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St. Pete and PSTA unveil first electric bus in Tampa Bay

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority won another $1 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to purchase two new electric buses for the agency’s fleet, St. Petersburg Congressman Charlie Crist announced Wednesday.

The grant and purchase will bring PSTA’s fleet of all-electric buses to six by 2020.

The announcement came during a ceremony on the steps of St. Pete City Hall unveiling the region’s first all-electric bus. The no-emission trolley will be used for a downtown St. Pete looper.

That service will be free for riders when it launches Sunday. The city of St. Pete allocated $360,000 a year for operating costs to run the looper.

The service will operate every 15 minutes during the day and evening, seven days a week.

“This is a step towards a greener, cleaner future for Pinellas County,” PSTA CEO Brad Miller said.“We’ve led the charge as an innovator and a leader in the transit industry, and now we’ve accomplished another milestone by launching the first zero-emission, all-electric bus service in St. Petersburg.”

PSTA purchased two electric buses from Los Angeles-based electric bus manufacturer BYD Inc. as part of its zero-emission vehicle program.

Pinellas County allocated about $600,000 from its BP oil spill settlement fund for a downtown charging station.

The transit agency used its first $1 million FTA grant to purchase the buses. Two more buses are expected to arrive in 2019,

This $1 million federal grant – for the second year in a row – will “ensure they continue leading the charge in providing sustainable transportation options,” Crist said.

Pinellas County Commissioner and PSTA Board Chair Janet Long said the looper launch is a step in the right direction toward sustainable, regional transit.

“This region has been on the short side of getting federal funding for far too long,” Long said.

The service launches as regional transit planners and elected officials work to implement a regional transit line connecting downtown St. Pete to Wesley Chapel along Interstate 275. That plan has not yet been finalized, but PSTA supports its implementation.

Currently transit between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties is only available on limited routes on the Gandy and Howard Frankland Bridges. PSTA recently launched a connection to Tampa International Airport, but stops on that route are limited to the airport and downtown Tampa.

Riders must connect to other locations by transferring to a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit bus.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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