Transit: Use It or Lose It

in news/town square

PSTA (Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority) has a long history of servicing Safety Harbor with regular and reliable transit. Over the years, low ridership has moved those routes to the top of the list for elimination during consolidation and budget cuts.

There was a time buses ran north and south on McMullen-Booth Road, those days are long gone. In the past, the useful Route 62 – directly connecting from Tyrone Mall in the south to Countryside Mall and up to Boot Ranch in the north – rode right down our main street zagging back on Enterprise Road. Back then, Safety Harbor residents could step out and ride nearly anywhere in the county without the hassle of a transfer. But because they didn’t, Route 62 now runs directly up Belcher Road passing our town by.

The Jolly Trolley

PSTA organized funding for a “Jolly Trolley” week-end service between our downtown and Dunedin. Residents or visitors in either town could visit the other, enjoy a dinner and refreshments, and not worry about parking or having “one too many.” The trolley ran especially on festive holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Cinco de Mayo, but it was also underutilized.

The Jolly Trolley’s Safety Harbor route began on February 1, 2014 and ended on February 4, 2017.

North County Connector

Today PSTA supports north Pinellas County with a network of three North County “Connector” buses, from a hub at Countryside Mall. One runs north through Dunedin and Palm Harbor up to Tarpon Springs. One runs east through Countryside and Oldsmar to the Tampa transfer hub. The “Safety Harbor Connector,” Route 814, runs right down Safety Harbor’s Main Street, then up to its turnaround point at Philippe Park. These Connectors feed riders to the main hub for north county at Countryside Mall. There, connecting buses take riders south to St. Petersburg, to east/west arterials, north to Pasco’s PCPT (Pasco County Public Transportation) network, and west to Clearwater and the beaches.

Low usage equals fewer routes

“Connector” buses use a hybrid route, defaulting to fixed roads and times. However, you can call PSTA in advance (two hours to three days) and a connector will veer up to three-quarters of a mile to pick you up or drop you off at any location. Sadly, the Safety Harbor Connector has the lowest ridership of any route in the PSTA system. It was recently scheduled for elimination and saved only at the last minute. The similarly underutilized connector between Dunedin and Tarpon, as a cost savings, has just been rebranded for only fixed route; no more door-to-door north of the mall. The “East Lake” Connector was discontinued long ago because most residents own cars and can afford to operate them.

Low ridership in Safety Harbor also resulted in a shorter schedule, with our connector now only operating between 7 am and 6 pm Monday through Saturday. To return home from St. Petersburg or Pasco might require leaving as early as 3 pm to catch the last departure from Countryside. See the PSTA website for exact schedules and routes, and how to ride the Safety Harbor / North County Connector.

If we want more service, more frequency, to more convenient locations there is only one requirement: Get out of your car and ride the Connector. With public transit, we use it or lose it.

Duncan has lived in Safety Harbor for twelve years. He serves as one of two north county residents on the Transit Riders Advisory Committee (TRAC) for PSTA. He also serves as TRAC liaison to the Forward Pinellas Citizen Advisory Council. Duncan's career implementing large-scale computer systems in manufacturing plants led him to be a million-mile traveler who has visited every state. He now rides about town on a red scooter.