tampabay.com

Fee for bikes on buses ended

County bus commuters no longer will have to get a $2 permit to put their bicycles on bus-front racks.

By By JON WILSON
Published June 4, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - Bicyclists who use county buses to help them commute no longer need a $2 permit to load their bikes on the bus-front racks.

The no-fee policy went into effect Thursday as a way to encourage alternate forms of transportation, officials said.

In another development to boost ridership, 48 new buses in the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's 164-bus fleet are equipped with racks that can carry three bicycles. Most buses in service previously have used two-bike racks.

And St. Petersburg is working with the PSTA to provide 24 shelters in the city with bike racks. They might be available as early as this summer.

Dropping the nominal $2 fee will appeal to some potential riders, but the more attractive element is getting rid of the inconvenience of the permit system, officials said.

Permit outlets were scarce. St. Petersburg, for example, had two, both downtown or close to downtown. Other south Pinellas sites have been in Seminole, St. Pete Beach and Indian Rocks Beach.

In mid and north Pinellas, the outlets included the County Courthouse in Clearwater, Dunedin's community services offices and bike shops in Largo and Palm Harbor.

The system, said St. Petersburg transportation planning director Joseph Kubicki, "was viewed as being kind of cumbersome.''

Mayor Rick Baker's city bicycle committee recommended dumping the system, as other transit agencies around Florida have done, Kubicki said.

Part of the permitting process included required viewing of an instructional video about loading bikes on the racks.

The video remains available on the PSTA Web site, http://www.psta.net/bikesonbuses.htm.

About 600 riders daily use buses to help them get around, according to the PSTA's Web site. The PSTA leads the state in bikes-on-buses participation with more than 2 percent of the total ridership, said Bob Lasher, the PSTA's community relations manager.

"I don't know if we're going to see a grand jump in people using bikes on buses, but it certainly is going to make it a lot easier for the ... bike rider to go ahead and take a bus somewhere,'' Kubicki said.

"We're looking at it as being a logical evolution of the bicycling community,'' he said.

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In another PSTA development, several changes on various routes are scheduled to go into effect June 11.

Perhaps the major one is more frequent service on Route 79, which serves an array of business districts, malls, residential areas and government centers from downtown St. Petersburg to Whitney Road near Largo. The route will now have 30-minute service all day Monday through Friday. The 30-minute service is currently in effect during prime commuter hours only.

Among other changes:

The Suncoast Beach Trolley will no longer enter Johns Pass Village while construction is taking place in the area.

Route 32 will begin servicing the downtown St. Petersburg Publix.

Route 35 will serve Central Avenue to 11th Street, and service on First Avenues N and S between 11th Street and 20th Street will be eliminated.