Pinellas officials head to D.C. in search of funds for St. Pete rapid bus line
Desperate to get something, anything off the ground to expand public transit in Pinellas, a contingent of Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority officials are in Washington this week to land some funds from Uncle Sam.
PSTA chief executive Brad Miller and two of his board members, Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long and St. Pete City Councilmember Darden Rice, were scheduled to meet with Reps. David Jolly and Kathy Castor, Sen. Bill Nelson and a representative of Sen. Marco Rubio.
One of the goals is to secure funding from the Federal Transit Adminstration for a bus rapid transit line running from downtown St. Petersburg to the beaches. The so-called Central Avenue BRT (which would actually run on 1st Avenues N and S), would offer limited-stop service seven days a week.
To get the project up and running, PSTA wants $8 million from the FTA's New Starts Program, the federal government’s primary pot of money to support capital investments in local transit proejcts. PSTA also wants $4 million from the FDOT and would contribute $4 million of its own capital reserve fund for the project.
Don't expect BRT ride to the beach anytime soon, though. Even if the state and local funding comes through next year, the service wouldn't begin until fall 2018.
PSTA also wants Congress to restore the competitive grant program that funded bus purchases for local transit agencies. With that funding now dry, PSTA must turn to its stretched local revenue to replace its aging fleet.
They'll also be lobbying for TIGER grant funding from the Department of Transportation to help pay for a regional fare collection system, a partnership with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.
PSTA no longer has to rely solely on these trips to D.C. The agency this summer hired D.C.-based lobbying firm Van Scoyoc Associates, Inc., the first time PSTA has retained a federal lobbyist.