Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

Details of Greenlight Pinellas bus lanes will come after vote on tax

Specifics of a Bus Rapid Transit system won't be designed unless voters approve a 1-cent sales tax for mass transit projects.
Published May 5, 2014

Details of Pinellas County's mass transit initiative, Greenlight Pinellas, already have opponents in overdrive, sputtering over an informational email from Friends of Greenlight, a pro-transit political action committee.

The email discusses how the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority would implement bus rapid transit countywide.

"Bus Rapid Transit will help the Pinellas bus system move faster, but it won't take existing lanes from other vehicles," the email reads. It's paired with an artist's rendering of the 1100 block of Fourth Street N in St. Petersburg. The street has been altered to include a bus stop and a new bus lane in front of the block's businesses.

The image shows one other thing: that the center turn lane on Fourth Street N has been removed.

How is it that supporters promise the transit overhaul will not result in fewer traffic lanes, while an image shows the opposite? PolitiFact Florida wanted to learn more.

Understanding the concept of bus rapid transit (known as BRT) is key to predicting how Greenlight Pinellas alters existing traffic capacity.

With BRT, the focus is on moving the buses as quickly and as directly as possible. Annie Weinstock, a director at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, said a BRT system typically include:

• Dedicated bus lanes (ideally in street medians).

• Intersections that prevent turns across bus lanes.

• Transit signal priority that detects buses and changes lights accordingly.

• Roadside fare boxes so passengers pay before boarding.

• Platform-level boarding to help move passengers — especially handicapped and elderly passengers — onto the bus.

Greenlight Pinellas incorporates many of these changes, but it's difficult to say which ones, or where they're going to be.

We do know that bus lanes would be built from existing medians and shoulders on most major roads, except St. Petersburg's First Avenue N and First Avenue S. Those one-way streets, running in opposite directions, are lightly traveled enough to give up an entire lane for bus service without causing traffic problems, transit officials say.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority would work with the Florida Department of Transportation, the county and local municipalities to see if other lanes or rights of way could be used for buses, said PSTA external affairs officer Bob Lasher. But the details of what those changes would look like aren't done yet, because the initiative hasn't been approved by voters.

"The actual stop-by-stop, turn-by-turn details won't be known until after the engineering and environmental studies are done, which would be only if the measure passes, due to expense," he said. "If we were to put out that kind of money before hand, and it failed, that would be a big loss and irresponsible of us."

Ironically, without those details, opponents continue to pick apart the plan. If it's altering Fourth Street in such a misguided way, what else will it do?

The problem is, Greenlight Pinellas doesn't aim to remove the turn lane from Fourth Street N.

"That photo — which is a mock up — was to demonstrate what a BRT station would look like," Lasher said, pointing out the payment kiosk on the sidewalk at the bus stop. "I use it for that and when I explain off-board fare payment. It was never meant to imply that we would be taking a lane along Fourth Street. Our graphics artists used the backdrop, because they liked the background."

Friends of Greenlight spokesman Kyle Parks said they would strive to make sure people understood the image was a rendering designed to show what a bus stop would look like and nothing more.

So is it possible traffic lanes may be sacrificed, even the turn lane along Fourth Street? Could capital improvements to major roadways really be made without affecting other drivers?

The answer is that we can't say definitively until after the engineers get down to the nitty-gritty. And that can only happen if the 1-cent tax passes Nov. 4.

Overall, we do know that the claim that bus rapid transit "won't take existing lanes from other vehicles" needs to be qualified, because two thoroughfares in St. Petersburg will be losing lanes if a 1-cent tax increase passes. We can say that there are no plans currently to remove the center turning lane from Fourth Street N, and an artist's rendering showing that outcome was actually intended to show what a new bus stop might look like.

So there's no intention to take away traffic lanes beyond the two Greenlight Pinellas mentions, but there's also no possible way to guarantee it won't happen. The plan will be implemented with the input of many local municipalities and the state, which means any number of outcomes are possible. We rate the statement Mostly False.

This report has been edited for print. Read more at PolitiFact.com/Florida.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. AP file photo of then Gov. and now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott
    DeSantis, Rick Scott and other Republicans have taken a strong stance on Saudi Arabia in recent days. President Donald Trump?
  2. Donald Trump speaks during the Israeli-American Council’s annual summit at The Diplomat Resort & Hotel in Hollywood, Florida on Saturday, December 7, 2019. DANIEL A. VARELA  |  Miami Herald
    The president helps the Republican Party of Florida raise millions and speaks at a national conference on Israeli-American relations.
  3. President Donald J.Trump waves to supporters as he steps out of the Air Force One at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to attend the Republican Party of Florida's Statesman's Dinner at the  JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa and later to the Israeli-American Council Summit 2019 on Saturday. PEDRO PORTAL  |  Miami Herald
    The state party raised $3.5 million at the dinner where the president spoke.
  4. Donald Trump walks with his wife, Melania, after speaking to the press at the Ritz-Carlton August 26, 2012 in Sarasota, Florida. Trump accepted the Statesman of the Year Award at the Sarasota GOP dinner ahead of the Republican Nation Convention in Tampa. (Photo by Edward Linsmier/Getty Images) 150868157 EDWARD LINSMIER  |  Getty Images
    Trump couldn’t get prime stage time at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. So he and the Sarasota Republican Party staged their own event the night before. What happened next changed history.
  5. Paul Congemi, 62, filed paperwork this week for his fourth St. Petersburg mayoral bid. Last election he earned 188 votes. EVE EDELHEIT  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The 2021 primary election is 628 days away.
  6. Mayor Rick Kriseman on Wednesday said he will not allow the Tampa Bay Rays to explore splitting their season between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal prior to the 2027 expiration of the team's lease of Tropicana Field. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Politicians on both sides of the bay weigh in on St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s decision to cease talks with the team.
  7. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a news conference about the Zika virus, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 in Doral, Fla.The CDC has advised pregnant women to avoid travel to the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood where mosquitoes are apparently transmitting Zika directly to humans. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
    Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he wants to meet with Interior Department officials before green-lighting Katharine MacGregor as the second-highest Interior Department official.
  8. Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Adam's fight over school restrooms came before a federal appeals court Thursday, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla., won a lower court ruling last year ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. The district has since appealed. RON HARRIS  |  AP
    The closely watched case of Drew Adams, once a high school student in Florida, is heard by a three-judge panel in Atlanta.
  9. An example of the type of white railway markings the Florida Department of Transportation plans on installing on the either side of more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state. Florida Department of Transportation
    The department will paint new markings on more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state.
  10. Previous competitions did not round up a lot of the invasive snakes
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement