A bright yellow and teal-colored bus station now stands on the corner of 1st Avenue and 5th Street in downtown St. Petersburg, marking the completion of the first station for the new SunRunner line.
On Friday, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority unveiled the completed station for the SunRunner, which will be the first-ever bus rapid transit line in Tampa Bay.
“Today we are one step closer to a solution for the ever-growing problems of congestion and traffic in St. Petersburg. This has been a long time coming–it has been a marathon, not a sprint,” PSTA CEO Brad Miller said regarding the work behind-the-scenes to achieve this milestone.
PSTA has been working on developing the $44 million SunRunner project for years. The 10.3-mile line will connect through St. Petersburg, South Pasadena and St. Pete Beach on semi-dedicated lanes.
Bus rapid transit differs from traditional bus operations by incorporating on-level boarding and having a higher bus frequency as there are a limited number of stations.
The SunRunner will have 15 double-sided stations, creating a total of 30 stops. The buses will run every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes in the evening.
The entire SunRunner line is expected to be completed in the summer of 2022.
The bus rapid transit project is a piece of a bigger picture for economic development and connectivity for the region.
The BRT stations represent an opportunity for transit-oriented development, which can entail a mix of uses from retail, housing or offices spaces that are built around stations– it’s a completely new concept for Tampa Bay that the region can now take advantage of.
The first transit-oriented development will be DeNunzio Group’s planned 28-story development at 450 1st Ave. N.
The hi-rise project includes a 120-room hotel, 163 residential units, Class A office space, retail and parking that can be used by the public.
“Think about the hotel guests going directly to the beach,” DeNunzio Group’s Senior Project Manager Mike Flood said during the event.
The mixed-use development will break ground by the end of next year, Flood said.
PSTA board member Janet Long added how this project will also help accomplish the larger goal of having BRT service throughout Tampa Bay.
The SunRunner system will be “the catalyst for the 41-mile route that will finally put in place the spine for what will be an effective, efficient transportation system for the region,” Long said, referring to the regional rapid transit line that the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority has been studying.
The envisioned 41-mile rapid bus line would link Wesley Chapel to the Westshore area in Tampa and into downtown St. Petersburg and the Gateway area.