STOP! wins state grant for studies it hopes will provide more realistic counts reflecting traffic during height of tourist season in Florida communities

Nonprofit has questioned accuracy of state methodology

Image from the STOP! website,

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has awarded a $500,000 grant to the University of South Florida to study the traffic patterns of “recreational areas” — popular tourist destinations in the state — including the city of Sarasota, the nonprofit organization STOP! has announced.

“The idea for the grant came from STOP!, which has been questioning the methodology of traffic studies in the City of Sarasota,” a news release points out. STOP! won support for its efforts from the Sarasota City Commission, the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and the MPO Citizen Advisory Committee, the release notes.

STOP! first approached FDOT representatives a year ago “about the so-called Peak Season Conversion Factors,” which are used to extrapolate traffic counts done out of high season “into traffic numbers that likely occur in-season,” the release says. “These conversion factors are used in every traffic study in the state,” the release adds, both by governmental entities such as FDOT and “by consultants who provide the traffic studies for new development. Seasonal conversion factors are also part of the formulas used to plan roads, bridges and other infrastructure.”

“According to FDOT, the study will determine if the conversion factors that have been in use for years accurately reflect the wildly fluctuating traffic patterns experienced by many Florida cities,” the release explains. The results of the study are due in June 2018.

The FDOT grant will pay for traffic counts that will be conducted over the period of a year, the release continues, and then USF’s Center for Urban Transportation Research will study the data.

“Measurements will be taken for one week each month in multiple locations throughout Florida” on roads leading to recreational areas such as beaches, the release explains.

In the city of Sarasota, traffic counts will be conducted on the Ringling Causeway, the release says. An additional nearby count location will be on Cortez Road in Bradenton, the release points out, while other locations will be in Tampa, Fort Myers, Homestead, West Palm Beach, Destin, Key Largo, Miami Beach, Rockledge and Jacksonville.

STOP! was formed just over a year ago as a nonprofit civic group advocating for changes to the city’s development approval process, better traffic management and greater walkability for pedestrians throughout the city, the release notes.