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PSTA officials hoping to use public input in bus improvement plan

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A series of public workshops aimed at letting bus riders have a hand in developing new routes begins this Saturday.

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority officials will also be on hand to explain what will happen to downtown buses when Williams Park stops serving as the area’s transit hub on Valentine’s Day.

The first meeting is Saturday at the Campbell Park Recreation Center from 12:30-2 p.m.

There PSTA representatives will hear from transit users how they think the agency should best spend $200,000 earmarked in the budget for route improvements.

The funds could be used for things like extended evening service, early morning service or routes on weekends.

The agency plans to use public comments in its decision-making process when determining how to allocate the funding.

Riders are in for a bit of a change next year. PSTA buses have been circling Williams Park picking up and dropping off riders in the downtown hub since 1952. The agency plans to stop that practice on Valentine’s Day 2016.

“Williams Park has been used as a single transit hub since the 1950s with efforts to change it almost since the beginning,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “We’re excited to get the support of the city to transition to an improved grid network, which will benefit our growing ridership with better access throughout downtown St. Petersburg.”

St. Pete City Council still has to approve the Williams Park plan. It’s scheduled to vote Nov. 12. The board is expected to approve it.

Currently, there are 16 routes that circle Williams Park. After the park is eliminated as a transit center, the agency plans to shift the current “hub” system to a grid system. What that means is instead of transit routes stemming out from a center location, they will utilize the city’s already established grid system and move in a more linear way.

This plan serves several purposes. For bus riders, it allows them to potentially find bus stops closer to their destination. PSTA and St. Pete officials hope that means more people use the bus to get downtown.

For the City of St. Petersburg, it’s a much-anticipated way to clean up Williams Park. Because there is a constant flow of buses coming and going from the park, it’s used as a sort of home base for the homeless. It’s also become a hangout for drug dealers turning the park into a hot spot rife with crime.

Transit users can attend any of seven workshops collecting input and giving information about proposed changes to routes in downtown St. Pete.

Here’s a complete list of those events:

  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m.

Campbell Park Recreation Center, 601 14th Street S

  • Monday, Oct. 26, 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

James Weldon Johnson Library, 1059 18th Avenue S

  • Wednesday, Octo. 28, 3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.

St. Petersburg Public Library Main Branch, 3745 9th Avenue N

  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 10:30 p.m. – 12 p.m.

St. Petersburg College – Downtown Campus, 244 2nd Avenue N

  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, 100 2nd Avenue N

  • Monday, Nov. 2, 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Sunshine Center, 330 5th Street N

  • Tuesday, Nov. 3, 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Enoch David Center, 1111 18th Avenue S

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.

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