Data Shows Hotel Can Ravage Siesta Traffic

Letters

Rendering couresy Sarasota County: Plannes Stickney Point hotel.

I live on Siesta Key and own a software company that develops predictive estimating tools. Our clients include IBM, Microsoft, the Department of Defense, the government of South Korea and many others.

After looking at the issues dealing with hotels and unmanaged growth of large buildings on Siesta Key, I developed a mathematical model of traffic patterns on Midnight Pass Road.

Assuming a time of 11am, during the summer low season the 1.1-mile stretch of road between Stickney Bridge and Siesta Key beach has an average of 14 automobiles that move toward the beach at a rate of about 26 miles per hour. They can go from the bridge to the beach in less than 5 minutes.

During the high winter season at 11am there are about 400 automobiles on the stretch of road between Stickney Bridge and Siesta Key and they move at an average speed of about 1.25 miles per hour; i.e. it takes almost one hour to drive the 1.1-mile distance from the bridge to the beach.

If three more large hotels are built on Siesta Key, the number of autos at 11am may increase to almost 500 on the same stretch of road and the speed will drop down to about 0.5 miles per hour; i.e. it may take two hours to go from the bridge to the beach.

It is obvious that tourists could drive 35 miles from Sarasota to St. Petersburg beach in less than one hour at the same time of day. If three large hotels are built on Siesta Key, it is probable that tourists will no longer visit Siesta Key in winter but go to St. Petersburg or Clearwater where road and traffic conditions are better.

The probable impact of building three large hotels on Siesta Key will be bankruptcy of some Siesta Key businesses, probably including the new hotels themselves.

Neither the planning commission nor the hotel developers have analyzed peak traffic and the harmful impact that increased traffic will have on Sarasota and Siesta Key. My full model covers both bridges in both directions and can be set for any month or time of day. 

Some possible solutions to the problems would be: 1) Expand parking on the mainland sides of both bridges and run shuttles to the beach; 2) Make the bridges toll bridges with fees for going to Siesta Key but not for leaving; 3) Build a third bridge between the two existing bridges; 4) Limit hotel sizes and occupancy rates; 5) Use computerized planning models for evaluating changes in zoning and traffic densities.

Capers Jones is vice president and chief technology officer of Namcook Analytics.

Rendering couresy Sarasota County: Plannes Stickney Point hotel.

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