The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has nine new buses ready to deploy when its new bus rapid transit route launches next summer, the agency announced Sunday.
The SunRunner buses are expected to hit the streets in 2022 along the currently under construction BRT route connecting downtown St. Petersburg to the Gulf beaches.
The nine new buses are 40-foot hybrid-electric manufactured by Gillig and feature artwork by Chad Mize as well as the iconic yellow “Mr. Sun” image on the outside of the light turquoise buses.
The route will run in a dedicated lane along First Avenues North and South with pickups running every 15 minutes at stops along the route during the day with 30 minute frequency in the evening. The buses also include on-board space for bicycles.
The route is meant to provide a quicker alternative between downtown and the beaches with fewer stops than the existing Central Ave. Beach Trolley.
Once launched, the SunRunner route will offer pre-pay bus service through smart phone or other device apps.
PSTA estimates the new route will raise property values in surrounding neighborhoods, free up parking spaces by reducing the number of cars on the road, improve safety with wider bike lanes and safer crosswalks, encourage community connectivity and showcase community character through public art at select transit stations.
The American Public Transportation Association estimates that for every $1 invested in public transportation, $4 is returned to the local economy.
Other pitched benefits include brining more foot traffic to local businesses, promoting tourism spending through access to attractions, increasing access to jobs and streamlining traffic movement for delivery drivers and local customers.
SunRunner Service will include stops at the main St. Pete Beach access on Gulf Blvd., the Tradewinds Resort, Boca Ciega Dr., Sun Island Dr., and Gulfport Blvd. Stops will also be available along First Avenues North and South at 66th St., 58th St., 49th St., 40th St., Grand Central Station near 31st St., 22nd St., 13th St. near Tropicana Field, 8th St. and 4th and 5th St. Other downtown stops include 3rd St. South and 6th Ave. S. near the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus.
The $44 million project includes $28.1 million in federal funding, with the rest split between the Florida Department of Transportation, PSTA and the city of St. Petersburg.
Construction on the project is ongoing, with lane modifications underway along First Avenues North and South.