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Forward Pinellas seeks to improve transportation options downtown

Jaymi Butler

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transportation
About 20 percent of people use bikes to get around downtown St. Pete when they visit, according to a study by Forward Pinellas.

Improving mobility and accessibility in downtown St. Petersburg has long been a topic of discussion among local leaders and residents, and results of recent study from Forward Pinellas are shedding more light on where the city stands now in terms of transportation – and what challenges still remain.

More than 500 people took part in the online Downtown St. Petersburg Mobility Study, which was initiated by Forward Pinellas in partnership with the City of St. Petersburg and the Florida Department of Transportation. It’s the first step in helping define a shared vision in the greater downtown area that ties together mobility, livability, accessibility and economic vitality while establishing a basis for identifying and prioritizing transportation projects and programs to serve the needs of the downtown community and surrounding neighborhoods.

Aside from those who live and work downtown, survey results indicated that people mainly visit the area to go to museums, attend events and shop. Just over 45 percent of visitors travel downtown in their personal vehicles, and then more than half of them walk once they arrive. Twenty percent use bikes, and that number may increase due to expansion of Coast Bike Share, a service that provides short-term bike rentals in St. Pete. The company recently announced it will release a new fleet of 350 bikes, 50 of which will be electrically assisted.

Another eagerly anticipated transportation option, electric scooters, will arrive in late October or early November. The scooters, which include both seated and standing models, will be part of an 18-month pilot program that will give the city a chance to measure ridership, performance and safety. There will be a phased deployment of the program, with each operator launching up to 225 scooters initially. Authorization of additional scooters will be issued based on demonstrated use and how well they’re following city regulations. Officials anticipate a full launch would put up to 1,500 scooters on the streets.

As far as transportation challenges go, survey respondents identified several, including pedestrian and bike safety, parking and traffic. 

Forward Pinellas intends to continue its work toward improving mobility downtown. It’s currently developing concepts for different transportation scenarios that can be tested, reviewing previous studies to determine how the results can be incorporated, and working on interactive tools to solicit community feedback. The study is scheduled to wrap up in summer 2021, when Forward Pinellas will identify project priorities and set an action plan. 

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