As Downtown St. Pete continues to grow in popularity, many residents and visitors are finding it harder to find parking near their destination. And while there is still plenty of parking in most parts of downtown, certain areas can be challenging at peak hours or during events. But thanks to a number of new transportation options, getting around has never been easier. Check out these five ways to ditch your car, but still get to your destination!
1) Ride the Newly Expanded Downtown Looper
Downtown St. Pete has been serviced by the Downtown Looper for years, but with a $900,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, the Looper recently added more stops, longer hours, and a higher frequency of service. And most importantly, there’s no reason to carry around quarters anymore because the Looper is completely FREE to ride.
The expanded route has 20 stops throughout Downtown St. Pete including stops at the Vinoy Hotel, Williams Park, the Dali Museum, and USF St. Pete in the Innovation District. And with three vehicles now dedicated to the route, a Looper bus will arrive every 15 minutes. The hope is that the expanded service will encourage more downtown residents and locals to use the Looper as a form of transportation. Previously, the Looper was primarily used by tourists and visitors, and while they’re still a priority, residents may find the service just as useful.
The Downtown Looper runs from 7AM to 10PM Mondays through Thursdays and 7AM to midnight on Fridays. Weekend service hours are 8AM to midnight on Saturdays and 8AM to 10PM on Sundays. Did we mention it’s FREE to ride? To learn more, visit their website.
2) Coast Around with Bike Share
If you’d prefer a more athletic option, consider renting a Coast Bike at one of the many hubs scattered throughout downtown! Coast is a bike-sharing program which allows customers to rent bikes by the hour. Back in May, St. Pete Rising reported on Coast’s new virtual hubs which expanded the number of bike share racks, both virtual and physical, to more than 40 throughout the greater downtown area. So regardless of your starting point or your destination, there is sure to be a bike share hub nearby!
As more people decide to bike in St. Pete, the City of St. Pete has made cyclist safety a priority. And over the past few years they have implemented a number of cycling safety improvements throughout the city, including better signage and more dedicated bike lanes. Most recently the City began a resurfacing and reconfiguration project on Dr. MLK Jr. Street to transform it into a safer roadway for cyclists and pedestrians. As a result, there are now over 1.5 miles, or 25 blocks, of continuous separated bike lanes along Dr. MLK Jr. Street! To find how you can rent a Coast bike or see a map of their hubs, visit their website.
3) Return of the Cross Bay Ferry
Headed to Tampa? Then consider the ferry! In late 2016, the Cross Bay Ferry debuted with much fanfare for a six month pilot project to test whether there was community interest in a commercial ferry service between St. Pete and Tampa. The pilot project proved to be a resounding success with nearly 40,000 tickets sold. And while the ferry took a hiatus last year, it has returned in 2018 with lessons learned.
This year, the ferry has improved its schedule to include more frequent Friday and Saturday trips, which were the most popular days of the week in 2016. Another change this year is where the ferry is docked. Due to construction at the St. Pete Pier, the ferry is docking across from Straub Park near the Vinoy in St. Pete and next to the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. Ferry service began on November 1st, so if you’re looking for a scenic way to get to Tampa then hop aboard the ferry for a relaxing 45-minute ride! There’s even a full-service bar on the boat!
Even better, this year, ticket prices are slightly lower than the previous year with adult tickets costing $8 and senior, military (active and retired), and student tickets priced at $5. Service is scheduled to run Tuesday through Sunday with two roundtrips during the week and four roundtrips on Friday and Saturday. If you go, be sure to bring a hat, it can get pretty windy on the water. To view the full schedule and buy tickets, check out their website.
4) Take a Free Trip with The Nickel Ride
Back in August, The Nickel Ride expanded their free, eco-friendly ride-sharing service to downtown St. Pete. The Nickel Ride is similar to Uber, but completely free for passengers. Their business model relies on community advertisements to generate revenue. Akin to Uber, their vehicles are hailed either through their mobile app or by phone. And within a few minutes, one of their vehicles should be on its way.
In addition to St. Pete, the Nickel Ride operates in three other cities including Fort Myers and Punta Gorda. The Nickel Ride services the greater Downtown St. Pete area including parts of Historic Kenwood, Roser Park, the Innovation District, Grand Central District, EDGE District, and parts of the Old Northeast. So if you live in one of those neighborhoods, give it a try instead of driving downtown! You may even receive coupons for local businesses just for riding. To learn more about this service visit their website. To see their service map, click here.
5) On the Horizon? Scoot Around Town
One trend that hasn’t quite hit the ‘Burg yet is the electric scooter sharing craze. You might have seen news of electric scooters becoming popular in cities like San Fransisco, New York, and Miami due to their relatively inexpensive cost and flexibility. Well, scooter sharing could be coming to the Downtown St. Pete soon if the city has its way.
Mayor Kriseman was recently spotted riding a Lime scooter in front of City Hall during a meeting with representatives from the company. Lime is one of the many scooter-share companies that have popped up in recent years. Other companies include Bird, which the city has also met with, and Jump, which is owned by Uber. Typically the scooters cost $1 to start and 15 cents per mile, making them a cost-effective way to get around. If you’re hoping to one day scoot around Downtown St. Pete, keep your fingers crossed!
Parking in the Downtown Garages
Of course, depending on your circumstances, it’s not always feasible to take the bus or ride a bike, and most people decide to drive their car when they visit downtown. But often, finding parking on the street can be tough. Thankfully there are over 2,400 parking spots in the Sundial and SouthCore garages. And recently, the city added new signage that allows motorists to more easily see the garage entrances, which reduces congestion. So if you’re driving around downtown looking for a place to park, be on the look out for these new parking signs!