Traffic congestion and parking could certainly be considered among the top two items talked about in 2013.
Parking plans and easing traffic have been on all three island city agendas, especially in the latter part of the year, and Holmes Beach officials have discussed how to better inform people about congestion.
Developing an app for people to check the traffic and parking situations on the island before motorists become stuck in an hourlong wait just to get across the bridge during peak season has been part of the focus.
A few months ago, Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino suggested a smartphone app should be developed for people to check traffic and weather before trying to get on — or off — the island.
His suggestion was picked up by a committee devoted to both traffic and parking issues in the city and officials also said they would check into how other cities use apps.
Zaccagnino said he could develop an app without the complications being brought up by other officials, but the commissioner’s involvement was dropped from discussions.
Zaccagnino wasn’t deterred, however. He went about the business of developing a smartphone app on his own, which he launched via Apple’s iTunes store Dec. 21.
The app is free to download for iPhone users. Zaccagnino said he is still continuing work on the app for more uses and its adaption for Androids.
“People coming to the island need information,” said Zaccagnino. “Other cities use similar apps, where visitors can get live traffic and weather feeds, as well as live camera feeds.”
Zaccagnino said live camera feeds is something he is working on, but he ran into an unexpected snag when he inquired about tapping into the cameras on the Manatee Avenue and Cortez Road bridges that carry motorists between Anna Maria Island and the mainland.
“The county has cameras on both bridges, but I found out that they aren’t hooked to anything,” Zaccagnino said. “I was told it would cost the county about $250,000 to get them operational. I’m not sure where they came up with that amount, but I am going to work with the city. I think we could get our own cameras operational for a few hundred dollars.”
Zaccagnino said his development team included two programmers in the United Kingdom and the process took about 12 weeks and will be ongoing, with updates as they become available.
As of right now, app users can get a live traffic feed that shows island roads in the colors of green, yellow and red. Zaccagnino said green lines mean traffic is flowing smoothly, yellow means it’s pretty busy and red indicates heavy congestion.
“I’m working on updating the events calendar so people can see when there will be music and festivals, as well as a directory for local businesses and restaurants,” he said. “The goal is to have this free app available for everybody to use as soon as possible.”
Zaccagnino said the app won’t cost users anything, but he is looking at ways to sell space on the app.
“I’m not looking to make a lot of money out of this,” he said. “That wasn’t the intent and it will be a very small fee for businesses to be included.”
QRHop.com has been working with the Holmes Beach island congestion committee to develop something similar, but Zaccagnino said it appears to be web-based.
“That’s just something I believe is going to be a thing of the past,” he said. “I wanted to stay away from anything web-based.”
While QRHop.com can be accessed from a cellphone with Internet capability, Zaccagnino said apps are easier to access and use, more so than apps that are web-based, but he welcomes anything and everything that might help congestion on the island.
“That is everyone’s goal right now, and I hope this app will play a part in resolving what everyone is working so hard to address right now,” he said.