Category Archives: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)

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.

5ad047b7-2aa0-40a1-9284-a80dcad5d1da

  • 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.
bfad869a-61bb-420b-babd-c500c16f8cf2
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.


img_20160927_070803-captioned-and-watermarked

 

route-59

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.


15113-route-60-2016-09-03-captioned

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.

IMG_20151205_074133

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)

PSTA October 2, 2016 Service Changes – Part 1

psta-october-2016-service-change-banner-1

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. In this post; I will go into detail regarding each of the changes for southern and a portion of central Pinellas, as well as share some images of the new services that PSTA now operates.


Streamlining South & Central County Service

PSTA has long been known for operating notoriously long bus routes by which it can take as much as two to three hours to traverse Pinellas County. While longer routes tend to provide a convenient, one-seat option for some; the lengthier the bus route, the more chances that reliability issues will arise. In the case of many central Pinellas routes; buses were running well behind schedule due to traffic conditions and/or construction on key corridors – like Ulmerton Rd. When buses fall behind on one segment of the route, the entire route becomes bogged down in delays, and that in-turn inconveniences the customer.

To help remedy this problem, PSTA decided to modify routes so that they can operate more smoothly. These measures included splitting some routes into two or three segments so that better service can be provided and maintained on the busiest portions while maintaining basic (hourly or less frequent) service in areas that don’t see high ridership demand. Other changes included combining segments of two routes that would otherwise be too short to operate on their own (while not being notoriously long either), and moving/eliminating a portion of an existing route and allow another route or service to easily compensate for any service lost.


#15105 travels northbound on Roosevelt Blvd N, towards the 34th St Transfer Center (PSTA Facility).
#15105 travels northbound on Roosevelt Blvd N, towards the 34th St Transfer Center (PSTA Facility).

 route-4Route 4 maintains its frequent 15-minute weekday service during the day – with 30-minute frequency after 6:30pm and all day on Saturdays. Hourly service is maintained on Sundays and Holidays. However, the segment north of Gateway Mall now travels up MLK St N to Roosevelt Blvd, 28th St N, 118th Ave N, and 34th St N – taking over the path of Route 59 to the 34th St Transfer Center (PSTA Facility). The northern (116th Ave N/Goodwill Industries) loops previously served by Route 4, have been shifted over to a new Route 9, which I will describe in a few moments. In addition to the above; the Coquina Key Loop is now a timepoint. This means that buses serving the loop will display “via Coquina” on the head signs.

While I was very concerned about the routing that Route 4 would ultimately take, I have to say that I am very satisfied with how the final routing turned out. Not only will I be able to use the same bus stops that I’ve been using previously to board and de-board Route 59, but I will also enjoy a one-seat ride into the heart of Downtown St. Petersburg via 4th St N. The frequency of the 4 during the weekdays and on Saturdays will also allow me to be more flexible with my work commute schedule, and also make quick runs to the store – particularly Trader Joe’s on 4th St N – without having to drive or wait up to an hour for a connecting bus.


#10109 was the inaugural bus on the new Route 9, which takes over the southernmost portion of Route 59.
#10109 was the inaugural bus on the new Route 9, which takes over the southernmost portion of Route 59 and the northernmost portion of Route 4.

route-9As I mentioned earlier, the 116th Ave N/Goodwill Industries loops that were previously served by Route 4 are now served by the new Route 9. The 9 operates every 30 minutes on weekdays with hourly service on the weekends (though for some reason, the buses do run a bit more oddly on Sundays). Buses serving the loops will do so in the same clockwise fashion that Route 4 previously did on Sundays and Holidays – departing Gateway Mall and serving 116th Ave N first, then the Goodwill Industries facility on Gandy Blvd, before returning to Gateway Mall. From Gateway Mall southward, the 9 takes over the southernmost segment of Route 59 to Downtown St. Pete.

In the early stages of planning and public input, the 9 was to only operate hourly seven days a week This did not pan out well with a lot of customers – as many businesses lie along the MLK St N corridor and they (the customers) felt that it was a disservice to them if bus service went down from 20 to 30 minutes to an hour on weekdays. PSTA eventually revised the proposal to include 30-minute weekday service while maintaining hourly weekend service.


#2709 travels down 94th Ave N on Route 74.
#2709 travels down 94th Ave N on Route 74.

route-74Route 74 through central Pinellas has been split into three separate routes. The 74 is maintained between Seminole City Center (formerly Seminole Mall) and Gateway Mall. The 20 to 30-minute weekday frequency and hourly weekend service are retained. In addition, the 102nd Ave N/16th St N/94th Ave N loop has become permanent.

Splitting the 74 allows the Park Blvd portion to retain its frequent weekday service while opening the door to more frequent Saturday service and better Sunday service down the road should funding allow for it.

#2510 is the lone bus for Route 16's inaugural service.
#2510 is the lone bus for Route 16’s inaugural service.

route-16

The segment south of Gateway Mall is now Route 16, which operates each day with one bus every hour. While I prefer that this route operate with 30 to 45-minute weekday service, it is probably not possible to do so at the moment, given PSTA’s limited resources. I do hope that frequency on the weekdays will be increased later on so that customers aren’t too inconvenienced.

10103-route-65-2016-10-04-captioned-and-watermarked

route-65The segment west of Seminole City Center is now Route 65, which also takes over the southernmost segment of Route 66 – the latter I will describe in a later post. Route 65 operates each day on an hourly schedule between Seminole City Center and the Park St Terminal in Downtown Clearwater. Buses traveling on the 65 will not enter the Indian Rocks Shopping Center at the northwest corner of Ulmerton Rd and Indian Rocks Rd. Street-side transfers can be made to Routes 59 and 61 from the bus stops along Indian Rocks Rd and Ulmerton Rd. Route 61 buses will still enter the shopping center’s parking lot.


2610-route-19-2016-10-04-captioned-and-watermarked

route-19Route 19 was first established in 1990 as a one-seat option for customers traveling the entire Pinellas County portion of US Hwy 19. While the service has been very popular and ridership very strong, increased traffic congestion along the highway over the years has created longer delays – especially in northern Pinellas. PSTA decided that splitting the 19 into two routes would be best to maintain as much existing service as possible while improving the overall reliability and efficiency of the system.

Route 19 was split at the Largo Commons Walmart – which the bus platform on the property’s east end serves as the Largo Transit Center. The segment north of the transfer center retains the Route 19 designation, while the segment south of there became the new Route 34 (34 was chosen due to the southern portion of the route being on 34th St N). Route 19’s overall frequency was reduced to every 35 minutes Monday through Saturday to maintain basic service along the northern US 19 corridor while still being frequent enough to get customers to major employment centers such as Westfield Countryside. Also, buses no longer enter the mall’s parking lots – but remain on Countryside Dr and SR 580. The Westfield Countryside timepoint has thus shifted to the eastbound-only platform on SR 580 at Summerdale Dr.

#13103 on the new Route 34.
#13103 on the new Route 34.

route-34Route 34 begins its journey at the Largo Transit Center and then makes a southbound turnaround on US 19 at Whitney Rd. The route then follows the path of Route 19 down the central US 19 corridor to the Pinellas Park Transit Center (Shoppes at Park Place). From there; the route continues down the 34th St N corridor of US 19 to Grand Central Station and the Skyway Marina District. 20 to 30-minute weekday frequency is maintained throughout the day, with 30-minute evening and Saturday frequency, and hourly Sunday service. Select trips to Eckerd College are retained as well.


#15108 at Tyrone Square Mall.
#15108 at Tyrone Square Mall.

route-18Route 18 was originally poised to see major revisions in an effort to streamline service. These plans called for the segment servicing Heritage Apartments to be discontinued, as well as the removal of service into Largo Mall’s parking lots. However; fierce resistance from customers forced PSTA to reconsider the removal of these segments until a longer-term solution can be crafted. In the meantime; Route 18 continues to operate as it did previously – but with some scheduling changes to help keep buses moving on time.

In the future, perhaps during the course of 2017 or 2018, I see PSTA revisiting Route 18 for the removal of service from Heritage Apartments. This will especially be the case if the agency’s Direct Connect service expands further to include more stops. Currently, the revised draft calls for the addition of five stops in strategically located areas of Pinellas, where getting to a bus stop is difficult.


In my next post; I will cover changes for Routes 52, 59, 60, 61, and 67 – focusing on the improvement of these routes through Largo (Routes 52 and 59), Clearwater (Routes 60 and 61), and Oldsmar (Route 67). I will then publish a third post covering Routes 62, 66, 76, 78, the North County Connector routes, and the Jolley Trolley – focusing on the reorganization of these routes through Northern Pinellas.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding these changes – I recommend that you contact PSTA directly at 727-540-1900, or by visiting PSTA.net. Please keep in mind that during the course of this week – Real Time Bus Information through the Clever Devices Interface (ridepsta.net) and OneBusAway may incrementally be unavailable due to updates that are needed to accommodate these route changes.


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Route 74 Long-Term Detour – Effective 1/6/16 to TBD. July, 2016 Update.

Service Alert 1

With the October, 2016 Service Changes approved, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) has once again changed the detour routing for Route 74 between Gateway Mall and Pinellas Park. This time however, the changes are permanent, and permanent bus stops have been placed along the corridor. Please be mindful of where the new stops are located, and that Real Time Bus Information will not be available for these stops until PSTA is able to make its next GTFS update. At that point in time, the new stops will be added into the Real Time database and updates will be made to the Real Time Bus Tracking and Arrival Interface, on board digital signs and automated announcements, Google Maps, and OneBusAway. Also bear in mind that the Route 59 stops along MLK St N between Gandy Blvd and 94th Ave N will no longer serve Route 74 buses, as buses have resumed using 94th Ave N in both directions. Please refer to the diagram below for the new routing and stops.


Diagram showing Route 74's new routing and bus stops, as well as existing bus stops. Please click on the image for a larger view.
Diagram showing Route 74’s new routing and bus stops, as well as existing bus stops. Please click on the image for a larger view.

As depicted by the diagram, eastbound Route 74 buses will travel along Gandy Blvd N as they normally do from Pinellas Park. After passing the bus stop by Grand Ave, buses will pass under I-275 and the operator will prepare to turn left onto MLK St N, crossing over 94th Ave N. Buses will then turn left onto MLK St N, followed by another left onto 102nd Ave N. Buses will then turn left onto 16th St N, followed by another left onto 94th Ave N. After crossing over Gandy Blvd, buses will serve the existing stops along 94th Ave N before turning right onto MLK St N towards Gateway Mall. Westbound buses will follow the same pattern, but in the reverse direction – MLK St N going northbound, then left onto 94th Ave N (crossing over Gandy Blvd), then right onto 16th St N, followed by a right onto 102nd Ave N, MLK St N, and Gandy Blvd towards Pinellas Park (crossing over 94th Ave N).

The bus stops along 16th St N, by the Metropointe Business Center and the AGR Florida facility are now in their permanent spots, as well as the stops along 102nd Ave N in front of the Bel Air Apartments. Additionally, new stops have been placed on 94th Ave N immediately west of the westbound Gandy Blvd frontage road – replacing the bus stops that were previously located along the south frontage road by the Windjammer Condominiums.

Any specific information regarding the Route 74 detour, and any upcoming route changes, should be directed to PSTA. You can contact PSTA at 727-540-1900.

Please note that the fifth blog post regarding the October Service Changes is still forthcoming.


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PSTA October, 2016 Service Change Proposals – Part 4 – Approved Changes

PSTA October 2016 Service Changes Banner 2

At Wednesday’s Board of Directors meeting, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority approved the various service changes that are set to take effect in October of 2016. While most of the proposed changes were approved, there were a few changes that were either modified or discarded by the board due to customer concerns. This post (the first of three) will take us through each of the routes and what changes will be made to them.


 PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE BETWEEN NOW AND THE LAUNCH OF THE NEW AND REVISED SERVICES IN OCTOBER!

While PSTA is doing its best to maintain as much existing service as possible on many of the affected routes, there is no doubt that service in a few areas will be lost or reduced.


Routes 4, 9, 16, 18, 19, 34, & 59

Route 4
Route 9
Route 16
Route 18
Route 19
Route 34
Route 59


Any questions or concerns regarding the route changes should be directed to PSTA. You may call them at (727) 540-1900.

Part 2 will be posted soon, encompassing the remainder of the route changes.


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PSTA October, 2016 Service Change Proposals – Part 3

PSTA October 2016 Service Changes Banner 1

In the third part of this series, I will take a look at the changes being proposed for Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) route 74, the Oldsmar/Tampa/Countryside Flex Connector, the Dunedin/Palm Harbor Flex Connector, and the Jolley Trolley Coastal Route. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 if you have not had a chance to do so.


Documents from PSTA

Countywide Map

North County Map

South County Map

Route Change Descriptions


My Google Maps

Map Showing Routes 4, 9, 16, 19, 34, & 59. Map does not show Route 18 because its routing is not being drastically changed.

Map Showing Routes 61, 62, 65, 66, & 74. Map does not show Route 67 because its routing is not being drastically changed.


IMG_20160204_084808

Route 74

Overview: Route 74 currently travels from Downtown St. Pete to Indian Rocks Shopping Center via 16th St N, Gateway Mall, Gandy/Park Blvd, Shoppes at Park Place (Pinellas Park Transit Center), Seminole Mall, and Oakhurst Rd. Buses operate every 20 to 30 minutes Monday through Friday and roughly every hour on weekends. The 74 is one of several notoriously long routes in Pinellas and construction along Gandy Blvd in the Gateway area has caused buses to be delayed at times.

What does PSTA want to do?: PSTA is proposing splitting the route into three segments. Route 74 would remain in operation between Gateway Mall and Seminole Mall, while the St. Pete portion becomes Route 16 and the Indian Rocks portion Route 65. Both of these new routes I have mentioned in my previous post.

My opinion: I support the splitting of Route 74 because it is very long. However, I am concerned with how early the current route ends and hope that service will extend past 9pm one day.


IMG_20151017_094544

Oldsmar/Tampa/Countryside Flex Connector

Overview: The Oldsmar/Tampa/Countryside Flex Connector was established in 2012 and has seen modest ridership. The route currently operates Monday through Saturday between Westfield Countryside and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART)’s Northwest Transfer Center via Boot Ranch.

What does PSTA want to do?: Instead of running service along Countryside Blvd, which has seen few to no riders schedule deviation pickups, PSTA wants to re-align the route to run along Belcher Rd between Westfield Countryside and Tampa Rd, where demand for the route has been higher.

My opinion: I support this change because it makes no sense to run a route where there is little to no demand for it.


Dunedin/Palm Harbor Flex Connector

Overview: The Dunedin/Palm Harbor Flex Connector was established in 2012 and has seen modest ridership. The route currently operates Monday through Saturday between Westfield Countryside and the Palm Harbor WalMart (on Alderman Rd).

What does PSTA want to do?: PSTA wants to expand coverage of the Connector to cover areas in Dunedin and Safety Harbor that would be lost by the re-alignment of Routes 61 and 62.

My opinion: I support this change because it would allow basic bus service to be maintained in the affected areas.


Jolley Trolley Coastal Route

Overview: The Jolley Trolley is a PSTA-supported trolley system in Northern Pinellas that is operated by a non-profit company. The Coastal Route provides service between Downtown Clearwater and Tarpon Springs.

What does PSTA want to do?: PSTA wants to combine this route with the northern section of Route 66 to reduce duplication and optimize/expand service along the Clearwater/Tarpon Springs gulf coast. Highlights include the following (from the PSTA service change descriptions page).

1) 7 day service between Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks and Clearwater Beach (the southwest terminus will be moved from Island Estates to Clearwater Beach)
2) Sunday thru Thursday service operating 10:00a.m. to 10:00p.m.
3) Friday and Saturday service operating 10:00a.m. to midnight
4) Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday service to Ozona


Any Questions? Concerns?

Please refer to PSTA’s documents provided in this post for a full overview of the proposals. The proposals will be voted on this upcoming Wednesday, June 22, 2016 during the 9:00AM June Board Meeting. The meeting will be held at the PSTA Facility Boardroom – 3201 Scherer Dr, St. Petersburg, FL 33716. If you are unable to attend, you can send an email with your concerns to engage@psta.net. For further information, you can call PSTA at (727) 540-1900.


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