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ST. PETE BEACH — The city has started the process to reduce PSTA trolley service in St. Pete Beach and eliminate it in the Pass-A-Grille area.

During a Sept. 3 meeting, commissioners authorized the city manager to finalize a yearlong trolley service agreement with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

City Manager Alex Rey told commissioners, “We basically sat down with PSTA and have an agreement to manage (Central Avenue Trolley) services, which will terminate Oct. 20, because we are in the process of selecting our micro-transit operator.”

In addition, “PSTA is working on modifications to the county park at 46th Avenue, which will be available by the spring of 2020,” he said.

PSTA has agreed to cooperate with the city and maintain its service at a pro-rated cost until the micro-transit service is operational, Rey said.

“It gives us time to start service on the south side, do it well, and then expand to the county park. What happens later on we’ll figure out in 2021-2022. At least it gives us a window for the next 12 months,” the city manager explained.

The new contract eliminates a joint trolley service agreement between PSTA, St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island. It also defines levels of services and operating routes for the beach trolley and DART service for the disabled.

As a result of route elimination, especially terminating Pass-A-Grille routes, St. Pete Beach will save $125,589 in 2020 and pay PSTA $440,704 for remaining service, Rey said.

“This reduction accounts for service changes to the Central Avenue Trolley service to stop the existing route at the Don CeSar, near 33rd Road, where the City will replace the trolley service into the Pass-a-Grille neighborhood with micro-transit services,” Rey noted.

That should result in savings to the city, better service, and more customized service to Pass-A-Grille and the areas around it, he said. The city will no longer include any reference to the City of Treasure Island in its agreement with PSTA; Treasure Island will have its own agreement, Rey told commissioners.

“This will benefit the city as it will provide a significant change to the way services have been billed and provide clarity for the city as services are adjusted in future years,” Rey said.

Under terms of the agreement, St. Pete Beach will not provide funding towards the operations and maintenance of the Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit Project, which will be the subject of a separate and distinct interlocal agreement, he said.

Mayor Al Johnson emphasized this agreement is separate from any Bus Rapid Transit agreement worked out with PSTA.

Rey said the new agreement also changes the formula PSTA used to charge for trolley service. In the last agreement, St. Pete Beach paid two-thirds and Treasure Island one-third the cost for trolley service based on mileage.

“No, that doesn’t work for us,” Rey said. “We had to detangle the agreements.”

The new agreement will be for service on an hourly basis, rather than billed by miles, Johnson noted.

“The percentages moved dramatically when we went back to just strictly service hours. This is what we get, this is what we pay,” Rey noted.