Our test: PSTA’s new Sunrunner bus line doesn’t operate as promised

“The bus will leave when I’m finished cleaning,” the PSTA driver told the Tampa Bay Guardian reporter. We repeated our question: what is the scheduled departure time?

“It’s hard to keep the schedule,” the driver said and kept disinfecting the driver area, a process that took about two minutes.

Abishek Dayal, PSTA

With just two other passengers on the bus, the Sunrunner departed the “Beach Access” end station in St. Pete Beach at 8:52 AM, a full nine minutes behind schedule. Thus began our trial of PSTA’s new “Sunrunner” bus line. But the late departure was minor compared to the serious problems we found during our 5-stop ride.

When the Sunrunner began service six weeks ago, PSTA’s director of project management Abhishek Dayal told the Tampa Bay Times that the Sunrunner stops at every station “like a train.” That’s why there are “no buttons to press or cords to pull to alert the driver you’d like to get off.”

We found the reality to be completely different. The driver did not stop at the first “station” (a.k.a. “bus stop”), as documented in the below video.

The stop that the driver neglected to stop at was the 55th Avenue stop in St. Pete Beach, right across from the Tradewinds Resort.

The Times article mentioned above also said that the absense of any way “to alert the driver you’d like to get off…stirred confusion among some passengers.” Apparently, PSTA’s drivers are also “confused” on the topic of stopping the bus, despite the “intense training” PSTA says they have undergone.

The driver seemed to notice that we were video recording his actions, and subsequently only made perfunctory stops when no passengers seemed to want to get off or on. Such a perfunctory stop is seen at the end of this video. The door opened just a few inches before shutting again, providing more evidence of that “intense training” the drivers have undergone.

The Sunrunner has angered many residents  along the route. Not only did it create traffic chaos during construction, as shown below, it also permanently takes away a travel lane in each direction on St. Pete’s main east-west traffic artery. That artery is 1st Avenue North and South.

“People are angry at how the Sunrunner has encroached on their ability to travel, in their automobile” said Barb Haselden, a grassroots activist who led the 2014 effort to defeat PSTA’s light rail at the ballot box (62% voted no).

“Private passenger cars are by far the #1 mode of transportation,” Haselden continued. “This  PSTA boondoggle has taken away 20 miles of travel lanes on our main east-west traffic artery, and many people have lost their only at-home parking spaces in front of their homes.”

Haselden recorded this video showing non-existent ridership on the Sunrunner. The video also shows that there’s no signal prioritization, despite PSTA promising it (see below).

In future articles, we will cover several other aspects of the Sunrunner, including worrying incidents and accidents involving the Sunrunner to date.

We previously mentioned that our bus departed nine minutes late. The supposed departure time, according to Google Maps, is shown in the graphic on the right.

On PSTA’s “Schedules/Maps” page, the Sunrunner is the only bus line that doesn’t have a schedule. When you click on the schedule icon for the Sunrunner, you get a colorful, cheerful and confusing “How to Ride Guide” with no timetable. Yet there is a timetable, one which PSTA doesn’t talk about, and their drivers don’t adhere to.

Perhaps the PSTA drivers need even more “intense training” at taxpayer expense in order to perform difficult tasks like leaving the terminus on time, and stopping at all stations as instructed.

As always, the Guardian reports and the readers decide. Please like our Facebook page to find out when we publish new stories.

(below: PSTA CEO Brad Miller in a picture from his Twitter feed)


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