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A new water taxi may link Anna Maria Island and Bradenton

The Resort at Longboat Key Club

The service would aim to decrease traffic going on and off Anna Maria Island.

Officials in Manatee County and a number of local communities are working on a plan that would create a water taxi in the Anna Maria Island area.

The idea would create stops that connect Bradenton to Anna Maria Island cities and may eventually expand to other nearby locations like Longboat Key.

This follows efforts to ease tourism traffic and give multiple travel options between barrier islands and the mainland. Many officials agree that congestion in these places is a long-standing issue that needs a fix.

Tom Harmer, town manager of Longboat Key, said that tourist travel to and from Anna Maria Island causes problems for residents in his community about eight miles south.

“Seasonally, we do have some significant impacts to traffic and congestion, especially during certain times of day, in the morning, coming on the island,” he said.

Harmer added that the fact that Longboat Key is in two counties limits his town’s public transit options.

“Half of the town is in Sarasota County, and another half generally is in Manatee County, and they both have two different public transit systems,” he said.

According to Harmer, fixing these issues is a “multi-pronged approach” that could use transportation such as a water taxi as “one piece of that puzzle.”

Harmer highlighted a Florida Department of Transportation studythat presented Longboat Key and the surrounding area with several ideas for alternative transportation, including water taxis.

The Sarasota/Manatee Barrier Islands study included several recommendations, including better parking, more ridesharing, and other means of transportation. Recommendations from the study estimated the cost of a water taxi system at $500,000.

While no formal proposals have been drafted to create a system, Harmer said that the interested cities and barrier islands have regular meetings about this. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reportsthat officials would like to launch a one-year pilot program by Memorial Day.

Harmer added there would be challenges they’d still have to address.

“We have to think about where the water taxis would go and what infrastructure is there to support them,” he said. “We don't have any places that maybe are set up automatically that could handle a water taxi stop.”

The Herald-Tribune reports potential stops include Bradenton, Anna Maria Island, Holmes Beach, and Bradenton Beach.

Other Florida cities, like Tampa-St. Petersburg,Jacksonville, and Fort Lauderdale already offer water taxi services.

I am WUSF’s Rush Family Radio News Intern for spring 2022.