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Sarasota Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2019 1 month ago

Sarasota transportation planning shifts gears

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The early finding of the city’s ongoing transportation analysis? People want a variety of safe alternatives for getting around Sarasota.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

In a survey of more than 750 Sarasota residents, 82% of respondents reported that driving is the mode of transportation they use most often.

Yet based on input from those same people, city transportation planners are focusing on finding ways to make it easier to walk, bike and use public transportation to get around Sarasota.

Although it might seem counterintuitive, city staff believes residents are eager to see a variety of transportation options from which they can choose. That’s one of the major takeaways from the first phase of Sarasota in Motion, the city’s ongoing transportation master planning effort.

“The travel modes people chose today do not necessarily reflect how people would choose to travel if they could,” said Jason Collins, a consultant with Tampa-based transportation firm ADEAS-Q.

Collins led a presentation at Monday’s City Commission meeting updating officials on Sarasota in Motion. The city is working with ADEAS-Q to produce a master plan detailing the city’s transportation needs, identifying and prioritizing specific projects, and recommending strategies for funding those projects. The planning effort is expected to continue through summer 2020.

The first phase of the process took a more general approach to gauging the community’s perspective on transportation. In surveys and at public meetings, planners asked residents how often they used different forms of transportation, how they’d like to get around the city and what their transportation priorities are.

Although traffic is a frequent topic in the city, the survey indicated respondents were more interested in the city providing safer transportation than cutting down on congestion. Per the survey, 61% of respondents said they wanted safer street crossings, and 58% said they wanted a more comfortable bike network. By comparison, 37% said they wanted more reliable travel times.

The planning team used the input they received to craft a project vision for Sarasota in Motion.

“Sarasota is a safe and active community with diverse transportation choices,” the vision states. “The transportation investments are the result of community values, and the outcome is a more resilient, people-oriented city.”

City Chief Transportation Planner Colleen McGue said she wasn’t surprised by the results of the first phase, but the public input will help inform the types of projects the city prioritizes as it develops more-detailed plans. She said the city was establishing metrics that would evaluate factors including safety and climate resiliency to rank proposed transportation initiatives.

“There’s a nexus between what we heard from the community and how we’ll be selecting projects,” McGue said.

McGue was happy with the amount of input the city received during the first few months. She said officials would continue to strive to find ways to reach a broad cross-section of the city in hopes the master plan would effectively reflect the desires of residents.

“We’re going to be out and about in the community, at events, reaching as many different people as possible beyond the people who would attend a public meeting or those comfortable engaging online,” McGue said.

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