PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Leaders with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority are considering adding a fare for the SunRunner.

The rapid transit bus line from downtown St. Petersburg to the beach has been free since the service started in October. Wednesday, the board will discuss implementing a $.50 pilot fee.

Tom Sullivan uses the bright blue and yellow buses every day.

“When I think of public transport, I want to get where I’m going as quickly as possible. It wasn’t always possible with what we had to use before the SunRunner,” he said.

The SunRunner has been a success since it launched. Originally it was free for the first six months but PSTA decided to extend the free service through October 2023.

Ridership has increased monthly with more than 115,000 people using the bus in March alone. The transit authority approved the purchase of three new buses earlier in 2023. The new buses will begin service in Spring 2024.

According to PSTA’s website ‘When, or if, PSTA begins collecting fares, a one-way ticket will cost $2.25, while an all-day pass will be available for $5.

A document included in the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting says PSTA is considering 2 options.

  • Decision 1- Implement a fare pilot sooner than Nov. 1
  • Decision 2 – Charge regular fares on Nov. 1. Consider a fare buydown from the city of St. Petersburg and keep the SunRunner free to riders.

In a letter from the Homeless Leadership Alliance of Pinellas, the Pinellas Continuum of Care urges PSTA to provide the service for free. The letter reads in part:

Increasing the SunRunner’s fares – even nominally – while requiring these fees be paid electronically raises concerns about equity and accessibility. Requiring payment through a card system excludes individuals without access to such technology, effectively sidelining those who are already marginalized, including residents experiencing homelessness.