SARASOTA -- At Monday's Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting, Whit Blanton, Vice President/Principal FAICP for Renaissance Planning Group, presented to the MPO Board their first look at their long-term Regional Park-And-Ride Strategic Implementation Plan. It's designed to provide an easy, comfortable and convenient alternative method of transport to popular areas for those who would customarily use their car.
Whether it is weekday commuting, across town shopping, or the seasonal trips to the beach; alternative modes of travel are becoming essential if residents and vacationers wish to avoid the region's increasing amount of traffic.
Effective transit depends on excellent access, supportive land uses and efficient travel times. Blanton's presentation demonstrated the options a regional park-and-ride strategy would provide.
Blanton said, "We've pointed out central locations for commuters to park and join others for carpooling or van-pools. These locations would also serve as transfer points for commuters to switch to transit."
In the Renaissance study, they looked at inventory and background analysis; determined key activity centers/destinations; evaluated selected areas for potential park-and ride locations and identified some of the potential funding opportunities.
Blanton's group selected 21 destinations that were key activity centers: Major employment centers; Major Universities and Hospitals, as well as barrier island beaches and other vacation spots.
Blanton's group also identified 27 general areas that would be suitable for potential park-and-ride locations.
However, the MPO Board thought that some of those locations might be problematic, because securing them would require negotiations with the property owners to allow the required spaces and traffic, and there was a question as to liability.
MPO Chairwoman, Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson, asked Blanton if he looked into possibly using some of the school properties from both counties. Blanton said he hadn't, then MPO Board member, City of North Port Mayor Linda Yates, said, "The security needed to keep schools safe would not allow it."
MPO Director Michael Howe reminded the Board that the presentation was a preliminary one, and that there was plenty of time to modify the selections.
The motion by the board, was ultimately to do just that; have Blanton return at a later date with other selections which had plenty of spaces and, if possible, be on county property. The motion was approved by a unanimous vote.
Blanton finished the presentation with reviewing some of the funding opportunities. "FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) will fund up to one-half of the non-federal share of park-and-ride lot capital projects, and FDOT might fund 100 percent if the project is carried out by the agency."
Blanton recommended the MPO board coordinate with both MCAT and SCAT for inclusion in their Transit Development Plans, and coordinate with local governments for consideration in their Capital Improvement Programs. Blanton reminded the board the Park-and-Ride program has to fit in the MPO's 2035 Long Term Plan.
Blanton said the board could then peruse sites when the opportunity arises, using the report as a guide and for leverage.
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