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JTA Skyway to Remain Fare-Free for Another Year

During last year's mayoral race, Metro Jacksonville offered five affordable solutions that we believed would dramatically increase the JTA Skyway's ridership. Today, we are happy to report that one of those recommendations, which involved making the skyway fare free, has led to a 62% increase ridership.

Published August 31, 2012 in Transit      44 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature

Salvaging The Skyway

Here are the five affordable solutions to enhancing skyway operations offered by Metro Jacksonville on March 6, 2011.

Quote
1. Eliminate Bus Operations Downtown

The skyway was originally intended to serve as a downtown people mover.  Why not let it do what it was intended to do?  This can be done by eliminating all bus services within the downtown core, including the infamous downtown loops, and utilizing the skyway as a fareless urban transit spine for the entire JTA mass transit system.

Money savings in this option would come from a more efficient and streamlined bus operation.  Side benefits would be a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and diesel particulates in the urban core and a safer environment for the downtown pedestrian.


This image illustrates an example of how to better utilize the skyway in a manner that significantly increases usage while enhancing bus route efficiency.  In this scenario, the skyway (red) would become a fare free transit spine within the downtown area.  The heavy transit duplication created by the downtown loop most bus routes currently make would be eliminated.  Instead, neighborhood buses would connect at skyway terminal points before turning around and ferrying passengers back into their specific corridors of service.  Transit riders looking to transfer would have to utilize the skyway as the connection piece between routes serving different areas of the city.  Crosstown bus routes could still operate along their current routes, while only stopping at the skyway terminal points while in downtown.


2. Integrate Transportation with Downtown Development Plans

Ever wonder why transit has been successful in a sprawl bug like Charlotte, yet an abysmal failure in Jacksonville so far?  Perhaps their ability to integrate land use and transportation has something to do with it.  To date, we've treated the skyway like a red headed stepchild when discussing and implementing downtown redevelopment strategies.  

If we want to be a vibrant urban community with transit that takes people where they want to go, we need to make a concerted effort to plan and attract Transit Oriented Development (TOD) around existing station locations.  In the long run, as evidenced by cities like Charlotte, Salt Lake City, and Houston, TOD can provide even a system as short as the skyway with a built in user base.


3. Sublease Existing Station Floor Area

The Skyway's stations present another opportunity to make the system more viable. Many of the existing stations contain large amounts of underutilized space in centralized areas of downtown with decent pedestrian traffic.  Here JTA has the opportunity to potentially lease out areas to vendors who can cater to the general public as well as skyway users.  The addition of anchor tenants at skyway stations should be viewed as a revenue generator for the system.

By allowing small tenants that offer a variety of complementing services at different stations, the Skyway can become more attractive to visitors, residents, and workers that currently avoid the system.  Making each station its own unique destination brings higher awareness to the system and encourages more people to use the Skyway to directly connect to these destinations.


4/5. Station Naming Rights, Train Wrapping & Advertising As Revenue Generator

Would taxpayers object to a San Marco/Prudential Station, view news and advertising on screens above skyway platforms while waiting, board trains encased in colorful advertising, or watching TV advertising on board if it meant increased revenue to reduce the amount of subsidies being spent on the Skyway?  Several transportation authorities are either taking advantage or seriously considering advertising revenue to help sustain their systems.  We should consider the possibilities as well.

full article: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2011-mar-salvaging-the-skyway





On January 30, 2012, JTA finally moved forward with on of Metro Jacksonville's recommendations, which called for consolidated downtown bus routes into the Skyway, while also making it fare free.  As predicted, the results have been astounding.


August 30, 2012 JTA Press Release

Quote
Jacksonville, FL, August 30, 2012 – The Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s Board of Directors today approved a staff recommendation to continue the Skyway as a fare-free mode of transportation. The Skyway has been fare-free since January 30, 2012, and will remain so for at least the next fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2013.
 
JTA’s latest report on the progress of the Skyway details the positive impact that the fare elimination has had on ridership. In the six-month period analyzed (February-July 2012), Skyway ridership grew by 62.7% or 480,956 boardings, compared to 295,602 boardings for the same period in 2011.
 
The report also found that the fare-free Skyway has supported JTA’s transit redesign efforts, including the elimination of the Beaver and Bay Street Trolleys, the truncation of bus routes into Skyway stations and the linking of additional bus routes to Skyway stations. The transfer of thousands of passengers to the Skyway to continue travel results in frequency improvements without added cost.
 
The Board’s decision to continue the Skyway as a fare-free transportation method was based partially on the report’s findings.
 
“This is a huge success for JTA and its riders,” said Michael J. Blaylock, Chief Executive Officer of the JTA. “The Skyway serves as a critical link in our transportation system and connects many modes of public transit. Keeping the Skyway fare-free will improve efficiency within the transit system, saving our customers time and money.”
Source: Jacksonville Transportation Authority



Like the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, our recommendations came free of charge.  However, once JTA finally decided to act on one, as originally predicted, the turnaround was swift.  If one of Metro Jacksonville's affordable solutions led to a 62% increase in ridership in less than seven months, imagine what would happen if the City of Jacksonville and JTA decide to implement all five!  

Article by Ennis Davis.  Contact Ennis at edavis@metrojacksonville.com







44 Comments

Mathew1056

August 31, 2012, 06:10:04 AM
I'm happy to see that the skyway will remain free for another year. Just from my observations, it seem that eliminating the fare has caused an increased ridership. Keeping it fare free will hopefully continue that trend. Of the options presented above, the most attractive are three, four, and five. Allowing vendors and advertisers, though it my seem like a sell out, will make the stations seem more inviting. I'm sad to see that for events downtown that the skyway is only rarely used. I would like to see Artwalk utilized some of the station. Maybe so installations or musicians. It needs something new to liven it up. 

duvaldude08

August 31, 2012, 06:10:40 AM
Im surprised the Jaguars havent considered the wrap advertising yet.

gedo3

August 31, 2012, 07:10:23 AM
Maybe the skyway and the food truck ideas could be combined? 

Dapperdan

August 31, 2012, 07:35:17 AM
Great idea gedo3. There could be one or two trucks at each stop, thus encouraging using the skyway to get to the food trucks.

dougskiles

August 31, 2012, 07:48:57 AM
Now we need to get them to run it at night and on the weekends.

mbwright

August 31, 2012, 09:10:43 AM
During the superbowl, there were several that wanted to do advertising/wraping, but JTA or somebody said it would look offensive.  Not sure why it was OK for the buses, but not on the skyway. 

Captain Zissou

August 31, 2012, 09:35:21 AM
This is a positive move.  Let's keep this momentum going!!  Next step, allow the mobility fee moratorium to sunset.

jcjohnpaint

August 31, 2012, 09:57:29 AM
Yes great news indeed.  And Doug I totally agree.  I remember I took the skyway over from San Marco one night during art walk.  It was only 9 when I went to take it back and it was closed.  It was kind of funny because art walk was still in swing.  The experience was pretty crappy.   

Bativac

August 31, 2012, 10:16:57 AM
Now we need to get them to run it at night and on the weekends.

Yes! A thousand times yes!!!

PeeJayEss

August 31, 2012, 10:45:31 AM
I'm having a pub crawl idea....

mbstout

August 31, 2012, 01:28:52 PM
I am against the idea of plastering every square inch of space with advertising (see Sao Paolo and it's ban on outdoor advertising!!) but I can't help to see that large chunk of concrete under the Hemming Plaza sign (last photo) used as a 3'x12' banner ad space.
I live in New York and spaces like Times Square CAN BE and ARE interesting because of the dynamic energy the onslaught of moving ads/people/vehicles.. (See Rem Koolhaas's 'Delirious New York')
If it means increased ridership and free fares then I'm all for it (I would draw the line at cover-wrapping the whole train in adverts though- some things should remain pristine and origional!) 
Renting the lower skyway plaza areas to Food Trucks parked at the base is an excellent idea the JTA should pursue b/c they wouldn't be in competition with Brick and Mortar businesses and pull people into space, then invite them to explore via the Skyway..

fsujax

August 31, 2012, 01:34:39 PM
^^leasing space to vendors is in the works.

urbaknight

August 31, 2012, 02:02:03 PM
I ride the skyway alot now, and most of the time it's pretty busy. I'm thinking of hanging out and collecting signatures for a petition for them to finish the skyway as it was intended. How would I go about organizing a petition drive?

And JTA might like this idea; When the skyway actually goes to the Sports Complex, Shands, Five Points, maybe even the beaches, they can start charging again. People will pay a fare if it goes somewhere.

Perhaps they can get Federal grant money again to expand.

BigGuy219

August 31, 2012, 03:18:47 PM
As a downtown resident I have used the Skyway for years, several times a week.

Now that it is free I have seen a great uptick in the number of riders.

However, I have noticed something different. In many trips that I have been on recently between Hemming Plaza and Rosa Parks there has been standing room only. During this trip, the Skyway car seems to tilt more than I remember it in doing in the past when there were less riders. In some cases, the tilt during the turn has become so severe that I actually became uneasy.

I am sure that JTA is monitoring on their cameras and would not allow them to travel with unsafe capacity, but I do feel I have a keen perception of things like this based on years of use, and I do notice a dramatic difference in turns when the car is at 'max capacity'.

Just adding my thoughts. Glad it's going to keep being free. It helps a lot of people. I'd keep using it, free or pay.

Ocklawaha

August 31, 2012, 03:52:55 PM
Wow, JTA finally has an original idea... and it's ours!

PeeJayEss

August 31, 2012, 04:07:57 PM
However, I have noticed something different. In many trips that I have been on recently between Hemming Plaza and Rosa Parks there has been standing room only. During this trip, the Skyway car seems to tilt more than I remember it in doing in the past when there were less riders. In some cases, the tilt during the turn has become so severe that I actually became uneasy.

Might want to tell the people standing to lay on the ground instead...keep that center of gravity low  :P

exnewsman

August 31, 2012, 07:04:36 PM
Wow, JTA finally has an original idea... and it's ours!


Sorry to burst your bubble there Ock - but I heard Michael Blaylock talked about his desire to make the Skyway free long before there was a MJ. I think that that often times (and especially in local/state government) - politics gets in the way of a good idea. Just glad this free thing is working out as well as it is. I've always considered the Skyway a vastly underappreciated resource in Jacksonville.

thelakelander

August 31, 2012, 08:20:45 PM
If I recall, making the skyway fare free was included as a "project" in the Downtown TCEA. However, it was never acted on. It probably still wouldn't be free if the old fare collection equipment was working properly.

Charles Hunter

August 31, 2012, 10:16:40 PM
WJXT was taking credit for the free fare, due to their investigation of fare evaders.

thelakelander

August 31, 2012, 10:31:47 PM
WJXT never took the position that going free fare and terminating bus routes into it would significantly increase ridership without raising costs.  In the last six years, I've only seen that position openly promoted here.  WJXT's stuff was focused on people jumping the turnstiles.

Ocklawaha

August 31, 2012, 10:57:52 PM
Well I hate to be the 800 pound gorilla in the room, but um, I believe I might have a newspaper clipping from around 1990-95 where that suggestion was made. Though the concept might not have been so pure, something about FREE transfers if I recall.

thelakelander

August 31, 2012, 11:03:44 PM
Ever wonder why tollroads have lower auto trips in general than freeways?  There is no gorilla in the room.  It should be common sense that going fare free and reducing parallel bus routes would lead to an increase in ridership.  What's being discussed on this site isn't anything groundbreaking, if one takes a detailed look at these things outside of Duval County.

Ocklawaha

August 31, 2012, 11:49:57 PM
Exactly, it ain't rocket science. I've been pestering them about transfers for just a year shy of how long I've been hollering about streetcars. George Harmon did a story on this and the 'subscription bus' concept too. I think the idea of 'fare free' and 'free transfers' might have been confusing for some. The idea of a standard 2 hour bus ticket, usable on SKYWAY, BUS, MAX BUS, WATER TAXI, STREETCARS, COMMUTER RAIL AND POGO STICKS, is perhaps the easiest form of increasing both ridership and revenue.

duvaldude08

September 05, 2012, 11:16:20 AM

Quote
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority Board of Directors has approved a staff recommendation to continue the Skyway as a fare-free mode of transportation. The Skyway has been fare-free since Jan. 30, and will remain so for at least the next fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2013.

JTA’s latest report on the progress of the Skyway details the impact that the fare elimination has had on ridership. In the six-month period analyzed (February-July), Skyway ridership grew by 62.7 percent or 480,956 boardings, compared to 295,602 boardings for the same period in 2011.

The report also found that the fare-free Skyway has supported JTA’s transit redesign efforts, including the elimination of the Beaver and Bay Street trolleys, the truncation of bus routes into Skyway stations and the linking of additional bus routes to Skyway stations.

spuwho

September 24, 2012, 09:17:00 PM
Free is great and it really builds downtown transit use over time, but you have to have the will to maintain it.

Seattle Metro implemented a "free transit zone" in downtown since 1973, but unfortunately due to some significant costs of restructuring the area mass transit, they are eliminating the "free zone" this month.



Interesting that it only costs Seattle Metro $400k annual to maintain that subsidy, which is economical considering the number of buses that they run downtown.

The report is here:

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2019150572_ridefree14m.html

thelakelander

September 24, 2012, 10:31:34 PM
One thing going for us is to get rid of free, we'd have to invest big money up front in purchasing a new fare collection system.  The cost spent in doing that may not be worth the resulting drop in ridership at this point.

Ocklawaha

September 24, 2012, 11:19:31 PM
Now that we've proved the damn thing will carry hoards of transfer passengers if it was operated right as a downtown transfer/circulator, its time to finish this little railroad.

1. Get that stadium line done.

2. Head to Atlantic, west of the tracks in San Marco.

3. Brooklyn is about to bloom, SERVE IT.

4. That new VA clinic, the Public Health Department and Shand's would spell success for a northward line.

5. The farmers market expansion and the ability to leap over the railroad yards would make Woodstock Park a extension worthy of study.

dougskiles

September 25, 2012, 06:55:30 AM
The work that lies ahead will be in the funding.  There are two viable sources that I see:

1) Mobility Fee (if we ever start collecting it)
2) Value capture from the land development that occurs around the stations (in TIF districts) - which I am working to setup for the San Marco extension.  If successful, it could be the model for the other extensions.

thelakelander

September 25, 2012, 07:08:45 AM
^I agree with these potential revenue streams.  The concept of the mobility fee helps generate funds for long term capital improvement projects, plus redevelopment and infill around major transit corridors.  The concept of TOD on JTA owned properties and in TIF districts helps generate additional funds for annual maintenance.  I sat in a presentation a few weeks back where transit officials in Miami discussed how TOD around Metrorail's stations generates millions annually (and more built in riders) to help maintain transit operations.

tufsu1

September 25, 2012, 09:39:00 AM
Now that we've proved the damn thing will carry hoards of transfer passengers if it was operated right as a downtown transfer/circulator, its time to finish this little railroad.

1. Get that stadium line done.

2. Head to Atlantic, west of the tracks in San Marco.

3. Brooklyn is about to bloom, SERVE IT.

4. That new VA clinic, the Public Health Department and Shand's would spell success for a northward line.

5. The farmers market expansion and the ability to leap over the railroad yards would make Woodstock Park a extension worthy of study.

Ock...you do realize you won't get a massive skyway expansion and streetcar...so which do you prefer?

stephendare

September 25, 2012, 09:43:03 AM
Now that we've proved the damn thing will carry hoards of transfer passengers if it was operated right as a downtown transfer/circulator, its time to finish this little railroad.

1. Get that stadium line done.

2. Head to Atlantic, west of the tracks in San Marco.

3. Brooklyn is about to bloom, SERVE IT.

4. That new VA clinic, the Public Health Department and Shand's would spell success for a northward line.

5. The farmers market expansion and the ability to leap over the railroad yards would make Woodstock Park a extension worthy of study.

Ock...you do realize you won't get a massive skyway expansion and streetcar...so which do you prefer?

Because you are chairing the committee?

Lets not self edit to the point that we are doing the bad guys work for them....

Jdog

September 25, 2012, 09:48:35 AM
The work that lies ahead will be in the funding.  There are two viable sources that I see:

1) Mobility Fee (if we ever start collecting it)
2) Value capture from the land development that occurs around the stations (in TIF districts) - which I am working to setup for the San Marco extension.  If successful, it could be the model for the other extensions.

_________________________________________

I think a quick thank you for your part in "2)" is in order.  Much appreciated.   

thelakelander

September 25, 2012, 10:01:31 AM
Now that we've proved the damn thing will carry hoards of transfer passengers if it was operated right as a downtown transfer/circulator, its time to finish this little railroad.

1. Get that stadium line done.

2. Head to Atlantic, west of the tracks in San Marco.

3. Brooklyn is about to bloom, SERVE IT.

4. That new VA clinic, the Public Health Department and Shand's would spell success for a northward line.

5. The farmers market expansion and the ability to leap over the railroad yards would make Woodstock Park a extension worthy of study.

Ock...you do realize you won't get a massive skyway expansion and streetcar...so which do you prefer?

Because you are chairing the committee?

Lets not self edit to the point that we are doing the bad guys work for them....

It's because there's not enough money laying around to fund multiple initiatives without overthrowing the entire political system currently in place.  Not only locally, but at the state and federal levels as well.  That's the simple reality of the world we live in today. 

Realistically speaking, the one true local funding source we have for any type of fixed transit is the mobility plan/fee, which generates cash for a streetcar....and it has a moratorium on it. 

That's not to say things can't change but they won't overnight and implementation will happen incrementally.  That's a reality all of transit advocates should understand as we push for improvement of Jacksonville's mobility options.  We will have to prioritize projects and get a successful one or two off the ground to enable change for more wholesale improvement. 

stephendare

September 25, 2012, 10:15:35 AM
Now that we've proved the damn thing will carry hoards of transfer passengers if it was operated right as a downtown transfer/circulator, its time to finish this little railroad.

1. Get that stadium line done.

2. Head to Atlantic, west of the tracks in San Marco.

3. Brooklyn is about to bloom, SERVE IT.

4. That new VA clinic, the Public Health Department and Shand's would spell success for a northward line.

5. The farmers market expansion and the ability to leap over the railroad yards would make Woodstock Park a extension worthy of study.

Ock...you do realize you won't get a massive skyway expansion and streetcar...so which do you prefer?

Because you are chairing the committee?

Lets not self edit to the point that we are doing the bad guys work for them....

It's because there's not enough money laying around to fund multiple initiatives without overthrowing the entire political system currently in place.  Not only locally, but at the state and federal levels as well.  That's the simple reality of the world we live in today. 

Realistically speaking, the one true local funding source we have for any type of fixed transit is the mobility plan/fee, which generates cash for a streetcar....and it has a moratorium on it. 

That's not to say things can't change but they won't overnight and implementation will happen incrementally.  That's a reality all of transit advocates should understand as we push for improvement of Jacksonville's mobility options.  We will have to prioritize projects and get a successful one or two off the ground to enable change for more wholesale improvement.

After thirty years of watching the people who should be visionaries constantly self edit and scale back their visions and pull their punches, Ive come to the conclusion that we have to stop self limiting.

Let the opponents of rail or transit or any other sensible thing be forced to do the editing and trimming.

Let guys like Ock describe the best uses of a perfect system so that we don't lose sight of the ideal.

thelakelander

September 25, 2012, 10:40:45 AM
Visioning online and implementing are two totally different things.  No one is stopping Ock from dreaming.  He's had concepts for decades but now we have to chance to make one reality through strategic planning and implementation. 

The reality is to push something through, you do have to take the proper steps to move it forward.  That's not just here in Jax.  That's anywhere.  We've visioned for over 40 years.  A plan is already out there, now lets see some of it through.  That's where the dreaming stops and working within the confines of the actual environment begins. 

It's why we've been successful in finding a way to take the transit discussion from complaining online and at public meetings to getting actual projects added to JTA's long range plans, the TPO's LRTP (which qualifies them for federal funding) and becoming a part of the mobility plan, which provides a local way to fund them.

stephendare

September 25, 2012, 11:21:15 AM
Well I would agree that weve been pretty successful in helping implement things that TUFSU1 told Ock were impossible.

I just reject the pre compromiser approach.  Ive seen it at play for thirty years, and if you like what you see now, then its a way to have a lot more of it.

thelakelander

September 25, 2012, 11:49:20 AM
You still have to find away to implement.  That's my basic point.  What good is a dream is all it does is remain in your head? We've either dreamed or complained for 40 years while others have continued to implement things that have been a detriment to the community and taxpayer.  My view is, why not focus and drive something home in the short term that can actually help support and implement your long term dream.  So going back to tufsu1's comment, I understand his position on seeing at least an initial streetcar line through before focusing too much attention on something that will probably set you back a decade in getting anything off the drawing board?

stephendare

September 25, 2012, 11:55:44 AM
You can do all that without using the tired old "that will never happen" line of reasoning.

Which is my point.

I know TUFSU has some great insights, but nothing is impossible.

Its one thing to ask if someone had to choose between options which would they prefer, but its another to state that the best is impossible therefore (in the tone of commandment) choose which lesser reality you would prefer.

One is about prioritizing, and the other is about self editing.

"Dont even think that way" goes the silent commandment.

And none of us are the arbiters of what will happen.

Even those of us with pretty good track records for analyzing the future.

So While prioritizing is a good thing, Its just not appropriate to tell one poster that the best thing available isnt possible.  I reject that.  Its off putting and a way to precompromise.

thelakelander

September 25, 2012, 12:10:52 PM
You've made it to the world series and you have a chance to round third base and score the winning run.  You don't focus on going back to Spring Training and rethinking your overall strategy.  Score the freaking run... You can wait to next season to implement some modifications to help your game better so you can win two championships in a row.

The date went great and you've been invited back for a night cap.  Don't screw yourself by deciding you need to rethink your strategy.  Get in there and break the freaking backboard.

Ok, seriously though, all I'm illustrating is you do prioritize and even when you dream, work to find a way to make the dream reality without compromising the score you already have in hand.  In terms of time (which it how tufsu1's post read to me), it won't happen at the same period because of funding limitations and politics (unless you're advocating pushing the implementation of an initial starter back). 

stephendare

September 25, 2012, 12:18:03 PM
You've made it to the world series and you have a chance to round third base and score the winning run.  You don't focus on going back to Spring Training and rethinking your overall strategy.  Score the freaking run... You can wait to next season to implement some modifications to help your game better so you can win two championships in a row.

you can either round third base, or you can score the preliminary  run, but I guarantee you that you cant do both.  So since you arent going to win the game, which one would you choose?

The date went great and you've been invited back for a night cap.  Don't screw yourself by deciding you need to rethink your strategy.  Get in there and break the freaking backboard.

You can either screw your night cap, or you can get invited back for another day, but you simply are never getting laid (possibly ever again) so which would you choose?

Ok, seriously though, all I'm illustrating is you do prioritize and even when you dream, work to find a way to make the dream reality without compromising the score you already have in hand.  In terms of time (which it how tufsu1's post read to me), it won't happen at the same period because of funding limitations and politics (unless you're advocating pushing the implementation of an initial starter back).

I think thats how most of us read tufsu1's post. ;)

fsquid

September 25, 2012, 02:38:35 PM
Kinda unrelated question, does the skyway operate during the Jaguars game?  I'm taking the kids to see Elmo at the Times-Union at 4 and I'm sure that will finish before the Jags game.  Do you think I'll be able to catch the skyway back over to the Southbank or count on the water taxi?

Jason

September 25, 2012, 03:08:44 PM
I've always found the river taxi to be reliable on game day.

fsquid

September 25, 2012, 03:47:57 PM
I've always found the river taxi to be reliable on game day.

thanks, will they run that during the game?  I'm thinking we will get out of there at 5:30 and will want to go back.

exnewsman

September 25, 2012, 05:14:35 PM
Kinda unrelated question, does the skyway operate during the Jaguars game?  I'm taking the kids to see Elmo at the Times-Union at 4 and I'm sure that will finish before the Jags game.  Do you think I'll be able to catch the skyway back over to the Southbank or count on the water taxi?


The Skyway does not typically run on Sunday, except for the occasional special event.
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