Backed by Sarasota Police officials, St. Armands Circle business leaders convinced the Sarasota City Commission that it was a bad idea to eliminate parking spaces on the Circle.
“I’m thrilled,” said Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association. “I’m so glad the commission understood.”
Commissioner Terry Turner surprised some St. Armands Circle businesses when he requested the city revisit the idea of creating a traffic bypass lane on South John Ringling Boulevard, which heads out to Lido Beach from the Circle (see map below).
The addition of the turn lane would eliminate 10 to 12 parking spaces in front of a dozen businesses.
“I thought we had this resolved,” said Corrigan. “We worked with the city, and we were all in agreement.”
The push for the bypass lane stems from an increase in vehicle traffic on the Circle last season. Traffic jams were a common occurrence, and some residents complained to city officials that they feared ongoing Circle traffic snarls could push drivers onto neighborhood streets to avoid the tie-ups.
But, according to Corrigan, the unseasonably cold weather last winter drove the problem.
“(There were) not a lot of people at the beach or playing golf,” she said. “So the only thing to do was drive around.”
Another factor in the traffic backups was that new lane striping around the Circle had just been completed, which caused some confusion.
A third component of traffic issues was the stop-sign symbols in the crosswalk signs. Some drivers thought they had to stop at each crosswalk, even when there weren’t any pedestrians present.
Those signs were converted to yield signs.
“If you’re throwing too many variables into the mix, you’re going to have trouble seeing what works and what doesn’t,” said Mayor Kelly Kirschner, who supported keeping the parking spaces.
Capt. Jeff Karr, who oversees parking enforcement, said installing the bypass lane won’t eliminate traffic.
“It may only move the bottleneck down further,” he said.
The Circle’s master plan shows that for the traffic it generates, it’s about 1,000 parking spaces short.
“Losing any spaces is detrimental,” Corrigan said.
The commissioners voted unanimously to retain the dozen parking spaces in question, as well as add about 40 more angled spaces on the second and third blocks of the south side of Boulevard of the Presidents.
To download a map of the St. Armands parking plan, click here.