You can't get there from here

It’s spring now and Florida’s weather is perfect. Touching near eighty with blue sky stretching as far as you can see. A wisp of cloud here and there and breezes just keep things right.

Perfect weather and perfect to go out and do stuff in, right?

So I got the urge to get out and about the Bay area during this past week and – just to humor myself, I checked PSTA‘s web site in order to see if there was a bus route I coudl take to get elsewhere in the Tampa Bay metro area. And herein lies the mockery of mass transit options in Tampa Bay or poor use of tools that have been newly employed on local web sites.

So earlier in the week I wanted to go across county lines to downtown Tampa and meet up with a friend to hang out. Cynically, I already knew the chances of me finding anything were slim to none (means to get into the other county) or impossibly out-of-my-way… But I decided to humor myself and just go to the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s website and see what I could find…

What jumped out right away on (besides horrid flash animation that serves absolutely no purpose, and stupid cartoon characters that seem to marginalize and mock riders and workers alike without really realizing it) was the list of 100x-300x buses. These three buses are all express buses between counties to serve the commuter set. I knew this before hand but I figured I would check out there schedules. Serendipity maybe and just hit paydirt without even trying and such…?

Yeah, right.

The 200x line is closest to where I live in North Pinellas – following that way-out-of-my-way motif of leaving from a softball field area at Drew Street and McMullen Booth intersection called the Eddie C. Moore Complex. I know the place and have passed it many times before while bumming rides off other people…

The Moore complex itself would amount to being a 15 to 20 minute bus trip… If I could find the damn thing in the PSTA trip planner to begin with. yup, the new automation that PSTA has implemented to make it easier to follow schedules and take advantage of them doesn’t even recognize the Eddie C. Moore complex park-and-ride.

That was a moot point anyway. Even if I could make it to said park-and-ride lot, the 200x route boasts a total of just five round trips all day — three in the early morning, two in the afternoon.

I realize it’s for commuters specifically but good god damn, this is a joke.

There is no other cross-bay option that I am aware of via public transit. While you can get to the Hillsborough County Line via Route 93 on PSTA, HART (Hillsborough Area Regional transit) doesn’t make it very clear where there map starts and ends.

So in that regard, anyone wanting to cross the county line is in a bind unless they drive on their own – which i don’t.

So that faded out of my memory and instead, while relaxing today I thought it would be cool to take the bus to Clearwater Beach — hey! it’s in county and shouldn’t take much extra time and effort to get there… So lets try the ole’ route map and give it a whirl huh…?

I flubbed around with that most of the afternoon and I found out that “Clearwater Beach” is not listed as a landmark. “Pier 60” is not listed as a landmark. I kept trying combinations to find a route to Clearwater beach and kept being told that you couldn’t find that there is no bus.

Of course, that’s not the truth. the problem is the route map just doesn’t accurately define things.

I went back to the rout map tonight and found some interesting things — for example both Pinellas and Hillsborough county addresses and intersections are placed within the route finder. Of course you can’t get there from here but that’s already been touched on. What was also discovered is that every single PSTA bus stop is marked off on the map with a little widget. you just ahve to zoom in close enough to see things.

After discovering that, trying to plan my trip was a snap — just drag the map over to the exact location you want to venture to and presto… It’ll take an hour and 13 minutes to get from my neck of the woods to Clearwater Beach. That ain’t so bad. The reverse trip ain’t so bad either. Just less than an hour (barrign traffic incidents in both directions).

Just thinking about this sorta peeves me. It’s such a minor detail, usability. I don’t know if people at PSTA are truly aware that they are using jargon in trip planning in some instances — no one is looking for Stop #201 Mandalay Blvd. They’re looking for Clearwater Beach.

Of course there is also the problem of commute time that makes PSTA a hassle more than a help… 2 and a half hours or more from Palm Harbor to St. Petersburg, 3 hours from St. Petersburg to Tampa International Airport, etc.

Something’s gotta be done about this mess — because the impossiblity of getting there form here is why the roads are congested and people shun the bus.

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