Sanibel Traffic, Beach Parking Sales Break Records Last Year

by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes

Motorists wait on Periwinkle Way to leave the island. SC photo by Shannen Hayes

Sanibel experienced unprecedented traffic last year, as beach parking sales rose to an all-time high and continued to surpass records in January.

The Sanibel Causeway toll report shows 3.5 million vehicles crossed the bridge last year, breaking the annual record. Despite decreases in January and February, traffic on the island was up 19 percent compared to the previous year and 5.5 percent more than before the COVID pandemic in 2019.

The number of vehicles counted at the toll booth in December broke 300,000 for the first time, which also happened in May, June and July. December traffic was 13.62 percent higher or 36,835 more vehicles than the same month last year and 7 percent more than in 2019.

The record-breaking traffic reflects the summer tourism boom reported in November 2021 by the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau. The VCB study showed 27 percent of the nearly 1.2 million visitors to the county from July to September stayed on Sanibel.

That report also showed the number one draw to the island was the beach. Finance Director Steve Chaipel told council members in their February meeting beach parking sales reached a historic high in the city’s FY2021, which runs from October to September, and continued to break records into FY2022.

“Beach parking sales for January was the 12th month in a row we’ve had record beach parking sales compared to the previous months,” said Chaipel. “Right now, we are about 13 to 15 percent up in beach parking sales for the year, but again a record-breaking January.”

The city netted $4,255,878 in beach parking sales for FY2021, a 30 percent increase over FY2019 and double FY2020, when the beach was closed from March 18 to June 1, 2020 and July 3-6, 2020 in response to the pandemic. That net figure represents 910,348 hours sold, at $5 per hour.

In FY2022, the city has earned $1.2 million in beach parking sales. October saw a 40 percent increase; November was up by 21.79 percent; and December by 45.9 percent compared to those same months in 2019. January increased by nearly 25 percent over January 2021.

Beach parking permit sales also increased from $172,047 in FY2020 to $208,147 in FY2021.

Anyone who wants to avoid sitting in traffic on the island can download the free Sanibel Bound app, which gives real-time traffic conditions, or view a live video stream of the Sanibel Causeway and key Periwinkle intersections. Both can be found on the city’s website. 

Comments (1)

  1. As a resident of Sanibel, I was left with a feeling of depression after reading this article. I guess one would say, I am a zero growth proponent. Numbers like this make my stomach queasy, poor Sanibel. What are we, citizens of Sanibel, to do? It’s that acrid stench of money that’s in the air.
    Skip Collins

Leave a Comment

We are interested in articulate, well-informed remarks that are relevant to the article. We welcome your advice, your criticism and your unique insights into the issues of the day. To be approved for publication, your comments should be civil and avoid name-calling. It may take up to 24 hours for your comment to appear, if it is approved.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.