New PSTA bus shelter is a work of art – literally

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Bus shelters are ugly. Most of them are brown, sitting atop gum-stained concrete protected by scratched up glass. Well, now there’s a pretty bus shelter.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority partnered with a local developer and an artist to create “Summer in the Park,” a colorful shade structure with a hammered aluminum frame, fancy garbage can and a butterfly-shaped bike rack.

“I hope it will make someone’s day just a little better,” said artist Clayton Swartz of his vibrant designed aimed at making part of transit users’ commutes just a little more pleasant.

The shelter is located next to an apartment complex along Grand Avenue not far from where the Gateway rail station would be located if PSTA wins its battle to boost funding. The Greenlight Pinellas referendum on the November 4 ballot would increase sales tax from 7 percent to 8 percent to fund increased bus service and an eventual passenger rail line.

The structure was paid for through a public-private partnership using transportation impact fees that come from developers.

The unveiling comes just 6-days before the fate of Greenlight Pinellas is decided by voters. Supporters are using any chance they can get to push the ballot measure during the final days of campaigning. In this case, the group is not only touting a fancy new bus stop, it’s also highlighting the impact to low-income residents. Joe Barkley, vice mayor of Bellaire Bluffs and PSTA board member, said driving a car costs the average person about $760 a month. A monthly bus pass costs just $65.

“That’s one of the reasons that low income folks are one of the most important components of the Greenlight Pinellas program” Barkley said.

PSTA CEO Brad Miller helped peel a giant blue tarp off the new shelter after riding buses himself all morning. He said he spoke with several frequent transit users who didn’t know anything about Greenlight Pinellas.

“Then you show it to them and they’re like, ‘oh, yeah – so the bus is going to come later on Saturdays’ and they’re like, ‘oh my gosh, of course, a no brainer,’” Miller said.

Early voting is already underway in Pinellas. So far more than 175,000 voters have cast a ballot. That’s out of more than 620,000 registered voters countywide. A recent St. Pete Polls survey shows Greenlight lagging far behind its opposition group, No Tax for Tracks despite raising more than $1 million for the campaign supporting the referendum.

PSTA has said if the referendum is not approved, the agency will become insolvent by 2017 and be forced to reduce service.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com 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 diehard 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 the ongoing Pier debacle. 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 the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.