routes in the overall network to improve system efficiency.

Xpress Route 208, which currently runs from the SunRail Sand Lake Rd Station to the Kissimmee Intermodal Station, will end services on Friday, July 27, 2018. SunRail trains begin operating between the Sand Lake Rd & Poinciana Stations the following Monday, July 30, 2018.

Also in anticipation for the SunRail extension, a new route will be created in Osceola County – Route 155 – which will serve The Loop, Osceola Parkway, Tupperware SunRail Station and Buena Ventura Lakes.

You may view all of the upcoming changes – most of which will become effective on Sunday, July 15, 2018 – on the LYNX website. Further updates will be made when schedules for each individual route become available.

The new SunRail schedule is now available on the SunRail website by selecting the banner on the homepage. A PDF file will then open with the new schedule.

Volusia County Transit (Votran)

Votran has an odd tendency to not post service changes in a very timely manner. However this time, they’ve posted a week ahead regarding the launch of Route 44 in the New Smyrna Beach area. This route will connect the Julia St & Sams Ave transfer point in downtown NSB to the WalMart supercenter & Shoppes at Coronado complexes on the northwest corner of SR 44 & I-95. Buses will then travel eastward to the beachside, to Indian River Village, before heading back to the downtown NSB transfer point. Service begins on Monday, June 25, 2018 and will operate on a flag-stop system until permanent stops are constructed.

Further updates will be made when the new schedule & map are posted.


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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

FB_IMG_1487842544573.jpg

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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