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More input sought for transportation study

By Staff | Apr 8, 2009

In cooperation with the City of Sanibel, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and LeeTran, representatives from Jacobs Engineering Group hosted the second interactive public workshop related to the ongoing Alternative Transportation in Parks and Public Lands (ATPPL) study at the Sanibel Community House last week.

During the two-hour session, members of the public were invited to share with study leaders their opinions on several proposed transportation alternatives.

According to the questionaire handed out to workshop attendees, the primary goals of the ATPPL study are to:

Conserve natural, historical and cultural resources

Reduce congestion and pollution

Improve visitor mobility and accessibility

Enhance the visitor experience

David Baxter, a representative of Jacobs Engineering Group, explained to the audience of approximately 45 members that the last public workshop – held in January at the Sanibel Recreation Center – yielded 134 comments while an online survey, done in conjunction with in-person interviews around the city, registered approximately 4,000 participants.

From information gathered online and at the initial workshop, the third most common visitor activity on the island is a visit to “Ding” Darling NWR (903 responses), following visits to the beach (1,112) and bird/wildlife observations (993).

Residents preferred getting around the refuge by car (75 percent), followed by bicycle (70 percent) and Refuge Tram (45 percent). By comparison, visitors had a greater preference getting around the refuge by car (80 percent), which was followed by bicycle (50 percent) and Refuge Tram (40 percent).

“We’re a partner in large part due to our involvement in transportation funding. Part of the funding is for this study, and part of the funding is for implementation,” said Mike Hornstein of LeeTran. “This is not a study to see whether or not LeeTran will be operating buses on the island. What we’re focusing on is looking at transportation alternatives… everything.”

Among the alternatives presented during the session were motorized transportation methods (buses, refuge trams and “green” vehicles), motorized waterborne vehicles (an off-island ferry), improved/enhanced non-motorized methods (bicycles) and strategies for congestion management.

“I think that there’s some value is taking all cars off of Wildlife Drive and using only ‘green’ transportation,” said resident David Bath. “That would eliminate a lot of traffic.”

Scott Pringle, moderating Group 1 during a “breakout discussion,” explained that the transportation demands on Sanibel are quite unique and present very specific challenges.

“There are very few places in this country that have the same issues we have here, which is the main reason why we’re doing this study.”

Refuge manager Paul Tritaik, listening in on several of the breakout groups, noted that he was open to hearing some innovative transportation ideas that could be brought to the island.

“We don’t want to shut out any ideas at this stage. We want everyone to freely discuss all of the options that are out there,” said Tritaik, who explained that a few common problems within “Ding” include a lack of parking space and visitors who are unsure of what the “rules” of Wildlife Drive are. “People are supposed to pull off to the right side of the road if they want to get out and experience our wildlife; they’re not supposed to stop in the middle of the road. It’s not a constant problem, but it is something that we’ve got to address.”

The third interactive public workshop, to be held on Thursday, April 16, will build upon the public opinions expressed and comments collected at the previous two public workshops. The workshop, also staged at the Sanibel Community House, will begin at 4:30 p.m. with a formal presentation describing the project efforts to date, followed by a break-out session that asks participants to rank preliminary alternative transportation scenarios, identifying the scenario(s) that they believe should be refined and studied in detail, so that implementation recommendations can be developed. At the conclusion of the workshop, another presentation will summarize the comments heard during the break-out session and describe the next steps in the study.

For more information, contact Kris Cella of Cella Molnar & Associates by calling 239-337-1071, 1-877-496-1076 (toll-free) or send an e-mail to kcella@cella.cc.