“Smart growth means creating vibrant walkable neighborhoods with a concentrated mix of housing, retail and jobs. Transit-oriented development elevates that mix with easy access to transit that connects people and places across our city. A fast and affordable bus rapid transit system like SunRunner is a key factor in ensuring that everyone benefits from St. Petersburg’s growth and success.”
- Gina Driscoll, District 6 St. Petersburg City Council Member
PSTA was recently named the nation’s most outstanding public transit system. What are some of the factors that resulted in PSTA’s receiving this prestigious APTA award?
The American Public Transportation Association recognized the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority with this honor based on its achievement in 12 different areas, including safety, operations, customer service and environmental sustainability. This marked the first time PSTA has received the award in its 39-year history. The Outstanding Public Transportation System award is a testament to PSTA’s steady leadership and commitment to excellence in every aspect of the agency
A tipping point for transit-oriented development (TOD) was establishing the SunRunner route. Can you explain its connection to big topics like affordable housing, density, equitable access and economic development?
Smart growth means creating vibrant walkable neighborhoods with a concentrated mix of housing, retail and jobs, and transit-oriented development elevates that mix with easy access to transit that connects people and places across our city. A fast and affordable bus rapid transit system like SunRunner is a key factor in ensuring that everyone benefits from St. Petersburg’s growth and success. When more people can live near a SunRunner station, we dramatically increase equitable access to jobs, education, housing and economic opportunity.
As a coastal community as well as a largely built-out community, what is TOD’s role in environmental resilience?
Our spectacular waterfront is a constant reminder that we have a responsibility to be a strong leader in environmental stewardship. Transit-oriented development assists us in achieving our environmental goals by reducing reliance on personal automobiles through walkable, bikeable neighborhoods with convenient transit.
What does the next step of Downtown’s TOD implementation look like in 2024 and beyond?
Transit-oriented development implementation in the downtown area will be focused on enhancing and expanding transportation options to complement our density and help more people get to and from downtown without the need for a car. In 2024, this includes a new SunRunner station near the St. Pete Pier, continued expansion of the Cross-Bay Ferry service, and adjusting transit where needed to align with new development.
Despite criticism early on, the SunRunner began service in October 2022. After a year in operation, what is the consensus? (ridership numbers)
In September 2023, PSTA celebrated its one millionth SunRunner rider, and incredible achievement for the new service in less than one year of operation. There is always some resistance to change, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Whether it’s a downtown resident headed to the beach, a Rays fan from the west side going to a game, or a restaurant in Grand Central welcoming more patrons, the message is clear – the SunRunner is a great success, and St. Pete is on board!