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SunRunner debut ramps up St. Pete business activity

Veronica Brezina

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From left: Bus Operators Nehemia Guerra, Travis Shaw, Sonia Jones and Lead Safety and Security Instructor A.J. Ortiz. Photos by Mark Parker.

The launch of the SunRunner has introduced Tampa Bay residents to mass transit – a first for a region that heavily relies on cars – and is simultaneously generating more exposure for businesses. 

According to a report from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, which debuted the SunRunner on Oct. 21, the service has drawn more than 63,000 passengers. The PSTA report also highlighted comments from business owners with shops along the route. 

The SunRunner operates on a 10.3-mile route and pulls flush against the curb at its 30 stations connecting downtown St. Petersburg, South Pasadena and St. Pete Beach riders.

Alsace Walentine, co-owner of Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, which is near the 22nd Street station, said, “As part of the Gold Card promotion, we are giving out a free gift with purchase, so we’ve gotten to meet a lot of new customers and share our love of reading and books with more people.” 

The map of stations for the SunRunner. Image: PTSA.

PSTA handed out SunRunner Gold Cards to the first 500 riders during the launch, providing those riders discounts at participating businesses along the route. 

“We worked closely with local businesses throughout the launch of SunRunner, and that’s why we came up with our Gold Card program, offering discounts at shops, restaurants, breweries, and more along the route,” PSTA CEO Brad Miller said in a statement to the St. Pete Catalyst. “It’s a way to incentivize our riders to check out these great establishments that they may not typically drive to on their own. They get to discover some of our area’s hidden gems and the businesses get to meet new customers, which may very quickly become repeat customers.”

Many people who have tried out the SunRunner told us they wouldn’t have taken their trip had it not been for this new service. So, a lot of locals are riding the SunRunner to try out new places and visit their old favorites.”

Commented Kelly Lessem, founder of Squeeze Juice Works: “I love getting to introduce customers to our juices, coffees, cleanses, meals and more. St. Pete is a health-conscious city, and you see more people incorporating plant-based foods into their diet. We’re happy the SunRunner is giving us access to a new market of customers, while also alleviating some of the transportation problems in our area.”

Miller added that PSTA is seeing many workers in St. Pete utilizing the service, as well as college students from the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus.

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