ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. — With a proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) system in place, downtown St. Pete will be just a hop, skip, and a jump away from St. Pete Beach, according to Pinellas County transit officials pushing the project.

But some St. Pete Beach business owners are not on board with the idea.

  • BRT a nearly $44 million project shared between grants, City of St. Petersburg, PSTA
  • Business owners worry about overcrowding, safety issues
  • More Pinellas County stories

“We need transit, but do we need mass transit?” said Rick Falkenstein, who owns beachfront restaurant Hurricane.

Most business owners we spoke with in St. Pete Beach say this will only overcrowd the area and introduce safety concerns.

Falkenstein says he agrees with some of those concerns.

“I don’t think people are going to use that rapid transit," he explained. "I think it will be a hindrance on not only the residents of St. Pete Beach, the City of Pasadena, the City of St. Petersburg. Everyone’s going to be affected.”

But Jason Mathis, CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, thinks something like this is a necessity for a growing area.

“Rapid transit means less traffic congestion because people are riding buses," Mathis said. "It means more parking spaces because fewer people are driving downtown or driving to the beach."

The cost of the nearly $44 million project will be shared between grants, St. Petersburg, and the PSTA.

In other words, St. Pete Beach will not have to pay at all.

The goal is to connect two key points in Pinellas County, and Mathis believes that connection is the future.

“You don’t want to be a stagnant community going back," he said. "You want to be a community that’s looking forward that’s attracting new people to live, to work, to play."

"That’s what economic development is all about," Mathis added. "Transit is an important part of that whole conversation.”