Busing changes rolled out in St. Petersburg

Posted at 6:35 PM, Feb 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-16 00:00:28-05

A big change is happening right now for the thousands of people who use the public transportation system in Pinellas County.

After years of debate, Williams Park in downtown St. Petersburg is no longer the central hub for buses. The county thinks it will make transit easier, but not all riders are convinced.

The new bus routes just taking effect change an old system that use to have all the buses going completely around Williams Park.  Now they stop in several locations around the downtown area to pick up passengers. But many riders say a lot of the problems in the park are just following them to the new locations.

Jaimie Pereira relies on the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's buses to get to work, school and appointments. But like a lot of riders, she's frustrated the county changed the busing system this week, making it more challenging for her to find the bus routes she needs.

"It's very hard for us to deal with everyday life because they've changed these routes around. It's harder to get from here to there. Now I have to take like three buses instead of one," Pereira said.

The county says area businesses and residents have complained about the Williams Park transit hub for years, with the long lines of buses blocking traffic and people loitering in the park. PSTA is hoping the frustrations of riders are a temporary hiccup and that everyone will adjust to and enjoy the new system.

"This is really an expansion of the system within downtown. So instead of all the buses coming to downtown to Williams Park, now the buses are traveling on all the streets around the city, really making it a true grid system for the riders," said Cassandra Borchers, PSTA chief development officer.

But Pereira isn't convinced. She says the new bus stops are seeing some of the same problems Williams Park has had.

"The other locations have now been found with beer cans and trash just laying on the ground everywhere. The homeless might be relocating just to try and get in on that little bit of money they can from panhandling the busers," said Pereira.

The PSTA insists the transition away from Williams Park has been a smooth one so far, and that as the changes are rolled out, tweaks can still be made to best serve the public.

"We look at our bus system at least three times a year for changes and efficiencies and this will give us a new set of data to make this even more efficient than it is now," said Borchers.

Many are also hopeful that without long lines of buses, police can now keep better watch on the park to keep troublemakers out.

The new bus system maps are being distributed by volunteers along the routes through Wednesday.

If you miss them, you can still get a copy at the customer service office in Williams Park.