As with any major plan, downtown will be the heart of Bus Rapid Transit. Unfortunately, if no real noise is made by the community, it will have devastating effects on everyone's desire to have a vibrant and pedestrian/retail friendly core.
Some issues discussed at the Northside JTA BRT presentation:
1. BRT will have its own transportation center, separate from the Prime Osborn transportation center. They plan to demolish the block of historic buildings where Cartouche was located for this bus depot. Just to put everyone's mind at ease, the Greyhound Bus station was preserved, meaning downtown can become the home to FOUR transportation centers/depots.
2. Parallel parking spaces on Forsyth, Bay, Philip Randolph and Broad will be eliminated and converted into bus lanes. Check out downtown Houston to get a better idea of the harm this causes. Imagine walking down the Bay Street Town Center or Florida Theater with buses flying by you at 40 miles an hour.
3. Adams Street will be closed to through traffic, making it a transit mall, which sounds like a recreation of the 1971 Master Plan that brought us the one-way loop system we still struggle with today. Sounds more like the Twilight Zone, instead of progress.
4. All Downtown BRT routes will parallel the skyway on both sides of the river. Why introduce a system that competes with the one we already have for ridership? Was the $184 million for the Skyway considered play money?
5. Instead of using the city-owned S-Line for rapid transit, current plans are to purchase private right-of-way along I-95 up to Gateway Mall. While it's a straight shot, it avoids where people actual live/work and what will you do when you get dropped off at a station next to an expressway ramp?
This is a serious issue that is ten times more important to this community than many things that cause an uproar. If we want to keep downtown sexy, as presented in a recent EU article, we all need to get out and raise hell to stop JTA from spending $700 million on a bus plan that will set downtown back a decade or two. Any ideas?
Issues Discussed at the Southside JTA BRT Presentation
SE route (Prime Osborn to Baymeadows Road)
1. It parallels the skyway, including placing BRT stations next to the skyway's Riverplace Station and Kings Avenue Station. If this becomes reality, what would be anyone's reason for taking the Skyway over to the Southbank?
2. The plan shown on the maps made available for viewing had a BRT line using FEC's rail right-of-way from just south of the Kings Avenue garage to Emerson Street, before running down the middle of Phillips Hwy. Weird enough, there's no station planned at Atlantic Blvd (San Marco Square), one of the most pedestrian friendly areas South of the river.
3. The BRT line would be elevated from Phillips/Bowden Road to I-95 and JTB. No wonder this project will cost hundreds of millions. Not only do you have to purchase private ROW, you're also building what amounts to an elevated highway for a pretty large section.
4. The last station ends at the Shell gas station at Baymeadows & I-95. How can you invest that much in a system that can't even get you close to the Avenues Mall, something commuter rail could easily do for less than a quarter of the cost.
5. Here's the jaw dropper. I always assumed costs would be higher than the 2004 estimate of $611 million, so I asked a JTA planner what he believed the new figure would come in at and he quickly stated probably around $1 BILLION DOLLARS for the entire system! This means if anything happens, due to the higher cost, the system may be reduced in length to make it more feasible to pull off.
SW route ( Downtown to Blanding at 103rd St.)
JTA plans to purchase rail right-of-way from CSX to run BRT from the Prime Osborn to FCCJ's Kent Campus on Roosevelt Blvd. From that point, a large bridge would be built to take buses over the railroad tracks (the same line that will have its freight traffic significantly reduced to allow Orlando to implement commuter rail) to Blanding.
The major problem is Blanding's worst traffic conditions are on the south side of I-295, but this BRT line goes no-where near that area, meaning 20 years from now, we still won't have an alternative source for Blanding Blvd traffic flowing North into Jax.
So after all the debate about how difficult it is to negotiate with rail companies, we find out that they have to negotiate with them anyway to run buses on their right-of-way.