Opponents try to stir trouble for St. Pete bus rapid transit

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“BRT is being shoved down our throats,” they claim.

There’s an opposition campaign brewing against the Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit route planned in St. Petersburg.

During a meeting of the Pinellas County legislative delegation Wednesday, one familiar face — and another new one — spoke out against the project.

The proposed BRT route would connect downtown St. Pete to St. Pete Beach and other south county Gulf beaches along First Avenues North and South.

St. Pete resident Ed Carlson is leading a new opposition group called Citizens Against Lane Loss and Parking Loss that is fighting to kill the project.

“BRT is being shoved down our throats,” Carlson said. “This is the greatest outrage in this community that I’ve seen in 25 years since [St. Pete became] strong Mayor.”

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Carlson claims he represents opponents from 15 neighborhoods along and near the planned route, as well as 1,500 condominium units.

A website promoting the group and its opposition is just one page with a mashup of data about projects, which they say lead to lane and parking loss and contains only limited citations for its information. The website even contains a disclaimer cautioning visitors on trusting its information.

This website’s content and the products for sale are based upon the programmer’s intuition and the operator’s research and knowledge. You should do your own research and confirm the information with other sources when searching for information regarding statistical data,” the disclaimer reads. 

There doesn’t appear to be “products for sale” on the website.

Despite the effort, the group’s opposition might be too late.

Of the entire $42 million project, about half has either been already secured or pledged. That includes $10 million from the Florida Department of Transportation which included the project in its work program,

Another $4 million was pledged from the city of St. Pete and $6 million from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

The federal government would fund the remaining $22 million through its New Starts program in which officials have already positioned the city for the money by ranking the project the second highest possible rank — medium-high.

Still, Carlson worries the route would increase congestion along First Avenues North and South and on Gulf Boulevard by eliminating lanes along much of the route. He’s also concerned about parking losses along the route where residents and businesses rely on on-street parking, though, much of the parking along that route is underutilized.

A familiar face in the fight against certain types of mass transit joined Carlson’s fight. Barbara Haseldon, who led efforts to squash the 2014 Greenlight Pinellas transit tax initiative through the group No Tax for Tracks, said the project is duplicative.

The Central Avenue Beach Trolley runs along a similar route, but officials say that route is best for short local trips because of its frequent stops. The BRT route would be faster by providing limited stops.

“Once again what we see is a PSTA project is trying to crop up and trying to take legs with no demand and no need from the public,” Haseldon said.

Haseldon’s anti-PSTA activism has historically centered on plans for passenger rail or fiscal mismanagement. During opposition to Greenlight Pinellas, she called for the agency to live within its means and focus on existing bus service, rather than expanding to include light rail.

She frequently insisted she was not against transit.

Carlson’s comments suggest he was taking that activism a step further, condemning bus service in general.

“The time for buses is beginning to decline. PSTA is $100 million boondoggle,” Carlson said. “For that, we could give [riders] a couple of thousand dollars for Uber. There are other ways to transport people other than buses.”

The pair urged Legislators to cancel any state payments for the project.

Legislators did not respond to either speakers’ comments.

The BRT project is already in the project development phase. Late last year, PSTA won a $1.2 million grant to fund transit-oriented development-related features along the route, further signaling that the route is likely to move forward undeterred.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]


5 comments

  • Peter Irwin

    February 28, 2019 at 9:48 am

    1/ Her name is spelled “Haselden,” not “Haseldon.”

    2/ The Disclaimer, Privacy Policy and Terms Of Website are all standard text that probably came with the design template they used. The Disclaimer does not “caution visitors on trusting its information,” as you claim. It says that the material on the site does not “constitute legal or other professional advice and shall not be relied upon as such. We do not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from accessing this website nor the reliance on information found on the website. ”

    Comment on their standard disclaimer and your headline makes your article look like a hit job.

  • JB

    February 28, 2019 at 11:04 am

    PSTA could easily determine the need/acceptance for the proposed BRT by assigning existing buses to travel the same route with the same stops and approximately the same schedule. They were repeatedly asked why they did not do so when proposing the $3.3 BILLION train from St. Petersburg to Clearwater. They never acknowledged the request or answered the question, “Why not?”
    Bus ridership is declining. This BRT proposal is a waste of money which has not been justified by any analysis or study of the demographics and/or the demand for such a service. PSTA has been mismanaged for years and is seeing its own demise. This is a grasp at straws to bleed taxpayers money from Washington to fund an ill-conceived project which has many more downsides than any possible upsides.
    The current bus service is costing riders less than $1/ride on average, while taxpayers are paying 100% of capital costs and over 80% of operating costs or $6/ride. Yet PSTA is spending over $1 MILLION per bus for electric buses that will average less than 20% of potential ridership on existing routes.
    THAT is mismanagement of a transit system and mismanagement of taxpayers money. How much worse can it get? The BRT is a great example of throwing money at a problem that does not exist!

  • George Harasz

    February 28, 2019 at 11:15 am

    I would ride my bike over to that bus and ride it out to the beach in a heartbeat. Bring on the Electric Buses, less pollution, I have news for you people, electric motors are not going away. Try driving out to the beach this Saturday morning and see what it looks like, try to find a parking space and then see how much you are paying for it. Try to find a spot on a street and they will find a way to issue you a parking ticket.. Anything that can take cars off the road is a plus.

  • EyesWideOpen

    March 4, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    Imagine how nice this community could be if these perpetual haters weren’t dedicated to breaking everything, just because they have nothing better to do with their lives. Most of these bums aren’t even from here, they’re transplants from some other town their ignorance already drove into the ground. Now they want to replicate that same failure here. They have no appreciation for this community or its long held values.

  • Judy Too

    March 4, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    George Harasz: Would you be happy to pay what it costs to operate the electric bus you want to ride from downtown to St. Pete Beach? Taxpayers are paying 100% of the capital costs, are you willing to pay 100% of the operating costs? Or maybe you are looking for an almost free ride; you complain about the cost of parking in spaces paid for by taxpayers, so we assume that you would be complaining about the cost of riding the electric bus if you had to pay for its driver, maintenance and electricity. We already know that PSTA’s operating costs for standard buses are about $7/ride (and if you have to change buses on the way to your destination, it’s another $7). The electric buses are more expensive to purchase, electricity is not free, and they require significant additions to existing infrastructure to provide charging and maintenance.
    Less than 2% of the population in Pinellas County utilizes public transit and ridership is declining every year.
    Is it fair for the taxpayers to be forced to pay for buses that are expensive to purchase and operate while those who actually ride the buses pay less than 20% of the operating costs? Remember, we who pay taxes did not have an opportunity to vote for or against this very expensive project, so we really are forced to pay for it. And the 98% who choose to drive their cars and trucks will not only be paying for your ride, we will also be penalized by the loss of lanes on major thoroughfares, causing more traffic delays rather than solving the problem.

Comments are closed.


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