Stop the "Free" SunRunner

UPDATED August 23, 2023:
See our recent article as the PSTA voted to begin full fares for the SunRunner effective October 1st. 

The SunRunner is PSTA's new bus service between downtown St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach. Service began in October 2022.

Initially free to riders for its first six months of operation, the PSTA Board of Directors voted this spring to keep the SunRunner fare-free for another six months, or November 2023.

The problem, however, is that this "free" SunRunner has high costs that are threatening our community. 

Specifically, there are criminal elements abusing this service and destroying this potentially valuable resource.

As 2023 moved from winter to summer, residents began seeing people using the SunRunner who are neither going to the beach, nor going to work.

Anecdotally, residents began reporting issues -- bikes stolen, vandalism, people with obvious mental health issues dodging traffic on Gulf Boulevard, and increasingly disruptive drug use and violence.

After analyzing crime records from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, it is clear that resident observations and anecdotes are highlighting a growing problem. While we remain a relatively "safe" community, overall crime in St. Pete Beach is up 36% year-over-year in the first six months of 2023.

We went from a single assault in the first six months of 2022, to ten in 2023. Mental health arrests ("Baker Acts") are up 79%. 

Other highlights:

  • Battery is up 21%
  • Burglary is up 23%
  • Theft is up 93%
  • Trespass is up 128%
  • Vandalism is up 127%

As move into July 2023, politicians in St. Petersburg are advocating to keep the Sun Runner "free" indefinitely. PSTA Board Chairperson Gina Driscoll, who is also a commissioner for the City of St. Petersburg,  authored an opinion piece in the Tampa Bay Times, "Let’s just make the SunRunner rapid transit bus free, period".

St. Pete Beach's residents and businesses disagree. The SunRunner must charge a reasonable fare to ensure that people who use it have a good reason to use it. Furthermore, use of this service must be policed to ensure the safety of riders and our community.

Want your voice to be heard? Get involved by following the links below: