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In this next installment of Behind the Wheel, we spoke with avid SunRunner rider Julia Marchant. After all, this series isn’t just a chance to highlight bus operators—we want to spotlight our amazing riders as well!


Thank you to Julia for taking time out of her day to chat with us and tell us all about her love (and her daughter’s love) for the SunRunner.

A Little Bit About Julia

Although born in St. Petersburg, Julia spent her youth in Blue Ridge, Georgia, and would frequently return to visit to help her aunt, who still lived in the St. Pete area and was battling breast cancer at the time. It wasn’t until 2013 that Julia returned, eventually settling down in St. Pete Beach with her husband and, in 2020, welcoming her daughter Emily to the world.

Selfie of Julia Marchant
Julia Marchant

By day, Julia works as a paralegal at Weidner Law, but outside of work, she volunteers her time with the non-profit Sea Turtle Trackers as a member of the board and the merchandise coordinator. The organization and its committed volunteers focus on finding, marking, and protecting new sea turtle nests to ensure hatchlings can make it safely to the Gulf.

Discovering the SunRunner

The SunRunner officially launched on October 21st, 2022. But Julia and her family wouldn’t give it a try until December when, on a whim, they decided to try the service and take the bus downtown. What they didn’t know was that the Christmas parade was taking place that evening—an unexpected but wholly welcome surprise for them.


Downtown was packed that night, and the SunRunner was filled to the brim. And although there wasn’t enough room on one of the SunRunner buses for Julia and her family, she was impressed when another bus arrived five minutes later to help with crowding.

Emily, Julia's young daughter, with a huge grin on her face as she rides the SunRunner for the first time. 

Julia’s daughter, Emily, riding the SunRunner for the first time.


The biggest fan of them all by far was Emily, seen above on her very first SunRunner ride. Little did Julia know, Emily would soon become the SunRunner’s biggest fan and shriek in delight every time she saw it. After such a successful first ride, Julia began to wonder how the SunRunner could be integrated into their daily lives.

Weekday Commutes and Weekend Adventures

Environmental sustainability is important to Julia and her family. Although they already owned an electric vehicle, Julia saw an opportunity to make her commute more sustainable and affordable with the SunRunner. With a SunRunner stop just a short walk from their home in St. Pete Beach, Julia could drop her daughter off at daycare and catch the SunRunner to the stop at 8th Street N. The walk to the stop by her home, combined with the short two-and-a-half block walk to work, gave Julia some good exercise throughout the day—enough to get her heart rate up but short enough to be convenient.


“I don’t arrive at work stressed out and sweaty; instead, I arrive relaxed and ready to take on the day!”


Soon enough, her family found a comfortable routine—her husband would take their electric car to work in Clearwater, and Julia would take the SunRunner.


“I love commuting with the SunRunner because I get some me-time back. I don’t have to worry about driving. Instead, I can check emails, text friends and family, write thank-you notes, scroll social media, or just daydream out the window and enjoy a comfy ride,” Julia said. “Even when the fare-free period ended, I kept riding because I loved the experience, and the fare was still far cheaper than gas.”

Julia, her husband, and daughter Emily sitting with Santa Claus at the St. Pete Enchant event.

Julia and her family with Santa Claus at “Enchant” at Tropicana Field


Julia even uses the SunRunner on weekends. During the holidays, the family took the SunRunner to Tropicana Field for the “Enchant” event being held there. One Saturday in particular, she took Emily to the James Museum for their “Menagerie at the Museum” series featuring mostly indigenous Florida animals. Emily was beside herself when the SunRunner pulled up.


“We’re big fans of Chad Miize’s Mister Sun. Emily gets so excited when she sees the art,” Julia added.

Emily wearing SunRunner branded sunglasses and lanyard

Emily wearing her SunRunner sunglasses and lanyard

A Family of Transit Fans

Julia and her husband have long been big fans of public transit. With her husband being Canadian, they always made a point of taking public transit when visiting his family in Canada. A trip to Europe? They have to check out the trains, buses, and rail lines on offer!


For many, the train systems in Europe are the gold standard of punctual and fine-tuned public transit. For Julia, who has experienced the satisfying efficiency of European transit, the SunRunner is a huge step in the right direction with its frequent buses and real-time arrival information on the bus station totem screens.


We asked Julia what her feelings on public transit were, and it’s clear that she and her family see its value for everyone.


“People have this idea that the bus is only for low-income riders, but I don’t believe that’s true. My husband and I have well-paying jobs and still choose to take public transit whenever we can,” Julia said. 


“I know a lot of people are frustrated by the traffic on 1st Avenue and blame the bus lane, but I don’t think the bus lanes have as big an impact as people say—I think the population downtown has just exploded, leading to more people on the road.”


And on the note of SunRunner and its effect on traffic in St. Pete, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) just recently released a study on how the SunRunner has actually improved traffic in South Pasadena.


But back to Julia! Not only does Julia swear by the SunRunner, but she also takes advantage of the other tools PSTA offers for fare payment and navigation.


“I use the Flamingo Fares app to just tap and pay my fare, and I use the Transit app to get around. It’s so easy!”

Missing the SunRunner

Julia is now in the process of moving to Texas, where she was offered a life-changing new job as a federal paralegal. Although she’s currently going back and forth between Texas and Florida as they finalize their big move, she really misses the SunRunner.


“There’s public transit in Texas, of course, but it’s nowhere near as fun or frequent as the SunRunner. I’m really going to miss riding the SunRunner each day. Even now, I ride it whenever I can when I’m back in Florida,” Julia admitted.


As our conversation ended, we asked Julia if there were any parting words she wanted to leave us with, and she had this to say: “I tell everyone I can about the SunRunner. If you’ve never tried it before, I highly recommend giving it a chance because it’s so easy to use, especially the bike racks. Try it on a weekend and see how it goes. I definitely recommend using it for any events downtown, so you don’t have to deal with the stress of finding parking!”


Thank you so much, Julia, for taking time out of your day to tell us about your experience, and good luck with your move to Texas! 


If you use any of PSTA’s services and are interested in being featured in our next “Behind the Wheel” installment, email Want to read our last “Behind the Wheel,” where we featured one of our amazing bus operators? You can read it here!