SunRunner bus service set to expand, add new station in St. Pete

The SunRunner celebrated it's half birthday in style Friday. 

City leaders in St. Petersburg announced they’re expanding the bus service that takes riders from downtown to St. Pete Beach and back.

PSTA Chief Executive Officer Brad Miller said they’re adding a new SunRunner stop near the Sundial parking garage located at 150 First Avenue North. It’s about a five-minute walk to the St. Pete Pier.

RELATED: More than 63,000 rode SunRunner in its first month of operation

"One of the biggest requests we've gotten is for a stop, a station closer to the Pier and to Beach Drive where a lot of our shops and restaurants are," Miller said.

The new station will open in 2024, and they’re also adding two new buses that will start running next year. 

A new bus added to the SunRunner service 

Miller said the original SunRunner project was $5 million under budget, so PSTA is using the leftover federal dollars towards the expansion. Since it launched in October, PSTA said more than 600,000 people, from residents to visitors, have taken a ride on the SunRunner.

"The response has been amazing," said Gina Driscoll, a St. Pete city council member and PSTA board chairperson. "I've been pleasantly surprised by the number of riders that we have. The popularity of the SunRunner just really means people were ready for this. They're ready for new ways to get around either to the beaches or downtown or somewhere in between."

READ: SunRunner transit debuts, connecting downtown St. Pete to St. Pete Beach

Ridership has increased each month too. More than 115,000 people took the SunRunner in March alone. It set a record for the highest single-day ridership with more than 5,000 rides during Localtopia in February.

"We were positive that once folks had the option of a premium high frequency service, that folks would ride it," St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch said. "We're seeing that happening. We're also seeing the transit-oriented development along the First Avenue. So, it is a little surprising how rapidly folks jumped on the service, but it's good to see."

Welch said the project has been a decades long effort among local, state and federal partners.

 A list including some of the stops on the SunRunner bus service

"It reflects the investment that you make in transit," Welch said. "If it becomes an option that doesn't take folks where they need to go on a timely basis, and it's only basically for folks that have no other choice, then I think that's where that stigma comes from."

MORE: St. Pete mayor test drives new electric bike hitting city streets next week

"But in many communities, the bus is really the first option. Everyone rides the bus and that's what we're trying to move to, to move take away that stigma and make it a real choice for everyone to be able to use public transportation," Welch said.

The buses run every 15 minutes during the day and every half hour at night. The SunRunner operates seven days a week from six a.m. to midnight, and it has its own lane to help alleviate traffic, PSTA said.

"This is really a way of customizing the transit experience to really meet people's needs, even those who choose to ride and don't necessarily have to ride, and I love that. I love that we're seeing more people who have cars leaving them at home and using the SunRunner instead," Driscoll said.

The SunRunner is free to ride through October 31.