ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority hosted a virtual Equity Forum Wednesday with city, county, and state leaders to hear from the public about the SunRunner stations and what to build surrounding them.
SunRunner construction is underway for Tampa Bay’s first Bus Rapid Transit project, a fixed 10-mile route with 30 stops designed to get you to from the beach to the ‘burg and back in a breeze.
Buses are expected to be up and running by 2022.
The group said they want to hear the publics’ ideas and thoughts about how to ensure that future development along the new SunRunner transit line is done in a way that encourages equity and reflects the diverse makeup of our community.
“[The SunRunner] sounds great a way to get back and forth without having to drive, sounds wonderful,” said Debra Terry, visiting from New Jersey.
“It’s certainly going to free up parking, parking here [on the beach, because it] is horrendous,” said Thomas Cunningham who lives by St. Pete beach.
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority led the forum acknowledging it’s outside their organization’s norm.
“I know it seems very unusual that PSTA would lead a conversation like this, it’s being funded by a grant from the Federal Transit Administration because they understand the investments they make impacts communities, ” said Cassandra Borchers with PSTA.
The main focus was discussing what should be built around each SunRunner station.
Some in the meeting saying that using African-American developers is important. Others focused on affordable housing.
“Housing is one of those, we know major investments raise property values and that creates opportunities for displacement,” said Eric Boseman, a PSTA Consultant with Kimley-Horn.
One participant in the meeting, Jason Mathis, said it’s not a one size fits all answer for housing.
“Some parts it’s going to make sense to have luxury condos – in others affordable apartments,” Mathis said.
Leaders of the equity forum agreed, saying more conversations are yet to come.
Part of the focus of the SunRunner Rising Development Study development is developing neighborhoods to make sure they’re transit-friendly.
“St Petersburg is a vibrant, diverse city. But we know that building a city of opportunity for all is continual work,” said Dr. Kanika Tomalin, Deputy Mayor and City Administrator of St. Petersburg. “The SunRunner Rising Equity Forum is an excellent way to partner to build an even brighter, more equitable future for our community. My thanks to PSTA for leading the way on this important initiative.”
On the Zoom meeting, the public was invited to engage with staff and each other about how to build more equitable development along the SunRunner line. The Equity Forum welcomes all ideas about development, mobility, business support, and neighborhood character along the SunRunner corridor – through the lens of equity.
If you couldn’t join Wednesday’s forum you can still submit your ideas and questions to SunRunner@psta.net. You can watch the full recordings from the Equity Forum at the SunRunner Rising site.