FOLEY – In an effort to gauge public interest, three planning firms, who were hired to form a public transit plan for Foley, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, held a “community outreach meeting” at 5 p.m. at the Foley Civic Center on …
FOLEY – In an effort to gauge public interest, three planning firms, who were hired to form a public transit plan for Foley, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, held a “community outreach meeting” at 5 p.m. at the Foley Civic Center on Monday.
However, as of 6:30, only one citizen attended and a handful of local officials involved with the project.
Publics meetings were also scheduled for Tuesday in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
The plan, sponsored by the 3-city governments and the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission, is only in the preliminary stages, according to officials with the firms responsible for study: McDonald Transit Associates of Fort Worth, Texas; Gresham Smith and Partners, and Slade Land Use: Environmental and Transportation Planning, both based in Birmingham.
Steve Ostaseski, senior transportation planner with Gresham Smith, an architectural and engineering firm, said that a successful public transportation plan for South Baldwin County, which will use federal and locally funded bus services, would have to cater to both residential and visitor markets.
He said the “lion’s share of support comes from local tax sources” and a “small-portion comes from the fare box.”
The plan calls for 12 to 16 buses to effectively serve the market, but cost estimates are not currently available.
He noted, however, the accessibility of federal grants that could be used to enhance South Baldwin roadways if the region decides to enact a public transit system.
The busing service would ultimately be designed for the residential population with a main route servicing stops along Highway 59, Ostaseski said.
A central-hub is recommended for the Tanger Factory Outlet Center.
One route, the basic option according to the planners, recommended a northern limit – and bus stop – at Underwood Road and a southern limit at Highway 182, Beach Boulevard, along the Gulf.
Beach visitors would be serviced by a number of stops - not yet determined - on the boulevard.
In order to reach the beach in due time, the route recommended bypassing traffic congestion along 59, by following County Road 20 and connecting with the Foley Beach Express, south to the Wharf - the Island’s burgeoning retail and entertainment epicenter.
An enhanced route, depending on market conditions including the demand on the service and local funding support, would place the northernmost stop at the South Baldwin Regional Medical Center, according to Ostaseski.
Peak service, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the height of tourist season, will run on 15 minute pickups, from 6:00 a.m. to 10 p.m., 7 days a week, as the basic service option.
The enhanced route would run until midnight 7 days a week.
Off-peak, Labor Day to Memorial Day, calls for 15 to 30 minute pickups, depending on basic or enhanced service, 6 or 7 days a week, from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. or midnight.
Ultimately, planners stressed that with continued growth in the region, roadway infrastructure will strain, creating a myriad of traffic issues.
“If we continue to build pods of 800 to 900 homes…you will create traffic jams,” Ostaseski said.
After the public meetings conclude, planners will evaluate suggestions from local officials and citizens, revising the preliminary version and adding an estimated cost-structure.