Are JTA's Downtown Amtrak Plans Already Outdated?

September 23, 2010 81 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

In the past, it has been mentioned that the rail facilities at the proposed Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center were extremely inadequate. After reviewing JTA correspondence, Metro Jacksonville's beliefs have been verified.

Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center

A lot has changed since the last time revisions were made to JTA's downtown Amtrak plans six years ago.  It appears that Metro Jacksonville rail consultant Bob Mann has been right all along.

Today, a station of 8 tracks would serve our needs including commuter rail on 4 lines, plus Amtrak. Amtrak service is going to double to the south in 2013, and I have it from a VP that it will double to the north and south again soon after. 10 tracks would give us the luxury of a private car track in the heart of downtown, something the Chamber of Commerce should be drop kicking into the JRTC plan.

Sadly the Neanderthal's at JTA seem to think we'll do just fine with 3 tracks. IDIOTS! This is what is about to happen.


Dateline: Near future

Scene: Jacksonville Terminal (or JRTC for those that would desecrate the temple)

7:45 am, St Augustine Commute train pulls in
7:47 am, Orange Park Commute train pulls in
7:49 am, Airport Commute pulls in
7:51 am, Baldwin Commute pulls in

Trouble? No place to accommodate the 2nd class Commutes. All of these trains will have to "hold out" of the station while Amtrak comes in.  

8:00 am, the 1st class AMTRAK Silver Meteor to Miami, pull's in on track one. The train is split in half and the Tampa section is placed on track two.

result 2 tracks occupied.

8:05 am The 1st class AMTRAK Silver Star running two hours late approaches the terminal and enters track 3. The Star is further delayed because there is no track four to manage it's split.

8:15 am, Gainesville regional train arrives... but no place to go.

Add to this mess the doubling of the Amtrak schedules. Nobody is going to get to work on time today or ever, if we allow this plan to move forward.


In my professional opinion everything about this plan is catastrophically wrong. JTA's newest idea to put the commuter trains at the old Bay Street Postal Annex site and thus split the operation is insane. Some of the nits to pick? Inadequate yard tracks, inadequate platforms, building an elevated concourse over an extant subway concourse, lowing the track to BELOW flood plain, failure to correct the Lee Street Viaduct, no private car track, bastardization of the proven station layout with a tiny waiting room, improper platform roof lines, adding the modern Amshack to the south end of the station when an adequate facility already exists, terrible intermodal interface, just to name a few.

Here are a few items indicating that JTA's plans are inadequate:

- JTA would like Amtrak to issue a letter of support for their plans. However, Amtrak has been reluctant to release the letter to FDOT and JTA since Amtrak cost allocations have not been addressed.

- 2004 was the last time Amtrak approved JRTC Amtrak facility drawings. JTA/Amtrak meeting summary correspondence indicates that no design work has been done to the Amtrak terminal or tracks since 2007.  Plans to establish the Amtrak/FEC Jacksonville to Miami corridor service heated up after Obama's 2009 inaguration.  If funding is secured, Jacksonville could see a significant increase in Amtrak service as early as late 2012 at a site not designed to accommodate it.

- Amtrak has also stated that the current design does not address commuter rail and recommended that commuter rail design issues be addressed. Considering the JRTC's Amtrak plans date as far back as 2002, it is no suprise that they do not include commuter rail. Jacksonville's commuter rail plans came on this scene after Metro Jacksonville began to pick apart JTA's bus rapid transit plans and promote commuter rail as an alternative in 2006.

- Amtrak has performed a concept profit and loss assessment in the past which showed a marginal operating benefit to relocate to the JRTC. At the time, it was suggested that providing Florida east coast service on the FEC would significantly increase benefit.  Now we know that this may happen before JTA completes their first BRT line. This means an updated analysis will have to be done.

- In addition to the return of passenger service between Jacksonville and Miami, Amtrak is also considering restoring service to New Orleans from Jacksonville, which will add more service through Jacksonville.


St. Augustine Selects Location for Amtrak Station, May 2010

Jacksonville to Miami Passenger Rail Returning?, July 2009

Amtrak Station Images

Consultant Team

Civil Engineer - Reynolds, Smith and Hills, Inc., Jacksonville, FL

Landscape Architect - Reynolds, Smith and Hills, Inc., Jacksonville, FL

Architect - DMJM Harris, Inc., Coral Gables, FL

Structural Engineer - Reynolds, Smith and Hills, Inc., Jacksonville, FL

Mech./Elect./Plumb./Fire Prot. Engineer - Reynolds, Smith and Hills, Inc., Jacksonville, FL

30% submittal for passenger train station was completed in 2002.

Amtrak Design Drawings (02.27.04)

Moving Forward

The JRTC's $50 million first phase, which consists of offices for JTA and the MPO, a Regional Transportation Management Center, parking structure, bus rapid transit facilities and retail space was programmed well in advance of Washington's strong support for enhancing passenger rail service throughout the country. This suggests that JTA should immediately revise their facility plans and phasing strategy to include passenger rail improvements as an early top priority.

For more information and an affordable conceptual start to bringing Amtrak back downtown:
Bringing Amtrak Back to Downtown Jacksonville Inexpensively

Article by Ennis Davis