Commission OKs funds for Park and Ride study
A comprehensive Park and Ride program might be coming to Lee County.
Associated with LeeTran, the proposed program would be an answer to what LeeTran staff call an “unofficial” Park and Ride system already being utilized by riders, who park their cars in retail center and church lots.
County commissioners unanimously adopted a budget amendment at their meeting Tuesday to pledge $68,000 from the Transit Capital Fund reserves toward a Park and Ride study.
The figure matches an amount received from the state for the same purpose, bringing the study’s total cost to $136,000.
LeeTran representative Joanne Haley said the department has long been interested in an official Park and Ride program, but it had not formed a substantial opinion on where the Park and Ride lots should be located.
“Is the need there? I guess there’s a slim possibility that the county doesn’t need it,” she said. “But we know people are unofficially using different retail parking lots to park and catch the bus, and we need a way to quantify that, to look at some projections.”
Though no consulting firm has been hired to conduct the official study, Haley did say the research would include a “no build” option if the county deemed the Park and Ride program unnecessary.
With the county facing a $160 million budget shortfall over the current and next fiscal years, there is a possibility that LeeTran routes would be reduced while fares may increase to compensate for the budgetary woes.
Haley did not speculate on how the proposed cuts would affect the long-range Park and Ride study, nor if changes would actually be made to LeeTran routes or fares. Instead she indicated that despite the budget situation, the county still has to be prepared for the future.
“That situation will impact every decision that’s made,” Haley said of the budget. “But we still have to plan for the future, when the economy will recover. We have be ready with plans in hand when the money comes.”
Other than the Fort Myers Beach Trolley, and some available parking spots at the Cape Coral transit center, the county has no comprehensive Park and Ride program in place.
Currently, LeeTran’s average weekday ridership is 9,618 — numbers that represent boarding, not actual riders, according Haley.
Whether the figures beg for the institution of a comprehensive Park and Ride program, she warned that things are far too early to predict anything except that a formal study will be conducted.
“We would have to start small … this is a very preliminary stage we’re in,” Haley said.