My family and I have visited Anna Maria Island for more than 30 years and we have witnessed firsthand how the place is strangling itself with its popularity. Our three-month stay ends at the end of the month and we have never before seen such slow-moving traffic so early in the season.
A multi-story car park anywhere on the island is not the solution.
Our full-time home is in the Roman city of Chester in the United Kingdom, one of very few ancient walled cities in the world. It too gets swamped with tourists from around the globe, but it has a solution to gridlock – so-called Park and Ride car parks serviced throughout the day, throughout the year, by an excellent hop-on, hop-off bus service. For a small fee, users can leave their cars and ride into the city to be dropped off at numerous points on a set route, while the return is just as simple.
Chester is not unique. Several other UK tourist hotspots have adopted the idea, enabling traffic-free city streets, pedestrianization, cycle routes and a reduction in air pollution and traffic-related accidents.
The irony is that you already have the excellent shuttle bus solution in place, and, unlike the UK, acres of land off the island on which to locate car parks, multi-level or otherwise.
I urge the powers that be to give the idea some thought. Sadly, I don’t have a solution to the suggestion that AMI’s three cities should be amalgamated, but I suspect that might go away if the car parking was resolved.