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    Luxury bus service to Tampa in the works

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 28, 2002

    The commute between mid Pinellas County and downtown Tampa soon will be a lot more comfortable.

    Starting in April, commuters will be able to ride the Bentley of buses on a new luxury express route connecting the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport area with downtown Tampa.

    These new coach buses likely will feature cable news, reading lights, reclining seats, more leg room and laptop connections. It's all part of a grand plan to coax higher income folks into using public transit instead of clogging heavily congested streets like Ulmerton Road.

    "A lot of these people are driving their Lexuses and BMWs to work," said Michael Siebel, director of planning for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. "Reserved parking in Hillsborough County is $80 to $100 a month. These people are spending a lot of money and may be ready at this point to say, 'I'll try it.' "

    The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority calls its new 300X bus route a "premium transit service" and will be the region's third such dual-county express route. All three routes cost $1.50 per ride, each way.

    The 100X runs from the Gateway Mall area of St. Petersburg, across the Gandy Bridge, over the Crosstown Expressway and then into the Marion Street Transit Parkway in downtown Tampa. The 200X runs from the east end of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, across the Courtney Campbell Parkway, to the West Shore area and then to downtown Tampa.

    The 300X will pick up riders from two Pinellas locations: a park-and-ride lot planned for the corner of Starkey Road and Ulmerton Road and a lot near St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. The 300X then will take Interstate 275 to downtown Tampa and stop at all the exits on the Marion Street Transit Parkway. The 300X will run only during morning and evening rush hours. Weekend and extended hours will be considered only after the route gains popularity, Siebel said.

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