Have you noticed slightly fewer cars in Seaside this summer? Look closely and take note of area business Sunshine Shuttle & Limousine’s partnership with the New Urbanism community. The two parties came together to develop a transportation system for Seaside’s retail and hospitality employees from a designated parking area across the street from Shops of Grayton on County Road 283.
The collaboration began May 24 and will run through Labor Day weekend. The hours of operation are 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.
“Since May, we’ve been averaging between 75 to 100 employees per day,” said Mike Wells, COO of Sunshine. “And going forward, we welcome the opportunity to work with businesses all along Scenic Route 30A in an effort to alleviate vehicular traffic, and encourage opportunities to support green initiatives.”
The timing for this community co-op comes at the height of the busy summer season. According to Wells, up to 100 cars are taken off the road on any given day, making this not only a “green” issue, but a traffic cleansing effort impacting all visitors to South Walton County.
“We hired additional drivers specifically for this program, bringing economic growth, too,” he said.
The partnership came about through discussions between Sunshine and Seaside as to ways to reduce vehicular traffic on 30A.
“But in the long run, reducing all traffic along the route is crucial to making sure people return to the area based on their positive experiences here,” Wells said.
Funded by Seaside Community Development, Sunshine’s Owner John Finch sees this program as an extremely positive stepping stone for repositioning the car-centric attitude along 30A.
“Many people may not know this, but Walton County owns a large percentage of land north of 30A. We can turn that into a tremendous asset by carefully creating designated parking areas along its 18 miles,” said Finch. “Imagine restaurants like the V in Seagrove and Stinky’s in Santa Rosa Beach each having their own large, or shared, parking areas. Combine that with communities like Rosemary Beach and WaterColor offering employee transportation, and a 30A Tram connecting all of these. That’s a bona fide route system incorporating parking areas, employee transportation, and tourism, taking hundreds of cars off the road. Everyone will benefit.”
Since creating a Unified Transportation System (UTS) with the business owners of Sandestin, Finch is hopeful that a privately or publicly funded 30A Tram is simply inevitable. He added, “If Sandestin can do it, the business leaders of 30A can do it.”
“Bringing communities together, and pointing out the benefits of creating more parking for their visitors by transporting their employees from a single spot, may help everyone understand that 30A just cannot withstand the daily onslaught of vehicular overload,” Finch concluded. “When the 30A Tram comes to fruition, every community will see positive change.”
An earlier version of this story originally stated that the parking lot was county-owned. The land is privately owned and used with permission of the owner.