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By every measure, SunRunner is an enormous success

Brad Miller

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PSTA's SunRunner. Image provided.

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Six months ago, hundreds of federal state and local officials and business leaders gathered along First Avenue North to celebrate a historic milestone: The launching of Tampa Bay’s first bus rapid transit system.

This week, we gathered just a few blocks away to celebrate again. SunRunner is an amazing success, and we have plans to make it even better.

From the start, our goal for SunRunner has been clear. We wanted to create a bus rapid transit system that provides fast, efficient and dependable service to connect downtown St. Petersburg and the beaches. It took decades and unbelievable cooperation with our federal, state and local partners to make it happen. But we knew there was a need, and all those years of hard work were clearly worth it.

By every measure, SunRunner is an enormous success:

  • Ridership has gone up every month, topping 115,000 riders in March alone.
  • Traffic accidents along the route have gone down, and drivers have easily adapted to the well-marked bus-and-turn-only lanes.
  • People are choosing to ride SunRunner’s hybrid buses rather than drive their own cars, and that is good for environmental sustainability. Nearly half of surveyed riders said they chose to use SunRunner over their personal cars for their trip.

The bottom line: SunRunner’s colorful, efficient buses and beautiful bus stops already are part of the fabric of our community. And that means fewer vehicles on the road, more people attending events, eating out, shopping at local businesses – SunRunner is truly improving our quality of life and helping drive our economy.

What particularly excites me is that we are attracting new riders.  SunRunner sees a surge of riders on weekends, which is the opposite of most transit modes. Ridership for special events downtown shows residents and visitors are saving on time, hassle and high parking prices. More than 10,000 people used SunRunner on the weekends featuring Halloween on Central, Localtopia and the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Residents and tourists also are riding SunRunner to and from the beach, and they are stopping at locally owned businesses along the way. That tells me the future is bright for mass transit in Tampa Bay – that even more residents and tourists will park their cars and use other options if the service is efficient, clean, dependable and takes them where they want to go.

Here’s another great thing about SunRunner: We accomplished all of this while coming in under budget by more than $5 milion.

We are going to put that money to good use. We announced this week that we will be adding a new downtown stop to SunRunner. A stop closer to busy Beach Drive. Closer to the stunning St. Pete Pier. Closer to more shops and restaurants – and closer to the Cross Bay Ferry. 

The new SunRunner stop will be located at 150 1st Avenue N. This will make SunRunner even more attractive to residents and tourists alike.

We also announced that we hope to use some of the remaining savings to buy two more low-emission, hybrid electric buses. This will help us accommodate even more riders during special events that draw large crowds.

To reach this point took years of planning and studying, wishing and hoping. Now SunRunner is off to a terrific start in just six months, and its success illustrates how quality mass transit can literally transform our community and improve our quality of life.

The best is yet to come!

Brad Miller is chief executive officer of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

 

 

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Martha Shibley

    May 1, 2023at10:54 am

    I hear the SunRunner is a great success and running 5 mil under budget. Could I please understand what the budgeted cost per ride is? Where is this information published?

  2. Avatar

    Dan Lowry

    April 26, 2023at2:45 pm

    An enormous success for every one but the taxpayers.

  3. Avatar

    Danny White

    April 23, 2023at10:21 am

    Although I support mass transit initiatives in Tampa Bay, calling the Sunrunner initiative a smash hit at this stage seems irresponsibly premature. Ridership numbers are based solely on FREE rides so far. People are naturally attracted to free stuff! Once the fare is set, let’s see how the numbers come in. Further, how have ridership demographics been measured so far? Who exactly is consistently riding and WHY? How much foot traffic increases have businesses been able to attribute to Sunrunner? Looking forward to real, meaningful data.

  4. Avatar

    Donna Kostreva

    April 23, 2023at9:03 am

    The Sunrunner stop at USF on Third Street totally blocks traffic while it waits for passengers. Traffic north and south is blocked because there was no cut in made for the bus at the massive bus stop.Why was the stop not on the east west street across from the Studebaker building? First Avenues North and South have been ruined for this grant generating fiasco!Those designing this should be fired.

  5. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    April 22, 2023at9:16 pm

    What are you measuring??How is it a success when it is free???How are you saving money???Please explain. I live near the Skyway Bridge, Sunrunner does not benefit anyone living South of 5th Avenue South nor anyone living North of 5th Avenue North.

  6. Avatar

    Mike

    April 22, 2023at6:41 pm

    @roger and serve steak and lobster too! Let’s close all three lanes of first Ave!

  7. Avatar

    Roger Black

    April 22, 2023at5:46 pm

    If it’s a success, increase the frequency to every 10 minutes instead of 15! And if that fills the busses, try 5, like New York subways!

    From Pass-a-Grille you can drive from home to Beach Street in 25 minutes, without traffic, and the alternative of 50 minutes on the Sunrunner, counting the wait, is not that attractive. Take it down to 40 minutes plus a five minute ride on the Freebee, and I am onboard.

  8. Avatar

    Mike

    April 22, 2023at10:28 am

    Why does it stop on the wrong side of the road? I personally have seen one summer runner bus destroyed in an accident, so the safety question remains to be answered. I also question the value for the money. I live on what was the central Ave corridor and I dislike the disruptive effects of this line. So NO! Every measure does not support this bus line.

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