Planning consultants made a presentation on a downtown circulator at a public meeting Thursday.
About 50 people attended the meeting. Much of the attention was on the possibility of a streetcar through downtown Sarasota. A fixed-rail streetcar project would have much more of an economic-development impact than a bus-type trolley system, planners said at the meeting.
“It is a reliable magnet to attract growth and development,” Michael Chen, a planner with Tindale-Oliver & Associates, Inc. Planning and Engineering, said of streetcar networks.
One specific streetcar route through downtown, and the Rosemary District, has the potential to spur $8.9 million in additional ad valorem tax over a 10-year period, according to estimates from Tindale-Oliver.
Funding sources, ranging from state funding to federal grants, are available for building streetcar systems.
Two recent events might impact the availability of such funding—including President Barack Obama’s re-election.
“I believe this administration and Congress will continue to fund transit,” Chen said.
Hurricane Sandy, meanwhile, has damaged a good portion of the public transportation system throughout the Northeast, which comprises about 30% of public transit nationwide, and necessary repairs could possibly lessen the pot of money available for new projects, Chen said.
The next step in Tindale-Oliver’s preliminary study is to make a recommendation to the City Commission about whether the city should further study and pursue a streetcar project downtown.