Buses and other public transit will not run Sunday in Pinellas County as the area prepares for Hurricane Irma.
Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will suspend all public transit services on Sunday, including the trolleys, the downtown looper and DART, its door-to-door service for people with disabilities. Services are expected to begin again on Monday, but are dependent on weather.
Hillsborough's bus agency has not announced any service suspension yet, but will be operating on a Saturday schedule Friday because of so many closings.
"It seems kind of crazy to have all our folks on the road driving all these routes people won't be on," said Katharine Eagan, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority CEO.
Eagan said the agency will continue to monitor the weather and will decide at a later point when or if to suspend service.
Transportation officials in Hernando and Pasco counties have not yet announced their plans for the storm.
Though many Pinellas residents rely on PSTA's buses and vans as their main form of transportation, agency spokeswoman Ashlie Handy said the decision was necessary in order to protect the fleet. The buses are in the Level B evacuation zone and need to be moved to one of three alternate sites in Pinellas County. Pinellas officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for Level A on Thursday, and the same order could be issued for Levels B and C by Friday night.
"We're getting the word out now so people can start to make arrangements, but we really have to get most of our buses to higher ground," Handy said.
The agency's 220 buses are its most expensive investment and could be damaged if they stayed in their current location, Handy said.
But PSTA isn't leaving people completely without options. Those who need to evacuate to a shelter can keep an eye out for one of 20 buses which will still be running.
Those buses won't operate on typical routes and bus stops, but instead will be available for people to flag from the side of the road. All rides will be free. People can also bring their animals on board, as long as they are crated.
The reserve buses will remain on the road as long as winds are below 40 mph, Handy said.
HART is also prepared to move its buses to higher ground, if need people. The agency will also offer free rides in evacuation zones if an order is issued in Hillsborough.
Contact Caitlin Johnston at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.