St. Pete Beach will have a new recreational waterborne transit option for its residents.
During a Sept. 27 meeting, the commissioners unanimously approved an agreement with the South Florida-based PADL company to provide automated paddleboard kiosks on the beach and in county parks.
PADL is a qualified paddle share provider that offers self-service paddleboard rentals through an app. The provider uses a GPS, 3G data and self-locking technology to allow users to unlock boards with an app and track the location of the boards. The technology is also used for safety and emergency reasons.
There’s currently one local PADL kiosk, at Philippe Park in Safety Harbor. PADL has other kiosks in South and Central Florida.
City of St. Pete Beach Director Jennifer McMahon discovered the company several months ago when someone sent her an image of the boards in Philippe Park. She then connected with Jose Lorido, who works as a Head of Growth and Partnerships for PADL.
Under the approved agreement with the City of St. Pete Beach, PADL may use city property solely for the installation of stations to docks for paddleboards and possibly kayaks that are owned and maintained by PADL.
Today, PADL will install kiosks at McKenney Park, Egan Park, Upham Beach and Pass-A-Grille concessions. It typically takes less than a few hours to install each kiosk.
“The difference between ours [versus other transit-sharing concepts] is that you have to put the board back and lock it in the station or the charge will continue,” Lorido told the St. Pete Catalyst.
For each paddle rental, a 20% share of gross receipts net of sales tax will be provided to the city for use of park space. At the PADL stations, the company charges customers $19 an hour for a paddleboard rental.
Each kiosk holds four boards, paddles, life jackets and leashes.
The soft launch will start Wednesday, and a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held soon.
The concept of micro transit-sharing platforms is a growing trend. Cities including Tampa and St. Petersburg have implemented e-scooter sharing and bike-sharing programs.
St. Pete Beach currently has a bike-sharing program.
Eliminating one transit and increasing another
During the same meeting, commissioners agreed to spend $399,253 to renew its contract with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority until 2022; however, the commissioners said it will be the last year it will have a contract for certain services provided by PSTA.
The new contract represents a $32,000 increase compared to last year’s contract.
The PSTA services include the Central Avenue Trolley, Suncoast Trolley and Route 90 buses.
“We’re hoping bus rapid transit will replace the CAT [Central Avenue Trolley] service in this fiscal year, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen,” City Manager Alex Rey said, referring to PSTA’s SunRunner BRT project, a 10.3-mile line will connect through St. Petersburg, South Pasadena and St. Pete Beach.
“This will probably be the last year in which we continue the CAT service, and after that, we will be down to half the cost to fund the Suncoast Trolley and Route 90 bus service,” he said.
The meeting focus then shifted to the discussion of Freebee, a fare-free, micro-transit service that riders can hail from their phone.
Freebee, which uses fully electric vehicles, stops at popular destinations such as tThe Don CeSar, parks and the 8th Street business corridor.
The Freebee service launched in 2019. The second phase replaced the PSTA bus route south of the county beach park across from Dolphin Shopping Village. The city has entered phase three, which extends the coverage to 75th Ave.
The city’s goal will be to expand the service to all of St. Pete Beach by October 2022.