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PSTA votes to add new north-south bus route

People who live in East Lake or work along McMullen-Booth or Belcher roads soon will be able to catch the bus to points as far south as Tyrone Square Mall and as far north as the Shoppes of Boot Ranch.

Route 62, approved unanimously by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board Wednesday, will run weekdays and Saturdays beginning in early December.

The route got strong support from the 400 people who live at the Hamptons at Clearwater, a retirement community along McMullen-Booth Road near Ruth Eckerd Hall. Currently, the residents have no access to public transportation.

"This bus route is vital," said Hamptons activities director Joanne Kazmierski, who brought about 40 residents to a PSTA public hearing on Wednesday. "This will give the residents a serious option to get down to St. Petersburg and visit family and friends, go shopping or go to the doctor."

PSTA planning director Mike Siebel said the route is expected to have about 78,000 riders within a year. Many of those will be people who work in the industrialized areas along Belcher near Bryan Dairy Road. Others will be people who live in East Lake, where the PSTA expects major growth in demand for bus service.

Siebel said plans are in the works to offer feeder service to East Lake residents who want to catch the bus at the Shoppes of Boot Ranch. Residents would have to call PSTA, perhaps as much as a day in advance, and pay $1 each way to get a van or taxi to take them to the Boot Ranch stop.

Jill Cappadoro, PSTA marketing director, said the feeder service could start within a year.

"It's not something we've done in other neighborhoods yet," she said. "It would really be a pilot program to see if we want to extend it to other areas."

Route 62 will cost a total of $1.3-million for the first three years, half of which comes from state money. After that, the PSTA will decide whether the route is worth keeping.

Southbound service will begin weekdays at 6:30 a.m. at the Shoppes of Boot Ranch and continue hourly, except for 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., until 5:30 p.m. Northbound weekday service will begin at the Tyrone Square Mall at 6 a.m. and continue hourly, except for 9 a.m. and noon, until 6 p.m. Buses will leave at 90-minute intervals on Saturdays.

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