The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has a long roster of new connections to come online within the next several years, including a key connection from downtown St. Petersburg to the Tampa International Airport.
The Tampa Bay Regional Transit Authority is scheduled to discuss unfunded future bus routes Friday, many of which are connections through the Hillsborough and Pinellas bus agencies. The routes are part of the long-term Envision 2030 plan, which was created to identify ways to better connect Tampa Bay communities and populated areas.
“Our long-term goal has always been to create greater connectivity,” PSTA President and CEO Brad Miller said in an emailed statement. “We are hoping the SunRunner (the region’s first bus rapid transit line), which begins operating this fall, will be the catalyst for that connectivity with the next routes linking downtown St. Petersburg to Tampa International Airport and the beaches to TPA as well.”
From a list of future planned unfunded routes, one that would launch in 2025 is Route 727X. It entails PSTA providing a new express bus service from downtown St. Petersburg to Tampa International Airport that would run seven days a week, from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. The tab for the capital cost is $7.8 million. It would also cost $5.1 million to operate.
After two years, another route, Route 60X, would connect Clearwater Beach to the Tampa airport for the same duration. The Clearwater-Tampa airport connection would be $7.8 million in capital costs and $4.5 million to operate.
Having a downtown St. Pete connection to the airport has been a hot topic, as it would be a critical linkage that can help alleviate traffic and provide more options for commuters. PSTA’s first-ever connection to the airport launched in 2018 with the 300X Airport Express, which takes riders from Largo to the Rental Car Center’s SkyConnect station at TPA. The 300X route is mentioned in the list as PSTA will attempt to improve its frequency and space to seven days a week from 5 a.m. to midnight. The enhancement would come in 2026 and cost $7.8 million for six buses and $5.1 million to operate.
Beyond the airport connections, other new routes are slated to be added. In 2027, a new U.S. 19 express bus service would connect from Pasco County to Pinellas County’s Gateway area. The service would run throughout the weekday during peak hours, and would cost $11.7 million for the capital cost of nine buses, along with $5.6 million in operating cost.
In the same year, Route 18 LX would also launch. It would be a new limited-stop overlay service from Park St. Terminal (Clearwater) to downtown St. Petersburg via Alt-19. The new route comes with a large price tag of $19.5 million in capital cost for 15 buses and $17.6 million in operating costs.
In terms of new future routes that are currently unfunded, a new limited-stop route is planned from the Largo Transit Center to the Skyway Marina District in southern St. Petersburg. This route is planned for 2024 with a $5.4 million capital cost for eight buses and $10.4 million in operating costs.
The list of unfunded routes also includes improved frequencies and span of express bus service from downtown St. Petersburg to downtown Tampa via the Gandy Bridge, and the limited express overlay from Park Street to Grand Central Station.
“The unfunded regional transit needs list is something we’ve talked about for a while and are now providing to the TBARTA Board monthly as a reminder of the opportunities we have in front of us as a region,” TBARTA Executive Director David Green said. “The list is intended to serve as a collective reference of transit priorities and what projects are most needed in the event funding becomes available for any of them. Each agency will update its list as anything on it changes. PSTA provides great service and coverage throughout Pinellas County but better connections to TPA and other activity centers would be really attractive to both residents and visitors.”