- December 8, 2021
About a year and a half from now, Pinellas County residents and visitors will have a new way to travel between downtown St. Petersburg and the county’s magnificent beaches when the SunRunner, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s first Bus Rapid Transit line, opens for business.
Expected to debut in early 2022, the 10.3-mile SunRunner line, according to a press release, will feature semi-dedicated lanes, limited stops and safety enhancements for riders, including level boarding platforms and crosswalks. Buses will run every 15 minutes along the route, which includes 16 stops between the east side of downtown St. Pete and St. Pete Beach.
State and local officials broke ground on the $44 million project Aug. 17, with PSTA CEO Brad Miller stating, in the release, “This is [an] historic day and a long time coming. Ultimately we hope this will be the first piece of a larger BRT puzzle that connects all of our communities, reduces congestion and improves our lives.”
The Federal Transit Administration allocated $28.1 million for the SunRunner. The Florida Department of Transportation, PSTA and the city of St. Petersburg also contributed funds.
The project, like many mass-transit initiatives in the Tampa Bay region, has not been without controversy. The city of St. Pete Beach opposed the service, even though the municipality bears none of the financial cost, with some residents and businesses expressing concern over growing traffic congestion along Gulf Boulevard.
FTA and PSTA officials, however, say the SunRunner service, which will run along First Avenue North and First Avenue South, is intended to reduce traffic and will move passengers between the city and beaches much faster than the existing Central Avenue trolley route.