County considers grant for beach shuttle service

HOLMES BEACH – The Manatee County Board of Commissioners is bidding for a Florida Department of Transportation grant that would ease demand for parking spaces at Manatee Public Beach.

During season, the beach parking lot fills up rapidly and beachgoers park on the side of Manatee Avenue, causing a nightmare for Holmes Beach Police when afternoon thunderstorms cause everyone to pack up and head for home at the same time.

At its Sept. 25 meeting, the Manatee County Commission approved a request for the $59,000 three-year grant to fund free shuttle buses operating from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays during peak season, between Dec. 1 through April 30.

Beachgoers would park their vehicles in “underutilized” shopping center lots at 75th Street and Manatee Avenue, where they would catch the shuttles.

The service would be called the Beach ConneXion, and in some cases, residents without their own transportation could catch a bus to the parking lots.

Manatee County Area Transit Planning Director Ryan Suarez said this service already shuttles to the Island from various points in Bradenton, although not from a parking lot. He said if they get the grant, the Beach ConneXion grant money would not be available until the 2020 fiscal year.

The request said that the shuttle would likely decrease the number of vehicles that tie up Manatee Avenue from as far as 59th Street West and farther during peak beach days.