BY JACK SHORT – The Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority provided numbers last week showing that things have been – well, just about as busy as they ever have.
March saw the most traffic the bridge has ever counted in a single month and calendar year 2014 had more traffic than any other year, at least since 2002.
119,778 vehicles crossed the bridge in March, 2015, more than ever before, according to GIBA.
And, since 2002, no total traffic for the calendar year has surpassed 2014, with 917,299 vehicles using the bridge. That is an increase of 1.4 percent over the second highest traffic year during the same period in 2007.
Before 2014, the most recent pronounced spike in annual traffic occurred in 2007 and 2008, when numbers came closest to 2014’s and then dipped as the recession progressed.
If the current trend continues, 2015 could easily surpass 2014 to become the new record holder. Starting in October and continuing through March, each month’s traffic totals in 2015 have increased when compared to the same months in 2014. Those increases were sometimes marginal, such as in February, when traffic from 2014 to 2015 only went up by three percent. Some were much more significant, though. In March 2015, traffic numbers were up by nine percent over March, 2014, a difference of over 10,000 vehicles.
Components of traffic counts are difficult to tease apart, but some indication of the contrast between increases in residential traffic versus non-residential or tourist traffic may be indicated by the difference between revenue collected from cash tolls and from discounted toll passes.
From October through March, 2014 to 2015, growth in cash tolls outpaced growth in discounted passes by a factor of two – cash tolls increased by six percent, whereas revenue from discounted passes increased by three percent.