Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Consultants pitch revamped bus system for Pinellas

A study by a California-based consultant proposes big changes for Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus routes and stops.

Times files (2010)

A study by a California-based consultant proposes big changes for Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus routes and stops.

The beleaguered Pinellas County bus system is in need of a makeover. Along most routes, buses arrive once an hour. Riders can wait even longer to make connections. And it would not be an exaggeration to call the long trip from the south end of the county to the north a crossing.

This is what Pinellas County's bus system looks like: 43 routes, many of which haven't been rethought in more than two decades, and most of which have hour-long wait times. Even the system's supporters acknowledge the only people attracted to the buses are those with no other options.

But a future, imagined bus system presented to elected officials and transit leaders Monday looked vastly different. Gone were the hour-long waits and meandering routes marked by stops at every block. Instead, consultants hired by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority proposed a system of more frequent bus arrivals and trip times shortened by 15 to 30 percent.

The proposal comes out of a study the California-based firm Transportation Management & Design has been conducting of the county's bus system since last year. TMD's hypothetical system, which was designed with no spending constraints, is what the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority would build if money were of no concern, said agency chief Brad Miller.

"This is a visioning document," he said. "It will likely have to be scaled back or revised over time given the revenues."

The consultants imagined a system that would replace transit hubs like Williams Park and Grand Central, where riders sit and wait for buses, with a grid design. As in major cities like New York and Los Angeles, buses would pick up and drop off riders at street-side stations. At peak times, buses on major routes would arrive at 10-minute intervals. The longest wait would be 30 minutes.

"These are exactly the kind of improvements that are going to transform bus service in Pinellas," said Marie Lewis, a senior manager for TMD.

"There's a large market of people who will take transit if it's frequent enough for them not to need to plan their trip," she added.

It is a lofty concept, but not dramatically out of the realm of possibility if Pinellas voters approve a one-cent sales tax increase in November 2014.

TMD's system would cost about $130 million a year, Miller estimated. With dramatically increased revenues from the transit tax, Miller said his agency could have up to $110 million to spend on buses.

Currently, the county spends $60 million on its bus system.

TMD's plan relies on a tiered system in which arrival frequency is highest for a set number of popular routes and diminishes along less traveled ones.

Lewis proposed the county install bus rapid transit systems (BRT) — fast-moving buses that make few stops and sometimes have their own lanes — on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, U.S. 19 and Ulmerton Road. Express buses, which are slower than BRT, would run on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, East Bay Drive, and Tyrone Boulevard.

From there, riders could transfer to a secondary network of buses with arrival times spaced out every 15 minutes.

The consultant's plan also includes a boost to weekend service, as well as extended hours, with some routes running until midnight Monday to Saturday. And in place of the two current routes that only take riders to Tampa on weekdays, TMD proposes three Westshore-bound lines running seven days a week.

"It's exciting to see this change, but I think there's going to be some pain involved," said Julie Bujalski, a Dunedin city commissioner. For years, she said, PSTA's board has caved whenever people banded together and demanded more stops, resulting in slow, plodding bus routes. That would have to end, she said.

Several members of the Advisory Committee for Pinellas Transportation also voiced concern that by not proposing BRT service for McMullen-Booth Road, the plan could anger north county residents. The bulk of the bus service increases are pitched at the southern and middle parts of the county, where population density is higher and there's more demand for bus service.

People driving along McMullen-Booth are mainly white-collar workers headed to Tampa, Miller said, many of whom have no desire to take the bus. But after several other board members piled on, the consultants agreed to reconsider the route.

Consultants pitch revamped bus system for Pinellas 04/22/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 12:09am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate

    Corporate

    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  3. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers

    Crime

    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  5. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)

    War

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.