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Opinion
Longboat Key Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 5 months ago

How about Sarasota traffic cops?

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The city of Sarasota should be thinking about the effects of roundabout construction on residents’ and visitors’ experience here. Some customer service with traffic could sure help.
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

January is three weeks away, and we’re already getting a big, bad taste of what’s to come when season really kicks in.

Traffic is going to be a growling bear for the residents and visitors on Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key, Lido Shores and, to a lesser extent, Bird Key. Traveling to and from the mainland is going to test your patience. In fact, it already is.

Sadly, it’s going to be this way for a long time. Once the Florida Department of Transportation completes the U.S. 41/Fruitville Road roundabout, it is expected to begin construction on the U.S. 41/Gulfstream Avenue roundabout in fall 2020. That project is likely to last into 2021. Remember, it’s still 2019.

Once again, the backups on the John Ringling Causeway and Ringling Bridge prompt the idea that has fallen on deaf ears in the city of Sarasota year after year: During peak backup times, it seems obvious it could be helpful to station traffic officers at the U.S. 41/Gulfstream and U.S. 41/Fruitville intersections to keep traffic flowing.

One would think when it comes to directing traffic, human management can be smarter and better than traffic lights on a timer.

Over the years, we have argued in vain to city of Sarasota officials that managing traffic at these crucial intersections is akin to great service in a restaurant. It’s not just about the food. The overall experience is just as important.

Indeed, these days every business’ success hinges to a great degree on its customers’ experience. Give them a great experience, and they’ll come back. Give them a crummy one, and they won’t.

This applies to traffic management as well. Although the Sarasota Police Department might see its job as protecting the safety of the public, like every employee in every business, every police on the street is also in sales. How they perform either sells the area and enhances its reputation or chases people away and sullies the area’s reputation.

“No money.” That excuse won’t cut it. For one, the Longboat Key Town Commission in the past has offered to help fund the cost of traffic mitigation. At least Longboat commissioners recognize how important traffic management is to quality of life, and it’s a good bet most Longboaters would find temporary funding for traffic management a worthwhile expenditure.

In fact, money should not be an issue at all for the city of Sarasota. It’s all about priorities. There’s an old saying: The only reason a task is not accomplished is because the individual assigned the task didn’t make it a priority.

That certainly can be said for traffic management.

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