Transportation planners look back to the future

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People board the island trolley March 28 at the Manatee Public Beach. The Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization is updating a long-range transportation plan and looking at all aspects of transportation — from transit systems to road networks. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Ubering between an airport and Anna Maria Island may be this season’s popular arrival method, but what about arrivals in March 2045?

The staff, board and committee members of the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization will seek to answer to such questions in their next long-range transportation plan, which will contain short-term and long-term transportation strategies through 2045.

The MPO is the regional transportation planning entity for Sarasota and Manatee counties and its long-range plan must be updated every five years.

Adoption of the document is set for next October or November, Leigh Holt, strategic planning manager with the MPO, told the MPO board during their meeting March 25 in Sarasota.

In developing the document, planners must look at the road network, pedestrian paths, bike trails, transit systems, parking access, railroads and airports.

They also must use estimates and assumptions for population, land use, travel, employment, congestion and economic activity, according to Holt, who shared a data report March 25.

Some takeaways in the data report:

  • Two of the regions “top 20 high priority crash locations” are on Anna Maria Island, but probably not where motorists would expect.

One priority location is Anna Maria’s North Bay Boulevard between Pine Avenue and Poinsettia Road. The other is at Gulf Drive between 58th Street and Holmes Boulevard.

  • Annual population growth of 0.93 percent is estimated for Sarasota County and 1.5 percent for Manatee County.
  • Environmental restrictions on development will influence population distribution — 12 percent of Manatee County and 30 percent of Sarasota County is preservation or conservation land.
  • Growth on Anna Maria Island and in other coastal communities may be constrained by the ability to obtain or afford flood insurance. About 26 percent of single-family homes in the two-county region are at risk of flooding.
  • The Sarasota/Manatee area generally has an aging population, but the working-age population also is expected to climb.
  • Automated, connected, electric and shared-use vehicle technologies, as well as e-commerce growth, likely will disrupt traditional transportation modes.
  • The length and frequency of red tides and other harmful algal blooms will impact tourism and possibly development.
  • The average commute time is 25.4 minutes in Manatee County and 23.6 minutes in Sarasota County. About 79.7 percent of Manatee County residents drive alone on their commute, 8.7 percent carpool, 1.4 percent walk, 0.8 percent take public transportation and 0.5 percent ride bicycles.

Holt encouraged attendance at the next MPO meeting, which will feature presentations from a representative of each jurisdiction in the Manatee-Sarasota region.

“It will be a longer meeting, and it will be in a workshop format,” she said, noting that city and county officials will be invited to present their long-range priorities.

Additionally, experts will address smart growth and development.

“We will begin to build a vision from those presentations,” said Holt.

The next meeting of the MPO will be at 8 a.m. Monday, April 22, at University of South Florida-Sarasota-Manatee’s Selby Auditorium, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.


About the MPO

The Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization is the regional transportation planning entity for Sarasota and Manatee counties. MPOs are established by state and federal laws and through interlocal agreements to provide a process for local governments to coordinate with the Florida Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.

Anna Maria Island has one voting seat on the MPO. The island mayors meet as the Island Transportation Planning Organization and rotate serving on the MPO board.