As the push to relocate the downtown Sarasota County Area Transit transfer station has gathered support, a problem at the desired new site threatens to complicate the issue.
Supporters of the relocation want the station moved from First Street and Lemon Avenue to a surface parking lot at Ringling Boulevard and School Avenue. A county staff report from December indicated a parking shortage in the area near the Department of Health could be an issue. To construct a transfer station, the surface lot that serves as overflow parking for the adjacent garage would be eliminated, the report said.
After working with various designs at the Ringling site, county staff believes it may have found a design solution that overcomes that issue: a straight line.
Instead of the two-lane system used at the current transfer station, all 10 bus spaces would be arranged in a single row. Incoming buses would pull into the transfer station from School Avenue, exiting onto East Avenue. As a result, just 52 of the 1,132 parking spaces in the lots and garage along Ringling would be eliminated.
The projected cost of the new station would be $2.2 million, Sarasota County Facilities Manager Ed Gable said. Some downtown stakeholders have pushed for a project at the current transfer station focused on generating tax revenue and economic activity. County Commissioner Joe Barbetta, an advocate for relocation, said the plan is a good outcome for all sides.
“I think it’s going to end up with some opportunities for us to put money onto the tax rolls,” Barbetta said.
Impressed with the new design, commissioners told staff to continue evaluating the relocation at a May 16 workshop. Still, commissioners asked how a new station would impact SCAT ridership and operations, including the timing of routes. Commissioners said they wanted to hear about how a move might affect riders.
Gable said the plans were still in early stages, and that other questions may be better answered at a later date.
“We could go forward to a certain degree with the preliminary plan we have,” Gable said. ”More information might be helpful before we do too much rollout.”
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