Plans submitted to the Southwest Florida Water Management System by H.W. Lochner, Inc. show that PSTA plans to move forward as planned with the Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) despite formal opposition from the City of South Pasadena and the City of St. Pete Beach. The BRT route is expected to open to riders in late 2020/early 2021.
H.W. Lochner submitted plans for 30 stations along a 10.3 mile route, and has removed the proposed Station 1, which would have terminated the route at the Don CeSar. PSTA agreed to terminate service at the county’s public beach access, just north of 46th avenue, combining Stations 2 and 3, in order to alleviate concerns by the City of St. Pete Beach. PSTA also agreed to use smaller buses on the route, reducing the size from 60-foot buses (the default standard for BRT projects across the nation) to 40-foot buses.
Four other stations will be located in St. Pete Beach, two on each side of Gulf Boulevard. Four more stations will be positioned along Pasadena Avenue. Along 1st Avenues North and South, stations will be positioned near 66th St., 58th St., 49th St., 40th St., 31st St., 22nd St., 13th St., Martin Luther King St./9th St., and 4th St., before the route heads south into downtown St. Petersburg.
Despite the objections of South Pasadena and St. Pete Beach, PSTA may move forward with the proposed route because Pasadena Avenue and Gulf Boulevard are state roads under Florida Department of Transportation jurisdiction, not that of the individual municipalities.
The construction of the BRT stations is particularly important to the project, as the stations will include measures unique to BRT like raised platforms for boarding, known as level boarding, which would allow BRT users to roll wheelchairs or bikes directly onto the bus, removing the need for ramps or other accessibility measures. Level boarding is a BRT best practice, along with bus travel in dedicated lanes, traffic signal alignment and pre-payment before boarding.
Engineering firm H.W. Lochner was selected in September 2018 to design the Central Avenue BRT project. The firm previously worked on transit projects with Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). H.W. Lochner was also behind the Lymmo BRT project in Orlando, an innovative “rail-like” service utilizing buses instead of light rail.