Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PSTA, St. Pete Beach at odds over bus rapid transit line to downtown St. Petersburg

CLEARWATER — Pinellas transit officials acknowledged Wednesday that they may have a tough time talking St. Pete Beach into helping pay for a proposed rapid transit bus line that would connect the city to downtown St. Petersburg.

Nonetheless, they will try. And if unsuccessful, at least some board members of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority want to approach Madeira Beach or Treasure Island as alternate destinations.

PSTA officials plan to attend a St. Pete Beach City Commission workshop in force on the proposed rapid transit system next month.

That meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Oct. 11 and could lead to a followup commission meeting on Oct. 25 to vote on a proposed contract between St. Pete Beach and the PSTA.

Although beach hoteliers and business owners favor the rapid transit system, several St. Pete Beach commissioners do not.

The PSTA wants the city to pay a "proportionate share" of at least $500,000 — but really wants at least $1.2 million annually — to cover startup and maintenance costs for the new route.

"That is insane they continue to push their mass transit agenda when we are already paying our fair share," St. Pete Beach Commissioner Melinda Pletcher said at a meeting last week, adding she was "very disturbed" by the PSTA proposal.

The city already pays about $500,000 for its share of the existing Beach Trolley service.

At the meeting last week, the St. Pete Beach City Commission indicated that because of the millions in spending the city faces to repair and upgrade its leaking sewer system, there is no money left for the proposed rapid transit route.

"It's unfortunate they are not being more cooperative," said PSTA Board Chair Darden Rice.

Because the city is not a member of the PSTA, as are most other cities in the county, the transit authority does not receive property tax revenue from St. Pete Beach residents.

"There is no free lunch," said PSTA board member and Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, warning her board not to start the rapid transit service without St. Pete Beach paying its share.

"Residents and businesses may really like it and it will be hard to take it away," she said.

The proposed rapid transit bus route would start in downtown St. Petersburg, travel First Avenue N and First Avenue S and pass through South Pasadena to and from St. Pete Beach.

"It's the best route for both ridership and the (transit) system," PSTA CEO Brad Miller said.

He stressed that the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce and "all the hotels" support the proposal. Chamber president Robin Sollie said that although all hotels do support rapid transit to the beaches, they do not necessarily support the cost of this particular PSTA proposal.

Miller also acknowledged, "The residents and the hotels are not always on the same page."

Two years ago, voters in St. Pete Beach joined others in the county to overwhelmingly defeat the PSTA's Greenlight Pinellas proposal to levy an extra cent in sales taxes to pay for expanding the county's transit system.

Now the PSTA wants to use the rapid transit route to the beaches as a pilot program for future rapid transit routes throughout the county.

The beach route proposal calls for half the cost of the program to be paid for with federal funds, a quarter with state money and the remaining quarter through a partnership between the PSTA and St. Pete Beach.

Editor's note — This article was amended to reflect the following correction: At a PSTA meeting on Wednesday, Chairperson Darden Rice said, "It's unfortunate they are not being more cooperative," regarding a route dispute between the transit authority and the city of St. Pete Beach. The quote was attributed to another person in an article Friday.

PSTA, St. Pete Beach at odds over bus rapid transit line to downtown St. Petersburg 09/29/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 4, 2016 3:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

    Blogs

    Winner of the week 1: 'Liquor wall’ proponents. Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of a bill to allow Walmart, Target and other big box stores to sell liquor was a victory for an array of groups, from smaller merchants and Publix (which has stand-alone booze shops near its stores) to those who feel the hard stuff …

  2. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

    Blogs

    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  3. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  4. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title

    Blogs

    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  5. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.