St. Pete’s newest and cheapest way to get from downtown to the beaches (and everywhere in between) announced today that it will extend its free rides program. The SunRunner launched in October with six months of free rides, and after overwhelming success, the free ride period has been extended another six months, lasting until November of 2023.
After years of anticipation, St. Pete’s first Bus Rapid Transit system made its debut on Friday, October 21. SunRunner, as it has been dubbed, is a bus system connecting downtown and the beach (and everywhere in between) through 30 service stations along 1st Avenues North and South. Buses along the 10.3-mile loop arrive every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes in the evening.
News of the extension for free rides comes as the SunRunner celebrates more than 250,000 riders in less than four months on the road, with ridership increasing every month since it launched. Buses run from 6 am to midnight every day, with service every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes after 8 pm.
“We have seen an amazing response from the community regarding the SunRunner, it now has the highest ridership in our system,” said Brad Miller, Chief Executive Officer of PSTA. “Riders have been using the service to get to work, medical appointments and to our award-winning beaches. To continue to offer the SunRunner free, we will be able to attract even more passengers to enjoy our easy and convenient service.”
Eventually, SunRunner passengers will pay either $2.25 for one-way trips or $5 for all-day riding, which must be purchased either through the Flamingo Fares app or digital card, or via the touchless debit/credit card payment systems being installed on PSTA vehicles. But until then, riders can simply show up to the station of their choice and hop on the next bus that comes along. Whether it’s for commuting to work, hitting the beach, heading downtown, or grabbing drinks in Grand Central, the SunRunner buses are set up to take riders where they’re going.
The full service map can be found online, and real-time bus information can be tracked at any time to see when the next bus arrives. After the free ride period ends, SunRunner riders will scan their card or app, as all rides are cashless.
Bring whatever you need on SunRunner
Part of what makes SunRunner so convenient for getting around town is the long list of amenities. In addition to AC and wifi, all buses have two entrances, as well as a wheelchair ramp.
Additionally, SunRunner buses are equipped with both external and internal bike racks, as well as standing areas for bikers. And if you want to bring your furry friends along, small, well-behaved pets traveling in carriers are always welcome.
Access plenty of destinations on SunRunner
While it’s certainly true that most of the routes for SunRunner are along 1st Avenue North and 1st Avenue South, there are a few notable additions. On the downtown side of the city, SunRunner has stops at 6th Ave S/3rd St S, at 3rd Ave S/3rd St S, and at 3rd Ave S/4th St S. These locations help service USF St. Pete, Johns Hopkins All Childrens, Bayfront Health, and several apartment buildings in the area.
On the Gulf side, SunRunner has eight different drop-off/pick-up spots servicing several key areas. Two stations at the intersection of Pasadena Avenue South and Gulfport Blvd South service the South Pasadena area. Two more stops on Gulf Blvd round out the beachfront locations, with stations in front of Tradewinds Islands Resorts and at the public beach access and parking lot across from Publix next to Dolphin Beach resort, the turnaround point for SunRunner routes.
As for where to visit along the Central Ave corridor, nine different intersections along the west-east route have service stations, a total of 18 stations with one each on both 1st Avenues. The westernmost stations on 5th Street N and S offer quick access to the beloved 600 block of Central Avenue. Stops on 13th Street N and S bring riders to and from the EDGE District near Ferg’s and Green Bench. And on 22nd Street N and S, riders are dropped in the heart of Grand Central near half a dozen breweries, and several dozen restaurants and bars.
And of course, in addition to SunRunner, ferry service from the St. Pete Pier to downtown Tampa recently launched back up, meaning one could get from Postcard Inn to Amalie Arena without ever getting behind a wheel or breaking a sweat.
SunRunner to provide easy transportation throughout St. Pete
“I am excited to officially announce the grand opening of the SunRunner, a project that will truly transform the Tampa Bay region,” PSTA CEO Brad Miller said when SunRunner first hit the streets. “As our area’s first rapid transit system, the SunRunner will introduce enhanced customer service and connectivity, and encourage new economic growth for the region.”
The eye-catching bus design is by prolific local artist Chad Mize, offering a cooling and friendly welcome to the SunRunner buses.
Rapid transit is at the heart of economic development and improving the quality of life in the region. This new service will help cut down on overall congestion, and assist in getting more residents to lessen their use of cars. Currently, the St. Pete metropolitan area is the country’s largest that doesn’t have mass transit already in place. This October’s launch will give St. Pete that much needed service.
In describing the new Bus Rapid Transit system – over a decade in the works – Miller likened the setup to being more like a train, rather than traditional bus service. With dedicated lanes, full stations along the routes, and level entry onto the vehicle, the service will revolutionize professional and recreational travel on either side of the Central Avenue corridor stretching the entirety of St. Petersburg.
Learn more about SunRunner and its operations here.