Connect with us


SunRunner Pier station, fiber optics projects advance

Mark Parker



From left: Mayor Ken Welch; Chris Steinocher, CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce; Brad Miller, CEO of PSTA; Councilmember Gina Driscoll; Councilmember Deborah Figgs-Sanders; and Vince Cocks, PSTA board member.

The region’s first bus rapid transit system will reach the million-passenger mark before its first anniversary. Local leaders are now working to enhance the service.

St. Petersburg and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) officials are working to implement a new SunRunner station downtown. It will adjoin the Sundial Parking Garage, a five-minute walk from the St. Petersburg Pier.

The city council unanimously approved allocating $605,000 Thursday to build the station and install fiber optic communication lines along the 10.3-mile route to St. Pete Beach. Councilmember Gina Driscoll, who also chairs PSTA’s board, said she plans to create a program that mitigates the agency’s decision to forgo the city’s free-fare initiative.

“Before I get into that, though … any day now, we are going to be celebrating our one-millionth rider on the SunRunner,” Driscoll added. “In less than a year of operation, and that is meaningful.”

The planned station at 150 1st Ave. N. is a half-mile from the Cross Bay Ferry dock in the Vinoy Yacht Basin. Evan Mory, transportation and parking director, said the station would bring passengers “twice as close to the waterfront – if not more” than the 5th Street stop.

The council dedicated $235,000 to the project, currently in the design phase. Abhishek Dayal, director of project management for PSTA, said it is 30% complete.

Another $150,000 would fund glass art panels at the new station and two existing stops. The American Planning Association’s local affiliate awarded artist Catherine Woods, PSTA and the City of St. Petersburg for implementing the vibrant murals that adorn SunRunner shelters.

Dayal said the agency will collaborate with Weaver and the surrounding community to determine the Pier station’s artwork. “We want it to be special because it’s so close to a lot of activity centers in the area,” he said.

“As soon as the designs come in, we’ll be starting the process to engage our stakeholders.”

Local artist Catherine Woods has turned the new SunRunner stations into works of art using stained glass. Photo by Veronica Brezina.

Mory said the new location would share a space with the Downtown Looper shuttle service. While the city will not implement a dedicated lane for that SunRunner segment, Mory said the station would eliminate a parking space or two.

However, he noted that the stop abuts a 1,300-space parking garage. “If we can afford to lose a couple of spaces anywhere downtown, that’s a good place for it,” Mory added.

He explained that the fiber optic cable project, which received $220,000, would bolster communication speed and reliability between buses, stations and PSTA offices. That would provide passengers with more accurate schedule information.

Councilmember Copley Gerdes called that initiative “amazing” and said inaccurate arrival times on the mobile application are his constituents’ only complaint. However, Mory said that is part of a countywide project that is currently over budget.

“So, the contract provides for an early refund to the city if that project doesn’t move forward,” he said.

Fares and the homeless

PSTA’s board voted 13-2 at its Aug. 23 meeting to charge $2.25 for a one-way SunRunner ticket. That starts Oct. 1, ahead of the original Nov. 1 date.

The move followed multiple meetings where St. Pete Beach residents and business owners voiced pointed concerns about homeless residents taking advantage of the free rides. Initial options included implementing a 50-cent fee not payable with cash or coins.

In addition, that would have only applied to specific stops in West St. Pete, Councilmember Copley Gerdes’ district. “The ideas that were brought forward before the last PSTA meeting were a bit upsetting,” he said.

A group of people wait on the SunRunner at Grand Central Station. Photo by Mark Parker.

“Not only for a portion of our community and our homeless community but also for District 1,” Gerdes added. “I just wanted to thank Councilmember Driscoll for her leadership on PSTA.”

Driscoll said the $175,000 allocated by the council and Mayor Ken Welch’s administration for a disadvantaged rider’s program would likely remain. However, city officials will strike $200,000 to keep the SunRunner free for anyone from the fiscal year 2024 budget.

Welch also offered to increase PSTA’s subsidies to no avail. Driscoll and board member Vince Cocks voted against implementing the fare.

Driscoll said she is looking at ways to use the $200,000 in parking revenue to help residents “get from point A to point B.”

“I would love for any of my colleagues to think about that and be involved in what another solution might be,” she said. “Because I remain undeterred in my quest to help more people get around St. Pete and beyond.”






Continue Reading


  1. Avatar


    September 14, 2023at9:26 am

    The Gondolas hovering over 1st Ave N and 1st Ave S don’t seem that crazy of an idea anymore.

  2. Avatar

    Mike C

    September 10, 2023at8:45 pm

    WOW, what an enormous waste of taxpayer funds. Danny, spot on! Please provide meaningful metrics councilmembers. The data provide is meaningless. Where is the ridership? What is the metric for bus utilization?? Are they running at 70%? I bet it averages less than 20%, and thats while they are FREE. Nice buses, graphics, great stop stations… HORRIBLE idea.

  3. Avatar


    September 10, 2023at1:33 pm

    What a bunch of complaining, self-centered, elitist curmudgeons in the comments. Why did you move to a city with a progressive, empathetic culture if you are against it? All of you have ruined this place, and are driving out the good people in droves.

  4. Avatar


    September 10, 2023at1:21 pm

    This system is the start of a great network throughout Pinellas county. Great work, PSTA.

  5. Avatar

    Danny E White

    September 10, 2023at12:28 pm

    I do not have a need to use any public transportation. That is not braggadocio, just a fact. I do, however, have to contend with the inescapably obtrusive SunRunner lanes and stations that have forever changed the landscape along 1st Avenues North and South. In my deliberate observations over the past year, clearly I have missed seeing a single bus with more than 10 riders. Do we know WHO has been consistently using the service and WHY they’ve used it, for FREE and if they plan to continue using it when the fare kicks in? On the expenditure of funds for artwork, I do not have an issue with that in and of itself; what I find is that the project totally misses the opportunity to reflect intentional equity and inclusion in a city that promotes itself as a welcoming city of arts and culture.

  6. Avatar

    Dedric Roberts

    September 10, 2023at6:52 am

    I’ve used it several times getting to the Rays games. I was skeptical about it, but have been thoroughly impressed. Parking is the worst part of trying to go to Downtown St Pete. I’d make a lot fewer visits if not for the Sun Runner.

  7. Avatar

    Donna Kostreva

    September 9, 2023at10:35 pm

    The “Bum Runner” was constructed soley for the grant revenue it garnered for the city, completely destroying the traffic flow on First Aves. N&S. And whose uncle owns the concrete company used to erect the ridiculous, in the roadway passenger ramps used by five riders?The traffic Dept. should be disbanded as they ruin the traffic flow on every major artery, cannot sequence the lights properly, and create useless pedestrian bump outs hampering traffic, and feeding that Uncle’s pockets!

  8. Avatar

    Steve D

    September 9, 2023at4:37 pm

    Those of us who ride the SunRunner often get a real kick out of annoying people who would never be seen on public transportation… especially while watching them aimlessly circling in search of a parking space.

  9. Avatar


    September 9, 2023at3:42 pm


  10. Avatar


    September 9, 2023at3:27 pm

    $220,000 for a fiber optic cable project!!! Why the heck didn’t they install that when they had the roads torn up to build the stations????

  11. Avatar


    September 9, 2023at8:43 am

    Agree..1M riders FOR FREE!!! LOOOLL..not metrics for success….traffic congestion has INCREASED on 1st Ave N…SUX..

  12. Avatar


    September 8, 2023at10:32 pm

    A HUNDRED and FIFTY THOUSAND on glass panels!

    I live in Copley Gerdes’ district and I have a lot of valid complaints about this moronic failure of a system. Why does it stop on the wrong side of the road?

    Hey Gerdes! Explain to me why it stops on the wrong side of the road! Give us back our traffic lanes! Stop lying about this disaster being a success. There hasn’t been a single paying rider! Not ONE! It’s a dumpster fire.

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:

Subscribe for Free

Share with friend

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