This isn’t a story about if business on the beach was up or down in Season 2017, or if Zika or dirty water or the presidential election affected our tourism over the past three-plus months.
It is a story about mathematical progression, based on 2 decades of research compared to actual numbers from this past March, when tourists, Seasonals, Spring Breakers and Spring Training fans, along with locals, produced the longest traffic lines of the year to cross the Matanzas Pass Bridge to reach the cool white sands of Fort Myers Beach.
As for me, I bring 20 years of experience to this analysis, practically a perfect synchronicity to the history of the Town of Fort Myers Beach; the Town formed on December 31, 1995, and in April 1996 my Mom and Stepdad moved from their former place at the Surf Song Condominium to their home at Indian Creek RV Park (ICP) on San Carlos Boulevard at Pine Ridge Road. Until going into my own house in South Fort Myers in Summer 2013, I spent 16 years figuring out how best to get from Indian Creek to the Lani Kai during Christmas week, Spring Break or Easter Week, so I can tell you from experience, both behind the wheel and on foot, that distance is exactly three miles.
It goes like this: The ICP entrance to the first 45 mile-per-hour speed sign on San Carlos is the first half-mile; to the 2nd 45 mph sign in the middle of the white wall gets you to one mile; Maria’s Restaurant marks the 1.5-mile halfway point, the base of the Matanzas Pass Bridge marks 2 miles; the bottom of the bridge at the island traffic light is 2-1/2, and the Lani Kai gets you to three!
When traffic backs up to ICP, you creep along until you reach the Lani Kai in just about an hour, give or take a minute or two one way or another, at just about 10 minutes per half-mile. If I walked, however, for the exercise as well as the fun of seeing the frustrated looks on the faces of the people in their practically-stopped cars as I zipped right past them, it took me, in a statistical anomaly, 10 minutes to cover each half-mile. Walking wasn’t any faster but, on many of those days, it was far less frustrating!
Times Waits for No One
In Season 2017, however, in my duties for The Island Sand Paper where it is essential to be on time, I left my home near HealthPark Medical Center 75 minutes in advance, but on almost every occasion arrived from 23 to as much as a whopping 47 minutes early for everything, never being on time or even a few minutes early even once! My simple conclusion is, for whatever reasons, Fort Myers Beach traffic moved quicker and faster and more efficient this year than ever. If I am right, and I have science on my side and not just a “feeling,” then why?
For the sake of consistency, on every trip I remained in the right curb lane, nearest the long white wall of Boardwalk Caper, and did not weave back & forth from lane-to-lane, just to pick up an extra second or two here & there.
Saturday, March 4: The first real day of Seasonal peak, I leave at 2:45 p.m. for an appointment at Sea Grape Plaza at 4. I drive the first half-mile in 4 minutes rather than the usual 10; the second in another 4, reach Maria’s in 7 more minutes, the base of the bridge in 5, the bottom of the bridge in 2, and pull into the Sea Grape in 5 more, arriving at 3:27 p.m. or 33 minutes early.
Wednesday, March 15: The halfway point of Season, when traffic should move slowest, I head to Town Hall for a meeting at 2 p.m., and encounter traffic at the 1st speed sign on San Carlos, 2 miles off the beach, at 12:36 p.m. It takes me 5 minutes to go the first half-mile, to 12:41, though it takes me 9 more minutes to get to Maria’s at 12:50, then another 8 to the start of the bridge at 12:58. From there, however, it is just 5 more to the light at 1:03, 3 minutes to the Sea Grape at 1:06, and 3 more to Town Hall another half-mile down, arriving at 1:09, for 33 total minutes travel time, arriving 51 minutes early!
Sunday, March 26, at the end of peak, I drive to the Fort Myers Beach Art Association for the Student Art Awards that begin at 1 p.m. Traffic begins at the Great White Wall speed sign 1-1/2 miles off the beach, at 11:55 a.m. It takes 5 minutes to get to Maria’s, 7 minutes to the base of the bridge, another 5 to the bottom, 2 minutes to cover the half-mile to the Lani Kai, another 2 for the half-mile to Town Hall, and a final 2 for the last half-mile to the Art Association. It takes 23 minutes to cover the three miles, arriving at 12:18 p.m., or 42 minutes early.
Time Marches On
The stats go on & on: Friday, March 3: Leave at 7:49 a.m.; arrive at 8:33, 44 minutes travel, 27 minutes early. Tuesday, March 14: Leave at 5:15 p.m., arrive at 5:50; 45 minutes travel, 40 minutes early. Monday, March 20: Leave at 12:15 p.m. for the FMB Library at 1:30; arrive at 12:55 in 40 minutes, 35 minutes early.
What does it mean? You tell me, as Fort Myers Beach traffic, beyond question, moved faster and more efficiently in Season 2017 than in the prior two decades. Did it help that most of Segment 1 of the Estero Boulevard reconstruction projects, with almost three fully dedicated lanes open from the bridge to Chapel Street, made that much difference, even though traffic improvement is not one of the intended benefits?
If you have a theory, especially one with statistics, I would like to hear it, so email me at email@example.com. It’s April now with Easter less than 10 days away. Soon, we’ll enjoy having the roads to ourselves again until next Christmas!