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Council moves to study bus traffic on island

Motion to delay bus ordinance until May 6

March 4, 2014
By MCKENZIE CASSIDY ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

City staff studied three parking lots on the island last month to determine if any spaces could be designated for buses only, but reported to council on March 4 that it simply wasn't feasible.

In each case, the lots under review didn't allow for buses to properly negotiate space without having an impact on the nearby environment. Proposed bus areas would also take up as many as seven spots normally open to cars.

The study, carried out by Keith Williams, director of Public Works and a city engineer, was in response to the city's bus ordinance which was up for a second reading. Williams focused on parking lots near Tarpon Bay Road, Bowman's Beach, and Lighthouse Beach.

Although members of the Sanibel City Council believe it's important to pass a bus ordinance on the island, they decided to get more information about the buses, such as when they come, how many, and for what purpose?

The ordinance will also be renoticed and come up for another second reading at the May 6 meeting.

"I do believe the legislation is extremely important and also we would like to try to provide a relief valve, if possible, to allow an opportunity to have some direction for where buses could potentially go," said Mayor Kevin Ruane.

The ordinance had already been amended prior to the discussion to include more specific language about penalties and the designated bus parking areas.

Council directed staff on Tuesday to study how many buses are coming to the island over the next 30 days so more data would be available before they made their final decision. They can't get that information from LeeWay because the toll booths only record the number of axles in a vehicle, not whether it's a car or bus.

"I am kind of a numbers guy and I guess the question I had is that if this is an issue, how big is it?" said Council Member Marty Harrity.

City Manager Judith Zimomra said the city could conduct a specific kind of traffic interceptor study to get the specific information they are looking for.

"One of the things I like about this council is that we don't make a decision in a vacuum, and we want to make the right decisions," said Vice Mayor Doug Congress. "I think there is a lot we can learn by having an interceptor or someone at Lighthouse Beach."

Council Member Jim Jennings said a bus ordinance is needed to ensure that Lee County doesn't dictate the bus traffic on the island.

"I don't want them to be able to go and say to us that we are putting buses on Sanibel and we are going to let them stop wherever they want to," said Jennings. "I think we should go forward with this study."

Members of the public also voiced their concerns about the bus ordinance.

Wayne Ponader from the Committee of the Islands (COTI) said the bus issue is a public safety problem and he didn't want to see the council wait too long to act.

"More information is always good, I think a concern I have is that we not let this quest for information delay what we are doing," said Ponader. "The council became aware of this problem some six to eight months ago and the problem is essentially this, as we do nothing buses continue to come to Sanibel."

Chris Heidrick, chair of the Sanibel and Captiva Chamber of Commerce, said it was a good idea for council to find the answers they are looking for in order to pass an effective ordinance.

"We are not looking to attract buses or expand bus traffic, but what we are looking for is some sort of control over the problem in a way that makes sense," said Heidrick.

He also pointed out that not all buses are the same.

"I think there are some buses, for example a bus of children from some other part of the mainland who have never had a chance to see the beach in their life and there is a trip or tour that's dropping them off for a few hours to see the beach, I don't think Sanibel is looking to exclude that type of traffic," said Heidrick. "There are probably certain buses you prefer to others."



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