Barrier island traffic study solutions: paid parking, wayfinder

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Looking east in March, cars maneuver Manatee Avenue in Holmes Beach, where parking demands at the Manatee Public Beach push beachgoers to park on the right of way on the south side of the road. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

The 5,071 parking spaces on Anna Maria Island fill up fast during holidays and prime beach days.

More than 1,000 more parking spaces are needed to address the imbalance, according to a recent consultant’s report.

Instituting paid parking and installing a wayfinder system could help solve the problem, according to a 72-page analysis and recommendations from Walker Consultants of Tampa Bay.

Parking so far is one of the least-discussed aspects of the $675,000 barrier island traffic study undertaken by the Florida Department of Transportation, which now includes the Walker report.

Bessie Reina, DOT project manager for BITS, said parking will be discussed during an update at a June 8 meeting in Holmes Beach.

“As we move into phase III, the recommendation list will be further refined,” Reina said.

The study is supposed to identify traffic problems and solutions involving vehicles, parking, bicycles and pedestrians on the barrier islands from Anna Maria to Lido Key.

Walker’s recommendations were similar for Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach, Coquina Beach and Holmes Beach: Develop a wayfinding system to provide island-bound motorists with parking options.

To subsidize the cost of installing and maintaining a wayfinding system, remote parking inventory and parking lease agreements, Walker suggested the island cities charge a fee for public parking.

“The policy of charging a fee for public parking access will not only help fund the ongoing operations of these recommendations but, more importantly, will help establish a pricepoint,” according to the report.

Walker’s Anna Maria analysis projects a peak parking demand of 1,138 spaces at 2 p.m. on a March weekend compared with a typical demand of 892 spaces around 6 p.m. in the same March time frame.

“We recommend the city engage in discussion with Gloria Dei Lutheran Church for the lease of their 60 parking spaces during non-worship activity for the community to meet the overall demand needs during this peak hour,” according to the report.

Gloria Dei, 6608 Marina Drive, has declined in the past to lease parking spaces, saying it could complicate selling any of its property, but Walker advised persistence in its report.

Other churches also resisted attempts in the past by Holmes Beach officials to “borrow” parking for beachgoers.

“Otherwise, we can anticipate a shortfall of a similar amount equal to the church parking inventory,” according to the report.

Holmes Beach parking demand in the daytime typically peaks at 2,014 spaces by noon on a March weekend compared with a typical evening parking demand of 1,649 spaces at 6 p.m. in the same month.

“We recommend the city engage in discussion with the neighborhood worship centers for the lease of their cumulative 510 parking spaces during non-worship activity in order for the community to meet the overall demand needs during this peak hour,” according to the report. “Otherwise, we can anticipate a projected shortfall of 327 spaces.”

Walker’s Bradenton Beach analysis projects a typical peak parking demand of 986 spaces around 6 p.m. on a weekend in March, which equates to a parking deficit of 340 spaces.

Walker said remote parking locations should be explored in Bradenton Beach through public/private partnerships with landowners along Cortez Road.

His Coquina Beach and Coquina Bayside South boat ramp parking inventory of 933 spaces leaves a parking deficit of 248 spaces during peak demand times in March.

The study recommends charging to park, establishing wayfinder and promoting off-island transit services.

Funding will be identified if any DOT recommendations are adopted as priority items by the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, which was created in the 1950s to provide a local voice for the state on transportation issues.

The study can be reviewed online at islands/. The site shows statistics on vehicle-turning movement, parking, pedestrian activity,

land use, multimodal options, transit service and ridership and bottleneck locations.

The DOT will update BITS at 9:30 a.m. Friday, June 8, at CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

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