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Metro Jacksonville Responds to JTA, Mayor Peyton

Even Ottawa (King of BRT) is turning to rail. JTA officials believe their $21 million/mile BRT plan is cheaper than commuter rail and tout Ottawa?s 16-mile BRT system as a success. However, recent commuter rail projects in peer cities are coming in at under $10 million/mile and some as low as $2 million/mile. Unfortunately, it seems that officials are willing to spend over $700 million on a bus system that will not be operational until 2030, rather than seriously considering commuter rail.

Published August 25, 2006 in Transit      13 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


At Monday’s Town Hall meeting, Mayor John Peyton and JTA spokesman Mike Miller suggested we take a look at Pittsburgh and Ottawa for successful examples of BRT. They also stated that they favor BRT because its more affordable than rail transit. However, there is a lot of information available that proves otherwise.


While Bus Rapid Transit supporters point to busways in Pittsburgh and Ottawa as successful, they won’t tell you that those systems would cost more than $50 million a mile to build today.

Also, when Ottawa’s system was constructed, ridership actually declined, partially due to the downtown congestion they created with hundreds of BRT buses clogging the streets with regular traffic. Ironically, Ottawa’s BRT ridership has increased since then because of a newly constructed rail line that feeds passengers into the busway. Pittsburgh’s system has also had its struggles as well.

Please don’t take Metro Jacksonville’s word for it, click on the links for proof:

Bus Rapid Transit - Not for New Jersey

Ottawa (Finally) Opts for Light Rail


During Mayor Peyton's (former board member of the JTA) response, it was reveled that he did not know the difference between commuter and light rail. While he was right in stating that light rail would cost more than Bus Rapid Transit, new urban commuter rail systems are half the cost of Bus Rapid Transit.

Capitol MetroAustin 1.45 million32 miles$90 million $2.8 million
Music City StarNashville 1.42 million32 miles $40 million $1.25 million
NorthstarMinneapolis3.14 million 40 miles$307 million$7.68 million
Rail RunnerAlbuquerque797,94051 miles$135 million $2.65 million
Sprinter**San Diego**2.93 million22 miles**$375 million**$17 million**
JTA BRTJacksonville1.25 million 29 miles$611 million$21.1 million

** - San Diego’s proposed system includes removing existing freight rail, raising the line’s elevation, and then building a new 22 mile double tracked line.

Again, don’t take our word for it. These links will take you directly to their commuter rail websites:

San Diego

Commuter rail is cheaper than BRT because it uses existing rail lines, saving millions that would normally go towards land acquisition and construction of infrastructure. It is clear that JTA’s BRT studies focused on light rail and not commuter rail. At the very least, good leadership should seriously examine commuter rail and its benefits, considering it is half the cost of BRT and we are in a budget crisis.

For more in depth analysis of BRT & Commuter Rail in Jacksonville visit:

Metro Jacksonville’s BRT vs. Commuter Rail study

Recommended Videos:

This documentary draws lessons from other cities' transit expansion projects that should be applied to Baltimore's planning process.

This video showcases the 10th anniversary of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Light Rail system.
Although this is a light rail system and not urban commuter rail, it emphasizes the massive success cities are having with rail transit. Unfortunately, it also emphasizes how far behind Jacksonville will be in 30 years with only bus rapid transit system.

The following video shows Toronto's Bus Rapid Transit interfacing with automobile traffic. Look Familiar? It should. JTA operates buses all over Jacksonville in this manner everyday.
One Toronto BRT commuter, after watching this video, commented, "I hate Viva (Toronto BRT). Look at the video, its not faster..YRT (regular bus) is right behind it. And they increased the fare to $2.50! Boycott VIVA"



August 25, 2006, 12:59:41 PM
If only they'd listen to reason.  Great article.


August 25, 2006, 02:28:11 PM
What can the public do about it? Is there any way to convince the powers that be to do it our way or are we stuck w/ what we get and just sit by idly while are tax dollars are thrown away?


August 25, 2006, 03:16:34 PM
At this point all we can do is keep talking about, contact our local and state representatives and educate the rest of the local population on this issue.  They only have $100 million at this point, so there's still plenty of time to create enough reasonable doubt to get at least one or a few local officials to seriously look into this.

larry b.

August 26, 2006, 12:12:31 PM
How about a citizen group?  There is strength in numbers.


August 28, 2006, 10:15:15 PM
Vote for someone else who actually has experience and vision and who can run the City as the major municipality that it is. As long as people remain indifferent to elections and the importance that political leaders they elect have, you will have do nothing local governments.


August 29, 2006, 12:46:33 PM
I think thats a given, the thing is the wheels are turning now while we have someone in office... Waiting for another person in office that may screw the pooch then as well can't be the only option...


August 29, 2006, 10:30:05 PM
Yeah the wheels are turning allright, you'll have a brand new shiny bus system in about 25 years. Hope those busses have wheelchair lifts so you will be able to get on. Who knows, in 25 years maybe they will be nuke-ular powered anti-gravity time travel busses. With their own lanes they should have no problem making 88 MPH.


August 30, 2006, 11:39:17 AM
So spend millions on planning now, wait until we have a new mayor and switch it to something else... I got it... good idea!


September 04, 2006, 07:46:52 AM
In this case "planning"=graft for well connected consultants. Millions spent on a make believe transportation system that will never come to fruition. In municipal political doublespeak, 25 years=never. Planning money spent for a project set to commence in 25 years=waste,graft & political patronage.


October 11, 2006, 06:52:03 PM
I am the same person that worked so hard with George Harmon of the Jax Journal newspaper to kill the skyway and insert a historic downtown LRT system. It was proven then, as it is now that busses draw less riders then LRV´s regardless of track or lane systems. The idea that Pittsburgh dumped LRT for BRT is highly suspect information. What they did was to 1. build some busways 2. go through a period of sticker shock 3. scrap most remaining busway plans in favor of up grading the old Trolley (LRT) system. 4. consolidated their planning and tore the LRT off the streets in downtown and placed those SAME LRT lines in subways.

Since one mile of railroad is cheaper to build then a mile of highway, and since that same railroad line has the same capacity as a 6 lane highway at peak flow, is LRT or Commuter Rail more expensive then BRT? Not a chance! What the city officials never owned up to was that the "historic trolley" or LRT for that matter is simply an electric train. They CAN and DO (San Diego example) operate on the same track as freight railroads and DO NOT have to be in a street and compete with vehicle traffic. The City of Jacksonville used the "street traffic" argument to stonewall the trolley system.

What was the Historic Trolley? (see Tampa which built Jacksonville´s Trolley!) The Historic Trolley Project was to extend from Union Terminal to Metropolitan Stadium  with large parking facilities at or near both ends. The Bay and Water Street route was to be a Gas Lamp, Old South style, Trolley Parkway. (see old post card photos of Jacksonville Traction Companys Main Street Line, once considered to be the most beautiful Trolley line in the WORLD). Some of the line in medians, some private (freight) right of way and some street trackage. It could be built using all sorts of moneys available for Historic, Urban, Redevelopment projects and never touch the "transportation funds". Once up and running, Modern LRV´s could use the same route to access downtown, while existing FEC, CSX and NS RR trackage would allow them to reach the suburbs. Consider if this little link were built today, with it in place, LRV´s could enter town from:(1) Busch, Immeson and alongside North Main Street to the Stadium connection. Also from Union Terminal west along (2) Moncrief, Kings Road, Grand Crossing and Paxon. (3) Beaver Street, Normandy, Merietta, Baldwin (4) Edgewood, Ortega, NAS JAX, Orange Park, Green Cove Springs (5) San Marco, University Bl, Phillips Mall, Sunbeam, St Augustine.  All of this trackage is already in place. These routes (with the exception of the downtown historic line) could also be used by the new DMU trains. In fact with DMU´s a couple of the Baldwin trains might even extend beyond the metro area, one for Lake City and Tallahassee and the other for Starke, Alachua and Gainesville (downtown).  

I love Jacksonville with all of my heart but I finally gave up. At that time, nobody but the press would listen. I am currently living in a city that is "Transit Savy" in South America! Sad that this place is more progressive then my home.


February 03, 2007, 12:51:46 AM
Look at the table that shows each systems cost per mile. That says it all.


February 18, 2007, 01:37:22 AM
The following video shows Toronto's Bus Rapid Transit interfacing with automobile traffic. Look Familiar? It should. JTA operates buses all over Jacksonville in this manner everyday.
One Toronto BRT commuter, after watching this video, commented, "I hate Viva (Toronto BRT). Look at the video, its not faster..YRT (regular bus) is right behind it. And they increased the fare to $2.50! Boycott VIVA"

Get your facts straight. VIVA is not a bus rapid transit system (yet). It has yet to implement dedicated bus lanes, which will separate buses from mixed traffic.

So for now, they will be running alongside the local buses.


February 18, 2007, 10:47:39 AM
Viva may not be considered BRT yet, but JTA's version of BRT will in fact interface with regular traffic, making just like the current VIVA operations.
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