A plan to improve transportation between St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach, Florida is gaining speed thanks to the St. Petersburg City Council approving $4 million in funding to support the bus rapid transit (BRT) project headed by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA).
The BRT system would offer faster rides to world class attractions, from the Gulf beaches to the renowned Dali Museum, Tropicana Field, and University of South Florida in downtown St. Pete. Due to rapid transit characteristics such as the 40-foot buses running in semi-dedicated lanes, signal priority, pre-board payment, and level boarding, the public transit ride from St. Pete to St. Pete Beach will be reduced from about 55 to 35 minutes.
Relieving congestion and reducing emissions are significant positives of the BRT upgrade. Within a half mile of the line, there are 50,000 jobs. With faster, more reliable service, PSTA projects ridership to increase to 5,000 rides a day, which is like getting 2,000 cars off the road, according to a 2017 study based on data from BRT systems nationwide. St. Pete Beach could see the greatest benefit and reduction of traffic because 82% of employees commute into the city every day, with over 40% from the city of St. Pete alone.
The BRT line is expected to open to riders in late 2020/early 2021. It will cost an estimated $43.9 million dollars to complete, which includes $10.5 million from the Florida Department of Transportation, $7.6 million from the PSTA, and $4 million from the city of St. Pete. The Federal Transit Administration is expected to approve the final $21.8 million in funding through its Capital Investment Grant program later this year.
The St. Pete BRT line would be the first federally funded major transit project in Tampa Bay. It will be the foundation of future transit improvements connecting Pinellas County to Tampa International Airport and Downtown Tampa.