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Jacksonville Transit

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Considering the rapid rise of real estate prices, plus JTA already having $100 million set aside, everyone is wondering what's taking them so long. Originally JTA planned to spend the entire $100 million, by 2010, but now they only expect to spend $30 to $45 million by then. JTA claims the lower level of spending is based on how time-consuming it is for a government agency to buy private property.

http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._20041978.shtml

Personally, maybe this is a good thing. I wouldn't mind seeing the majority of this money used to start up the planned commuter rail line, instead of BRT. Maybe this will give them the time to consider commuter rail, as an alternative mode of mass transit, more seriously.

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^ I agree Lake. The commuter rail line would probably see a higher ridership out of the gate and would be a hell of a lot cheaper. I would hope they would add a line parallel to US17 to tap into the OP area.

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I wanted to start a general thread for discussion about Commuter Rail. I think many of us have expressed the opinion that Commuter Rail is superior to (and cheaper than!) BRT.

Here's a great letter to the editor from 11/15 ...

--------------------------------------------------------

TRANSIT

Use railroad lines

Recently you published an article on the Jacksonville Transportation Authority's choice for bus rapid transit in lieu of the "more expensive" light rail system.

Oddly enough, the best choice for commuter service was not mentioned. The map shows two routes being considered: Along Phillips Highway and along Roosevelt Boulevard.

These two streets parallel two active railroad lines that could be used with a minimum of land acquisition and environmental effects.

Rep. John Mica, R-Orlando, has successfully proposed the funding of a commuter train in the Orlando area using the same line as exists along Jacksonville's Roosevelt Boulevard. Service on this line could be extended to St. Augustine.

Nashville is presently building a commuter line using an existing right of way. The train will be operational in the near future.

Just as the grandiose high-speed rail plan was wisely defeated by the voters when improved Amtrak service is what is needed, the bus plan should be shelved in favor of commuter rail using improved existing facilities.

GEORGE BOLLINGER, transportation consultant, Jacksonville

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Commuter rail seems like the right idea. I do not know hot it works though, if the commuter rail is using the same rail as say CSX, how do the trains coordinate so that there are no crashes, and how would the CSX trains go around the commuter trains when stopped at stations.

I've been thinking, maybe commuter rail is more expensive than anyone thinks, because the rail companies own the rail lines and have daily train schedules. They would probably charge the city outrageously to use the rails.

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Freight railroads are highly opposed to allowing passenger trains on their tracks. It drastically interferes with their operation and puts commuters on their property, which is a huge liability.

Edited by Lunican

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This is a great topic for Jacksonville, so I pinned it

Actually, almost all commuter rail lines in the USA are on shared tracks with freight lines. In many cases the freight lines are happy to share the expense of keeping the tracks up to date and upgrade costs.

Nashville did a remarkable job of getting a commuter rail system up and almost running at very very low cost. It is an example of what can be done if enough effort is put behind it. However most commuter rail systems will cost more than this. For a shared freight line I would say that it generally runs $8-$10 million/mile.

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We definetly need to follow Nashvilles' lead.

I really love that idea of using the tracks to connect Fernandina and St Augustine in with central Jax.

The 150 acre River City Marketplace on the Northside and the 161 acre Avenues Walk on the Southside would make great TOD's as the rail line runs right across both properties.

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With our traffic problems and the fact that our existing rail lines run pretty close to most major local destinations (excluding the Beaches), its only a matter of time before the proposed commuter rail line comes to the forefront. My only concern is that JTA will build the proposed BRT lines running parallel to the tracks before commuter rail is seriously considered.

Imo, the idea situation would be to build a starter commuter rail line (from the airport to the Avenues Mall) and use BRT to reach the beaches. While rail companies usually haggle over sharing their lines, I think Jax has an advantage because the rail companies (CSX & FEC) are headquartered here.

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How could this solution not have been thought of by JTA? I'm sure they've considered it, right? It would be alot cheaper and just as effective. I think that Jax's train tracks are more vital than South Florida's.

Tri-Rail is quite successful, and its tracks run parallel to I-95, with many stations out in the middle of nowhere. Now think of where the tracks are in Jacksonville, and how convenient they would be!

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I don't know what's up with JTA. JTA is planning for commuter rail, but its taking a backseat to the proposed BRT lines. Maybe the bad press on the Skyway has cooled their opinion on using trains as a form of mass transit any time soon. I'm sure the counties of Nassau, St. Johns, and Clay wouldn't mind sharing in the costs, considering a rail connection of any sort, would be a great help to them, their traffic problems and tourist oriented areas.

Edited by thelakelander

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What does BRT stand for?

Bus Rapid Transit. I saw it in another post above.

Personally I think a light rail system would be an excellent solution. Coming from Minneapolis, who just installed a light rail system from the Airport to Downtown. It is clean and fast. It also adds an air of sophistication to the city.

BRT seems like a short sighted solution due to not wanting to spend the money on an LRT. Eventually the city will come to its senses and build a LRT system anyway.

Edited by urbanjacksonville

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Commuter rail could be cheaper than light rail because it could use existing tracks. Light rail would have to be an entirely new system. A train from downtown to the beach would be great though.

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http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._20549561.shtml

By DAVID BAUERLEIN, The Times-Union

106905_300.jpg

106907_300.jpg

106904_300.jpg

An interesting exerpt:

Take the Skyway, or, as critics of the elevated train downtown might say, "Take the Skyway, please." Blaylock figures that not only will the underused Skyway prove itself to be a success in the future, but it also will become a bigger system with links running down Bay Street to Alltel Stadium and down Riverside Avenue.

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I think they need to forget the buses and BRT and work on a rail based system. Commuter Rail for the suburbs and a light rail line in the city.

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^I agree, but what do we do? Does anyone know who there is to contact about our ideas. I mean, surely they had to have given some thought to the existing rail lines that run through the city, but maybe they didn't??

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JTA is already studing running a commuter rail line from St. Augustine to Fernandina Beach. Most of the discussion between forumers now is making that become the main goal and scaling back the proposed BRT lines that run parallel to the existing rail line.

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I have found the best way to affect these plans is to get involved with the transit authority. The JTA is asking for this very involvement. You can check it out here.

It was this type of community involvement that allowed Charlotte to build it's electric trolley system and choose Light Rail & Commuter Rail over Bus Rapid Transit for several routes.

Edited by metro.m

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^Unfortunately these Advisory Committees were held back in 2002, a full year before I moved to town. But I agree, the best thing to do is contact JTA officials and the city council, with sound reasons why commuter rail should become a priority over BRT.

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I really think the idea is a non-starter. Yes, traffic in Jacksonville is bad (probably the worst I have seen in a city so small). However, a "commuter" line for a town of scarcely 1 million? Spread out over an entire county? I don't think JAcksonville really has the traffic patterns or volumes to neccesitate such a move.

Cities I know with light railes or "commuter trains" are far larger than Jacksonville, and tend to have more centralized business districts. Unless somehow existing lines were acquired (doubtful), we are looking at a program that would cost BILLIONS and probably be about as useful as the monorail, another moronic transit idea.

I'm all for taking drivers of the street who like to pass from the right lane while talking on the cell phone in their souped-up dodge. I really think a light rail is an idea that makes no sense for JAX, even as I take 45 minutes to drive 12 miles to work. This is not a big city, its spread out absurdly, and people like cars.

Joshua

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Well, in response, I have to agree to disagree. Jacksonville is denser than you think...mainly in the inward parts of town where there are thousands willing to ride public transportation. Commuter rail would be on a CSX owned rail line that comes from Amelia down to St. Augustine, a city that has expressed interest in being further connected to town. Even in St. Johns and southern Duval, where it is all sprawl being built, there are limited highway and road choices that will become superclogged as everything gets built, unless every road is widened to Atlanta size (we dont want that), and I would bet that developers know this and would be willing to build transportation hubs.

The CSX line that runs from Amelia west to the N-S main line that would be used, I heard only has one or two trains on it a day, so that wqould not be a problem.

Given that the city will find a way to deal with CSX (which I have heard cannot be dealt with easily), a nice commuter rail line in Jacksonville with ten to twelve stations should not cost more than $150 million. Far better than riding a "high tech" bus system in twenty years for more than a half BILLION dollars.

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A nice point.... but I must ask a few questions. Your light rail, assumedly, will serve Amelia Island and Saint Augustine, primarily? On an existing train track? Is that really the path a commuter train needs to travel? Neither community contributes enough workers into Jacksonville proper to neccesitate a commuter train.

Jackonsville is a SMALL metropolitan community. Clearly, those best served by mass transporation would be those in the Southern Duval / St.John's / Clay county suburbs. I agree, the idea of a "high tech bus" is ridiculous. But aside from the very tenuous idea that St. Augustine is a commuter neighborhood of JAX, the needs of these residents simply are not served with a Amelia Island to St. Augustine train.

If it could be conducted very cheaply (less than $100 million) and sustain itself without city subsidies, it might make sense. I find that unlikely. In all reality, it will just be the latest incarnation of the Monorail, a silly mass transportation idea nobody uses for lack of sensible planning.

Perhaps I am a bit jaded, but having lived in absurdly big cities with far worse traffic, I find it a bit entertaining how a city of less than 1 million can seriously look at commuter trains. The idea deserves some study, perhaps, but I find it impracticle. Sadly, I cannot offer a better solution.

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A nice point.... but I must ask a few questions. Your light rail, assumedly, will serve Amelia Island and Saint Augustine, primarily? On an existing train track? Is that really the path a commuter train needs to travel? Neither community contributes enough workers into Jacksonville proper to neccesitate a commuter train.

Jackonsville is a SMALL metropolitan community. Clearly, those best served by mass transporation would be those in the Southern Duval / St.John's / Clay county suburbs. I agree, the idea of a "high tech bus" is ridiculous. But aside from the very tenuous idea that St. Augustine is a commuter neighborhood of JAX, the needs of these residents simply are not served with a Amelia Island to St. Augustine train.

If it could be conducted very cheaply (less than $100 million) and sustain itself without city subsidies, it might make sense. I find that unlikely. In all reality, it will just be the latest incarnation of the Monorail, a silly mass transportation idea nobody uses for lack of sensible planning.

Perhaps I am a bit jaded, but having lived in absurdly big cities with far worse traffic, I find it a bit entertaining how a city of less than 1 million can seriously look at commuter trains. The idea deserves some study, perhaps, but I find it impracticle. Sadly, I cannot offer a better solution.

Look at this way: The JTA is planning for something that in all likely-hood wouldn't be built until lets say 2012 and completed around 2015. At that point you're talking about more people in a county and that would be about the right time for the proposed system.

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MrJoshua, I don't think I've had the chance to welcome you to UrbanPlanet yet. :)

While Jacksonville isn't as dense as other cities with successful mass transit, I believe that it will be one day. I think it would be a good idea to have some commuter rail in place to help with the traffic growth.

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