Connect with us


South St. Pete lane repurposing project faces controversy

Mark Parker



Whit Blanton, executive director of Forward Pinellas, said the Florida Department of Transportation will not use red-dyed asphalt for a 34th Street South lane repurposing project. City Councilmember John Muhammad said that would make it easier to revert the lanes back to through-traffic if the project increases congestion. Photo by Mark Parker.

State and local officials will discuss a long-planned initiative in St. Pete Beach, rather than the project’s location (repurposing parts of 34th Street South) in St. Petersburg.

Rep. Linda Chaney, who has sought to restrict Pinellas County’s ability to implement dedicated bus lanes, organized the March 25 town hall meeting with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Many St. Pete Beach residents have vocally opposed the SunRunner, which uses dedicated lanes to carry passengers to and from downtown St. Petersburg and the coastal community.

The 34th Street repurposing initiative, led by FDOT, will similarly eliminate general traffic and establish shared bus and right-turn lanes. Whit Blanton, executive director of Forward Pinellas, told the agency’s board Wednesday he would “explain the rationale behind the project” at the recently scheduled town hall. “And then we’ll go from there.”

“It feels like … blatant politics out in the open,” said City Councilmember Richie Floyd. “You’re hosting a town hall in a community that has shown negative opinions about bus lanes in a different community. It doesn’t feel right.”

Unlike most municipalities, St. Pete Beach property taxes do not support the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA). The city still receives all services.

The agency shortened the initially planned SunRunner route to appease St. Pete Beach residents, who spent much of 2023 alleging the once-free service brought drugs and crime to their community. Chaney then filed a local bill that would have reduced PSTA’s board from 15 to 11 members.

While that failed in the Senate, recently passed House Bill 1301 included some of its language. If signed into law by the governor, it requires two-thirds of any transit agency’s board to approve lane repurposing projects.

The St. Pete Beach Community Center will host Chaney’s town hall meeting. The facility is about six miles – or a 50-minute bus ride away – from the 34th Street project, which begins at the intersection of 22nd Avenue and extends to 54th Avenue South.

Brad Miller, CEO of PSTA, and Evan Mory, St. Petersburg’s transportation and parking director, will help Blanton and FDOT officials field questions from St. Pete Beach residents. “I’d love to do something that actually gets the people who are going to be impacted and live near this project to have a voice in it, as well,” Floyd said.

Blanton said Floyd raised “some good questions” and that he would gauge interest from state and local officials. However, Blanton added that he is a “little leery of dueling public forums.”

County Commissioner Janet Longs suggested that Chaney schedule another meeting in St. Petersburg with Sen. Darryl Rouson, who pulled her PSTA bill from Senate consideration. Long said that could provide an opportunity to “mend some fences.”

Floyd expressed concern that feedback from the St. Pete Beach meeting would influence FDOT officials. “But that input is not actually based on the people who live around the project,” he said.

A view of 34th St. S. (U.S. Hwy. 19) entering the Skyway Marina District. The area’s new governing board has recently signaled opposition to the lane repurposing project. Screengrab, county documents.

Additional opposition?

Blanton said the Skyway Marina District propelled the project forward several years ago. However, a new board is “now seeing all the development for 34th Street South, and they are getting concerned.”

“The board sent us a letter a few months back to the city saying they no longer supported bus and turn lanes,” Blanton added. “If the mayor (Ken Welch) and city council are still on board with this project, I think that’s going to be an important factor.”

Commissioner Dave Eggers said it “makes more sense” to hold the town hall in St. Petersburg. He also expressed the benefit of re-engaging any area stakeholders before allocating funding.

Blanton noted the project is already under construction. FDOT has built sidewalks and installed one of several pedestrian-activated crosswalk signals. Eggers said the lane repurposing, which has yet to occur, is the “controversial piece.”

“I think my biggest challenge right now is maintaining that level of partnership with the local government, whoever it is,” Blanton explained. “As elections change, boards change, neighborhood boards change – because of the length of time (a project) takes.”

HB 1301 would also change FDOT’s stated goals. Instead of “improving travel choices to ensure mobility,” the agency’s focus is now “promoting the efficient movement of people and goods” and “preserving Florida’s quality of life.”

The legislation also requires transit agencies to study traffic impacts and notify all affected property owners and local governments 180 days before repurposing existing traffic lanes. “And St. Pete did that with the 34th Street project,” Blanton said.

“So, these are things that we’re already doing generally.”

A map of the subject area, with the Skyway Marina District, outlined in red. The project also includes resurfacing, expanded sidewalks and enhanced pedestrian-activated crosswalks. Screengrab, county documents.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to reflect the correct date of the March 25 meeting

Continue Reading


  1. Avatar


    March 17, 2024at5:14 pm

    Commandeering entire lanes, to permit near empty buses easier travel, is just moronic. Instead, how bout’ this: get rid of the huge, whale-sized behemoth buses; and, replace with smaller & right-sized shuttle buses. Result would be plenty of ridership seats, at a reduced operating cost… and, oh, no bus-only lanes needed… the much smaller shuttle vehicles could easily manauver thru traffic.

  2. Avatar

    Rowan Starfell

    March 16, 2024at7:52 pm

    Let me just add to my first comment that I don’t know if good public transit actually fixes congestion because as more people use transit more drivers just replace them I also don’t really know if the PSTA is actually doing a good job on that problem Becase the last time I needed to go to Clearwater back in November 2023 I decided I would rather bike an hour and a half and risk my life riding my bike along 66th street in the sad excuse of bike lane it has instead of taking the 34 up because it’s just so slow. (Also I just believe it’s important to show that the little bit bike infrastructure that is built is being used so that maybe it becomes a protected lane.. Proably just wishful thinking but one can hope.) However I ended up getting a flat on my way home and the bus was right there so I could just go home instead of being forced to change my tube on the side of us 19 at 9pm in a sketch part off Clearwater.

    However I still strongly believe it is important to try and create more effective and faster public transit it makes life better for everyone. Because it creates options and choices. It would be amazing if you could just walk up to a buss stop and the wait time was so low you knew you wouldn’t be sitting their longer then 5 or 10 min during peek times. Or that if you needed to take your car to the mechanic you had a cheaper then Uber option to go to work. Or if you wanted to go to Tampa we had a ferry year round Good public transit is an asset to the community. Light rail connecting the county together would be cool I don’t know I just feel like it’s a shame that we have made our built environment so dependent on the car.

  3. Avatar


    March 16, 2024at1:28 pm

    One solution would be to STOP voting for these people. They WANT it to be more ‘inconvenient’ for YOU. They want less cars on the road… Just as long as it is you. NOT Them tho…. Ohhhhh, noooo. As far as for the buses… More and more people are already receiving FREE “Uber/Lyft” rides everyday now, either through their Medicaid Plans or other “Disability” (welfare) Programs. And, at least all around Clearwater (and surrounding areas, outside of the beach), you rarely even, see as many buses driving around lately, as you once did. Because, NO ONE is riding them anymore, though it wasn’t like they were ever ‘packed’ to begin with. I’ve talked with several people who’ve said that they just call up PSTA and they book all of their Uber and Lyft rides through THEM… HOW, WHY, WHO’s paying for THIS!? I mean, I don’t blame THEM at all, since WHO WOULD want to take a BUS for ‘50-Minutes’ to just go 6-7 MILES… But, shouldn’t they have to take the busses tho, since we HAVE THEM!? Otherwise, just eliminate them entirely. Just as with LOTS of things (being decided on by ‘these types’ of people), NONE of it ever makes any amount of sense, whatsoever. Literally, everything is beginning to look-like, just a huge SCAM. It’s because, you have a BUNCH of incompetent, incapable, corrupt people making these decisions, who only stay within their own little bubbles, while living inside of their own BIG heads. I mean, think about it… WHAT kind of ‘person’ would even want to be in/put THEMSELVES into this type of position in the first place, much less, to so desperately, want to hang onto it by any means necessary. Just very loathsome narcissists to the extreme. It’s Disgusting.

  4. Avatar


    March 16, 2024at11:38 am

    You have zero reason to believe buses reduced traffic. None. You have absolutely nothing to back that up.

  5. Avatar


    March 16, 2024at11:06 am

    I am taking a poll, please answer a few questions…

    If you had a choice of taking an Uber or a bus to take your child to the hospital at 3am, which would you choose? What if you were just going to the grocery store? Uber or bus?

    Tell us why you love the bus – cost? no car? disability? PSTA employee? Paid to write this? Be honest.
    How many times do you ride the bus up and down 34th Street per day? Per week? When is traffic the worst?

    Do you enjoy the freedom the bus and your bike give you? Anywhere, anytime, 24/7?
    Have you noticed less traffic in LA since they have the most costly public transit system in the country?

  6. Avatar

    Rowan Starfell

    March 16, 2024at6:10 am

    As a person who has extensively ridden on our bus system and had to deal with massive delays from traffic; it is extremely disheartening to hear so much negativity from people who do not use public transit and understand the struggles our system has. The bus route that goes up and down 34th Street is a very long and busy route as it gets better even more people would want to use it.A better service means eventually more ridership and that would mean less cars on the street and better traffic. Which is a Plus for everyone saying it will make traffic worse. Also not everyone can or wants to drive. Do we want to live in a city or society that penalizes people who have handicaps that don’t allow them to drive such as a person who is blind or someone who has a condition that makes them have seizures ect.

    Traffic in St Petersburg will only get worse as our population booms as someone born here I do not want to deal with traffic like LA. I want a robust public transit system that gives people choice and effective alternatives to driving. Because with the choice everyone’s life is improved. A good public transit system = less traffic for drivers more Options for people that live along the route, transportation for people that can’t afford a car, and mobility for people with disabilities or people like me who just do not like driving and have decided not to buy a car.

    Why is the town hall happening 6 miles away in a municipality that already decided they didn’t want improved buss connection in their section of the sun runner. This route change doesn’t effect them. As a person who doesn’t drive but lives very near to the area that is affected I now have to go way out of my way just to make my voice heard? Because I would love improvements like this. ( I will probably use the sun runner or bike there on the Pinellas trail)

  7. Avatar

    John B.

    March 15, 2024at11:36 pm

    Most of my data is available on the PSTA site: https://psta.net/
    The final 2024 budget in detail: https://psta.net/media/6689/fy-2024-adopted-budget-updated-20231114.pdf
    Correspondence with Brad Miller, PSTA CEO, and various articles provide mostly validation, with some small additions.
    Beneficial information and insights:

    Those who are seriously interested will discover how wasteful PSTA is and the political motivations; as usual, transparency is an illusion. Unfortunately, very few care, most are just finding their way to their next paycheck. They do not have the time or inclination to worry about why our so-called leaders do what they do.

    Remember, your vote counts only if you are truly aware of the candidates and the issues.
    Try attending a City Council, County Commission or PSTA Board meeting, see how these decisions are made with little or no consideration for cost vs benefit.

  8. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    March 15, 2024at3:50 pm

    I agree with most of the above comments about SunRunner and Dedicated Bus Lanes on 34th Street. No for Dedicated Bus Lanes and No dedicated Lanes for SunRunner. Drivers are already having a difficult time getting around especially with the influx of new drivers.

  9. Avatar

    John Donovan

    March 15, 2024at3:16 pm

    PSTA bus routes can and do run on the lanes we have now. On city streets generally and Pinellas County specifically this is more than adequate. Why spend millions more for a massive money losing and lightly used system? The same money could be a fare offset all other factors being equal and sensible. They aren’t, so lets not do that either. See John B.s data posted below. (I have not independtly verified its accuracy)

  10. Avatar

    John B.

    March 15, 2024at1:06 pm

    Let’s face facts: PSTA is a tragic waste of taxpayers’ money (YOUR money). If you dig into all the metrics, ridership is declining every year while PSTA pours more of OUR money into allowing 1.4% of Pinellas residents and visitors to ride for less than $1.00/ride overall.

    Sunrunner now has about 833 actual people (round trips = 1,666×30=50,000) on the bus every day, with buses coming every 15 minutes from 6am-8pm every day, every 30 min from 8pm-12am. That is a whole lot of buses for 833 riders. YOU paid $50,000,000 for the Surunner and will continue to pay 94% of the operating expenses for those 833 people.

    PSTA will spend $188,000,000 of YOUR money in 2024. For 1.4% of the population. PSTA is not running a business, they are laundering YOUR money from your pockets to a whole lot of other pockets: employees ($67,800,000 in salaries and benefits) and a lot of contractors and bus manufacturers. Diesel fuel? $5,769,810!

    Think about it this way: $188,000,000/year to give 14,000 people a ride to and from work or wherever, $13,430/person. Does that make sense to you? How about giving those who have a real need a subsidized Uber ride?
    Some people who ride the bus could afford to pay the true cost of their ride which is about $7.00 each way just for the operating cost.
    Worried about Uber driving polluting cars? OK, make the subsidy 100% or more for electric Uber rides.

    There are pros and cons applicable to public transit. The problem is that when people are spread out over a very wide area and jobs are spread out over a very wide area, it is impossible to provide effective public transit at a reasonable cost. That is why buses cannot compete with cars that can go from A to B anytime, 24/7, in any direction, door to door.

    We are brainwashed to believe that we should be providing rides to people who cannot afford a car. Community surveys show that more people ride to work with a co-worker or other person than ride the bus.
    Let’s come up with more efficient ways to move small numbers of people around. Throwing more money at a problem that gets smaller every year (PSTA ridership is declining every year while expenses are increasing) does not make sense!

  11. Avatar


    March 15, 2024at9:37 am

    Either go all in on the SunRunner and build proper tracks and go all-in on this transportation measure or eliminate it entirely. This half measure now doesnt seem to be working for either the riders or the drivers.

    Really wish St Pete looked more into the Gondola options that were being floated around in ’17.

  12. Avatar


    March 15, 2024at9:19 am

    St Pete is one huge headline away from all of these regressive discussions/tactics being totally squashed. The train has left the station folks.. time to start thinking about how to work with progress not against it.

  13. Avatar

    Carl V.

    March 15, 2024at7:38 am

    I understand why drivers are so upset about bus lanes. When you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression. They’re used to being able to speed through residential areas, and now they have to obey the speed limit. Hell hath no fury like drivers being forced to obey the speed limit! When a bus lane slows down traffic in a densely populated area, it’s a feature, not a bug.

  14. Avatar


    March 15, 2024at7:00 am

    Charles are you for real??!!?? The people of st Pete beach don’t even *want those resorts to EXIST*. No one cares about the people with crappy jobs at the beach!

    What about every single other person with a crappy job that has to traverse that travesty of a road! What about us? For every one rider on that POS there are thousands of us paying the price both figuratively and literally.

    Why couldn’t it just be a bus? Why does it have to be overpriced and poorly designed? Ithe ptsa are either profoundly bad at their jobs, profoundly corrupt or BOTH.

  15. Avatar


    March 14, 2024at11:03 pm

    Who are the idiots that approved this?? It’s INFURIATING having to travel along the sunrunner path. No more of that nonsense. The population has expanded here and the thing NOT TO DO is limit the flow of traffic. You have ppl traveling 10 or more below the speed limit while there’s for the most part an empty bus lane. It’s LUDICROUS. stop the nonsense!! No more dedicated bus lanes. There’s psta and now the sunrunner. It’s a frustrating experience to say the least. I& several others ABHOR THIS. Eliminate the sunrunner lane and make NO MORE

  16. Avatar


    March 14, 2024at10:37 pm

    Hi max! Are you referring the to forward pinellas information? I followed up with them regarding the statistics they made public and I assure you their numbers are not rigorous. They didn’t perform a “study” they didn’t do “research “. They took two numbers and made a social media post.

    Their methods are not documented or available. Their data is not publicly available. Their numbers were not peer reviewed. None of that passes scientific muster.

    As far as I can tell, they compared the high traffic year of sun runner construction versus the first year or two of sun runner operation. It’s no wonder they were able to craft the same nonsense they’ve been shoving down our throats for 4 years.

    I also live on this corridor and I have personally seen two sun runner busses destroyed in serious accidents. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes.

    I’m not going to question forward pinellas motives but I can tell you that you’ve been sold a bag of goods. It’s magic beans. Ptsa destroyed a corridor at our expense after gaining public funds under false pretenses then they receive awards.

    I personally am livid to be on the losing end of their lies.

  17. Avatar

    Mike C

    March 14, 2024at9:59 pm

    More Sun Runner nonsense. No ROI, No Value Proposition. More frustration. Again, total nonsense.

  18. Avatar

    Steve D

    March 14, 2024at9:58 pm

    Ah yes….The old farts, (and those who think like them), who complain the most, won’t be here when this eventually happens…and it will. And, it should.

  19. Avatar


    March 14, 2024at9:43 pm

    I’ve lived in St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach. St. Pete Beach should not get a day a out what happens in St. Petersburg. The sunrunner has been an asset. Who the hell do you think who does those crap jobs at the resorts that keeps st.pete beach economy going and growing. Don’t act surprised more people are moving here. Anyone with any insight could see this is what would happen. You want the tourists money buy not out anything in for locals

  20. Avatar

    Max McCann

    March 14, 2024at8:56 pm

    As someone who drives on 1st Ave N and S almost every weekday, I fully support bus-and-turn lanes here and elsewhere. Along the SunRunner corridor, travel times are about the same, and crashes, including fatalities, are down. Traffic calming measures like bus-and-turn lanes make these roads more pleasant for residents, pedestrians, cyclists, and even drivers. Also, the best way to reduce traffic is to give people options for getting around without driving.

  21. Avatar

    Max Oliver McCann

    March 14, 2024at8:51 pm

    Hey Mark Parker, I heard the town hall is on March 25, not May 30 as mentioned in your article. Can you confirm?

  22. Avatar

    Pedro V.

    March 14, 2024at8:31 pm

    I am just going to say two words and if you know, you know: Induced Demand.

  23. Avatar


    March 14, 2024at5:58 pm

    The dedicated sun runner bus lines are awful. The people who put them in are incredibly awful. “How to destroy a city and a road”. Makes me beyond furious. Makes my blood boil in anger.

  24. Avatar

    John Strauss

    March 14, 2024at5:33 pm

    Remove the dedicated SunRunner lanes. No reason for a dedicated lane for a bus that only runs once every 15 minutes at best. It’s causing ridiculous amounts of traffic congestion along portions of 66 Street and I’m seeing more and more people say screw it and just use the lane.

  25. Avatar

    steve sullivan

    March 14, 2024at5:28 pm

    Todd Ringeisen, the majority of bus routes run along 34th street north and south. What is your issue or should I say your narrative and agenda. you have no problem with a non paying municipality dictating what happens in another city’s boundaries?

  26. Avatar

    Kevin McNally

    March 14, 2024at5:17 pm

    Really David? It’s a great idea to reduce the amount of available lanes at the same time the developers sell out our city for money. How about a new sewage processing plant to handle the additional waste? I would gladly pay more taxes for a moratorium on new development. If you want to live in Manhattan google maps will show you the way.

  27. Avatar

    Todd Ringeisen

    March 14, 2024at4:02 pm

    I live just west of 19 in that area. There are thousands of new apartments and condos being built in that area with probably a very small percentage of those new residents will utilize buses. How about taking care of the needs of the majority of the citizens. Driving in Pinellas county is horrible. Let’s not make it worse.

  28. Avatar

    Danny E White

    March 14, 2024at3:38 pm

    So, if the meeting is going to be in St. Pete Beach, does that prohibit attendance by St. Petersburg taxpayers who have interest in the repurposing? What is the purpose of this political madness?

  29. Avatar

    David Johnson

    March 14, 2024at3:27 pm

    Should go all the way to central ave at least. Really should go up to Pinellas Park!

  30. Avatar

    John Donovan

    March 14, 2024at3:16 pm

    Dumb idea. 34th Street is growing fast. 3 lanes is a blessing for drivers Busses can run on same lanes. Dr Traffic Frankenstein, stop your experiments. Few if any property owning taxpayers are asking for dedicated bus lanes. Property owning taxpayers are the ones taxed directly for busses. And we don’t get a free fare pass either.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By posting a comment, I have read, understand and agree to the Posting Guidelines.

The St. Pete Catalyst

The Catalyst honors its name by aggregating & curating the sparks that propel the St Pete engine.  It is a modern news platform, powered by community sourced content and augmented with directed coverage.  Bring your news, your perspective and your spark to the St Pete Catalyst and take your seat at the table.

Email us: spark@stpetecatalyst.com

Subscribe for Free

Share with friend

Enter the details of the person you want to share this article with.