PINELLAS PARK — This city and the county bus system have apparently settled their spat over restrooms at the transfer station at the Shoppes of Park Place.
The center won't get restrooms. Instead, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will send most of those buses elsewhere.
Pinellas Park City Manager Mike Gustafson approved the plan Thursday, saying it sounds workable. But, he said, the city will monitor the situation.
"Hope your action plan works, and I am sure the mall stores and our community redevelopment area policing unit will be able to tell if this is successful," Gustafson wrote in an email to PSTA chief executive officer Brad Miller.
Miller said Friday, "We have a game plan that we're starting to implement, but we'll be continuing to monitor what's happening out there and be responsive if any further adjustments may be needed."
Gustafson said he believes PSTA has a longer-term problem it must solve.
"I still have to wonder if this fixes the overall real problem of having PSTA customers transfer from one bus to another in a location that restrooms are not readily available," Gustafson said. "I hope your plan took this identified health problem into consideration for the relocated transferring buses and all future PSTA locations."
Gustafson added, "We still feel that the restrooms needed for your customers are something that must be dealt with by partnering with commercial locations that are within close proximity to your bus stop/transfer locations or with a local municipality that is willing to partner."
The issue of restrooms arose early this year after repeated complaints by mall owner Boulder Venture and the Pinellas Park police unit that oversees the mall at 7200 Park Blvd.
Bus riders, with no easy access to toilet facilities, were relieving themselves in an area near a Dumpster by the Regal Cinema multiplex, near the transfer station on 70th Avenue N.
The city demanded the PSTA install restrooms. The city even offered to finance part of the construction, but negotiations fell through over the issue of maintenance. PSTA said it has no restrooms at stops unless there are full-time PSTA employees on the premises to keep them clean.
Talks seemed to stall, then May 11, Miller sent Gustafson an email outlining the PSTA's proposed solution:
• The PSTA will reroute buses so more than 90 percent of the current traffic at the stop will go away.
• The only remaining transfers/buses still servicing the shelters will be reduced to daylight hours (about 6:30 a.m. - 8 p.m.) and the estimated number of people will be about 40 per day rather than more than 400.
• The current riders won't be "moved" somewhere else. PSTA customers needing to transfer will do so at one of more than a dozen existing bus stops around central Pinellas.
• The mall will still be served by buses, mainly on U.S. 19 and the Park Boulevard access road.
• The PSTA will remove several of the existing shelters because they won't be needed.
• The PSTA will pay for the installation of a gated fence to restrict access behind the Dumpsters near the remaining shelter.
PSTA spokesman Bob Lasher said the affected routes will be 11, 19, 52,74, 75, 97, 98 and 444. The agency hopes to have the rerouting completed in October.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.