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Pinellas to start bus service to Tampa International Airport this summer

It's a basic service, but it finally fills a long-sought need: Getting Pinellas residents across the bridge to the airport without having to rely on shuttles or parking garages.

TAMPA — Pinellas County will finally get a direct bus to Tampa International Airport starting this summer.

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority CEO Brad Miller announced the new route Friday to a group of politicians from Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties who had gathered at the airport to talk about regional transportation options.

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Airport CEO Joe Lopano, who often notes that people can fly directly to Zurich from Tampa but can't take an express bus to the airport, congratulated Miller on the new route. Lopano praised it as a positive development for the airport and those who travel through Tampa Bay.

And he said the airport's parking garages can handle any loss of business.

"Not that I want to give away parking revenue, but we're getting kinda full out here," Lopano quipped.

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The service will start in June and operate out of the Gateway area. There is currently no bus from Pinellas County to the airport.

The bus route will only run during peak travel times on the weekdays.

Miller stressed this is not an ideal service. But it is the kind of service PSTA can launch as quickly as possible.

"The number one thing that service is lacking is more frequency," Miller said. "It will be a great start, but in order to serve more air travelers it will have to operate on Saturdays and Sundays and later in to the evening."

Though its a barebones service that will need additional funding to expand, Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman said the ability for PSTA to launch a direct bus to the airport was a challenge to other counties in the region. She also serves on the board of Hillsborough's bus agency.

"I think the takeaway from me is that we need to step up our game," Murman said,  "because we need to pass you."