BRADENTON BEACH -- A new initiative will soon bring the public new ways to get around Anna Maria Island -- an effort that organizers hope can help alleviate the island's parking and transportation woes.
Adventure Away of Bradenton and the Gulf Islands, a Bradenton Beach-based business that provides adventure experiences to its clients through local partners, plans to roll out alternative transportation services on Feb. 15 through an initiative called Ride AMI.
"Ride AMI is really multiple services and it's hopefully the start of efforts related to alternative transportations," said Walter Loos , a managing partner of Ride AMI. "We're talking about entertainment and park-and-ride services, but the important part is it will interconnect with other alternative transportation modes like bike share. We're in the process of implementing bike share racks over in our Cortez location (12208 Cortez Road W., Cortez), where people can come park at our location and ride across the bridge in bikes."
In addition, Loos said the business is also launching a water taxi service, the first leg of which is going to take passengers from the waters off Cortez to the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach.
"This newly developed service is aimed at connecting the other alternative transportation island options like the Island Beach Monkeys and the Anna Maria Island Trolley at addressing the growing parking and transportation strains facing the Bradenton Beach Business District," states a release issued Monday. "Many of the businesses within the Bridge Street and Bradenton Beach Business District have been looking at creative solutions to address the mounting parking and transportation challenges. Ride AMI's planned shuttle service is part of an ongoing effort to spearhead the development of an interconnected multi-modal parking and transportation plan for Anna Maria Island."
To directly support local businesses within the district, Ride AMI will operate scheduled routes between the business district and designated parking, according to the release. The service, called the Bridge Street Hospitality and Entertainment Shuttle, will run daily from 2 p.m. to 10p.m., serving those in the district. The park and ride component of the shuttle services will be based off a suggested gratuity of $2 per rider.
According to the initiative's website, Ride AMI's multi-modal transit and parking solution initiatives are "essential to the overall vision and development of car free vacations for the adventure travelers to Anna Maria Island."
"Alternative transportation is what is needed to get people out of their cars and help alleviate congestion and parking issues," Bradenton Beach Commissioner Jacob Spooner was quoted to have said in the announcement of the initiative. "Adventure Away of Bradenton and the Gulf Islands has many forms that are connective and this will be a significant stride for our transportation problems."
Sherman Baldwin, a captain for Bradenton Beach-based tour company Paradise Boat Tours, is one of several partners in the effort. He also sits on the Board of Directors for Bridge Street Merchants Association, a local nonprofit organization aimed at promoting Historic Bridge Street, the Bradenton Beach community, and all its businesses.
"We as a merchants association, but also as individual proprietors of businesses, are always dealing with the parking difficulties that we face island-wide. It's not just Bradenton Beach, but the whole entire island is really facing these difficulties," Baldwin said. "We were excited when Walter and Julie (Kirkwood, owner of Adventure Away of Bradenton and the Gulf Islands) reached out to us because they appear to have a very comprehensive program to address a number of alternative transportation methods on the island, not just one solution that cures everything because that's not practical. ... It's going to take a number of solutions."
For more information on Ride AMI, visit www.adventureaway.com/ride-ami.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.