Low ridership prompts PSTA to suspend routes during coronavirus pandemic

South Clearwater Beach Jolley Trolley is one of several routes PSTA is closing temporarily due to low ridership during the coronavirus pandemic.

ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is suspending service on its downtown St. Petersburg Looper and South Clearwater Beach Jolley Trolley beginning March 30.

PSTA officials say the change is due to a lack of ridership attributed to business and hotel closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Jolley Trolley North Clearwater Beach Route and North Coastal Route to Tarpon Springs will continue to operate on a Saturday schedule that ends at 10 p.m.

PSTA had already announced that all weekday bus services would move to a Saturday schedule, starting March 30. Weekend bus service will move to Sunday hours, starting March 29.

All bus services will end by 10 p.m., including paratransit.

Other changes beginning March 29 include temporary elimination of service on several additional routes including 52LX (52 will remain in service), 58, 66L, 100X and 300X. Weekend service will be eliminated on routes 22, 32, 62, 67, 73, 76, 812, 813 and 814.

East Lake Shuttle will continue to operate, as well Direct Connect and all paratransit programs. The TD Late Shift service, which begins at 9 p.m., will continue with a co-pay of $9 for the month of April.

The changes will reduce PSTA’s service by about 30% and allow more than 100 transit employees to stay home, according to a press release.

Other measures being taken include allowing bus operators to limit the number of riders to no more than 10 to maintain social distancing guidelines. Additional buses will be available for higher ridership routes to limit passenger loads.

PSTA also previously announced that it was going fare-free on all routes until further notice to reduce crowding at the fare box as riders boarded the buses. Riders are now asked to board at the rear of the bus unless they need to use the ramp at the front.

Despite the challenges brought about by COVID-19, officials say PSTA plans to continue to provide transportation to the community for those who need it.

“Usually we always thank people for choosing to ride transit.” said Brad Miller, PSTA CEO in a March 21 press release. “But of course, now everything has changed. I am hoping everyone practices social distancing and allows the buses to be used by only those who have no option but to use transit to get to essential work, medical appointments or the grocery store.”

For the latest information, visit https://psta.net/about-psta/news/articles/psta-response-to-coronavirus/ or the agency’s Facebook page.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.