PSTA begins trolley routes from downtown St. Pete to southern Pinellas beaches
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10/03/11 Janelle Irwin
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Direct trolley routes connecting downtown St. Petersburg to south Pinellas beaches along Central Avenue began yesterday. Routes are now available from the Pier all the way to Pass-a-Grille beach for a two-dollar fare.

Before the opening of these routes, residents and tourists wanting to use public transportation to get from the Bay to the beach had to make several transfers. Now, they can hop on a trolley at any of seven stops and stay on that same bus until they reach their destination. Brad Miller, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s CEO, said the new routes also take into consideration St. Petersburg’s love affair with the Rays.

“We’re also extending the hours until later in the evening. So you can, instead of just going to the baseball game and having to just walk home like I did once with my kids, you can actually take the trolley back home. As long as it doesn’t go into like the seventeenth inning or anything like that right?”

The addition of direct routes bridging two of St. Petersburg’s biggest hot spots is a move Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce President Robin Sollie says tourists requested.

“I was quoted saying that we wanted to bridge the gap between the beach and the bay. I think today is kind of a goosebump moment for the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber because we actually have that physical transportation to bridge that gap that we have to mobilize not only our locals, but our tourists. How many times I can tell you that we have tourist come into our welcome centers and they ask for transportation to get too and from and they’re so discouraged at times when they know they have to make those transfers to get down to the Dali.”

The cost to ride the trolley depends on where you board and where you depart. Some portions of the route in the downtown area are free, others are as little as fifty-cents, with the maximum ride priced at two-dollars. Riders can also purchase all-day passes. The affordability and convenience is something St. Pete City Council member Jeff Danner says will boost local businesses.

“Then you wan to go find the local hamburger and the local music place and the galleries and antique shops. And I think that’s what we have here, the opportunity to shop and art walk and gallery and pub crawl and do all those things all the way down Central Avenue. Seven and a half miles of small businesses connecting our downtown and our beaches is going to be a fantastic event.”

Chris Steinocher, President and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber wants the route to be used as a model of how successful public transportation can be.

“Why I’m excited about hosting something like this today is, we have got to make sure the word gets out that this is here and it’s got to be successful because we’re going to build on this to show that we can do it, people will ride it, there are ways to do even more of it so we can build from this and use this as one of the successes. And why I was late, I was actually sitting on the trolley. I had no idea there was something going on in here. They were like; yeah you have to get off the bus. I’m like, I don’t want to. But they said, no, please get off the bus, so.”

Senator Jack Latvala has proposed a possible transit merger between Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Council member Danner is now the PSTA board chair. He said the discussions about connecting the two counties are important, and the board plans to take its time with a decision.

“On one end it could be as large as a merger, on the other it might just be more coordinated efforts getting across the Bay. We currently do recognize each other’s passes, we do joint bus purchases and things like that. So, we’re just going to continue those partnerships.”

Discounts are available for people with disabilities, children and students. Exact change for fairs is required. For trolley schedules and other information, go to PSTA.net. Riders can plan their trips on that website by using the new Google transit app.

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Which trolley goes by the Sirata and what is the schedule for the end of October 2013?