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Is Jacksonville's Urban Sprawl Unique?

Have you heard that Jacksonville is too spread out for things like reliable mass transit to work? Wonder how Jacksonville's urban area really stacks up with other American communities in terms of population, land area, and density? Here is a chart that will answer that question.

Published December 11, 2012 in News      25 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


25 Comments

Captain Zissou

December 11, 2012, 09:21:20 AM
We can easily support a streetcar in the urban core neighborhoods.  Most of the development around Tampa's streetcar looked like new construction that was built as a result of the streetcar.  We already have high density areas between Riverside and Downtown, with the potential for much higher density in the Brooklyn and La Villa neighborhoods.  To me, it seems like a no-brainer.

jcjohnpaint

December 11, 2012, 10:12:00 AM
I'm going to say yeah a no brainer, but I was thinking lately about a conversation between Simms and Lakelander.  What defines what is suburban and what defines what is urban?  I have been in a lot of really dense areas that felt so suburban that I think the definition of the term need to be clarified a bit.  I think urban has more to do with 'people' and the ability of people to move around without cars.  Suburban, no matter how dense, is built around the car (Buckhead in Atlanta).  I feel that neighborhoods could be built very dense and not be built to support mass transit.  The idea of people being able to walk or bike to a station has to be part of the equation (NY as an example).  I don't need a car to exist  in NY (because it was built that way).  LA on the other hand is built in a very different way.  According to the list/ overall LA is more dense than NY, but feels suburban and makes it hard to get transit off the ground.  So, this gets back to us:  Is mass transit easier in some kinds of neighborhoods, but not others due more to walkability than density?  Most of the neighborhoods built after transit lines are put in are built to feed these lines in a pedestrian centric way (they are urban and typically more block and walking format).  One of the interesting things about Jacksonville is most of the core was built in an urban walkable way, but was later razed.  I think that the adaptation of mass transit (if done right) could dictate how the future Jacksonville is built. 

thelakelander

December 11, 2012, 10:25:37 AM
I got around pretty easy using mass transit in LA last year.  I flew into LAX and used a mix of buses and trains to get around LA and San Diego. Since then, they've opened another LRT line that serves USC and eventually Santa Monica. Considering what they've implemented since the 1990s, I think LA is underrated and gets a bad rap nationally when discussing mass transit.  As for Jax, most the core wasn't razed.  Outside of the downtown area, its simply been either abandoned or negatively impacted by expressway construction and new autocentric development.  I believe the key to growing a successful system here is starting small by providing better service in areas that can support the investment, changing land use policy, and incrementally expanding.  Also, by starting small, initial improvements still have to be significant enough to effectively tie in downtown with surrounding urban core neighborhoods.

Captain Zissou

December 11, 2012, 10:33:56 AM
When I was in Atlanta I think Buckhead had a very Southbank feel to it.  The Southbank may now be home to almost as many residents as the Northbank, but you wouldn't know it by walking around the street.  I agree that walkability is as much of a factor as density.

thelakelander

December 11, 2012, 10:48:13 AM
^Miami is a great example of a place with high density but pedestrian hostile due to roadway design and land use planning.


Miami's Brickell Financial District

dougsandiego

December 11, 2012, 11:23:26 AM
I am looking at the photograph of Jacksonville (?) that heads this article and I notice there are no sidewalks along that roadway. That would be most unusual in San Diego, even along the many non-pedestrian friendly corridors that exist here. If that is a common condition, I think that it will be important to add infrastructure like sidewalks so people can first reach buses and trolleys. I must report that we are in the midst of a major battle in which several local groups, joined by the State Attorney General and the Sierra Club, have sued and won a case against the San Diego Association of Governments regarding the implementation of a 40-year, 200 billion dollar program of transport improvements which envisioned more roadway expansions early and transport improvements later. The plaintiffs wish to reverse the process so that the so-called urban core, transit first plan is implemented in the early stages. Sandag has agreed to negotiate, but I see more litigation. The City is implementing a bike share program next year to deal with the problem of the "last mile". That is something Jacksonville should do given its flat topography. Perhaps, you could try it at the major bus stops, the Skyway, and the future Florida railway station? Somehow, San Diego is implementing the bike share at no cost to the City. I am not sure how they are achieving this, but maybe you should check into it. A key player here is Councilman Todd Gloria (toddgloria@sandiego.gov). His office may be able to provide you with some information.Keep at it. We are all fighting the good fight.

vicupstate

December 11, 2012, 12:07:58 PM
I am looking at the photograph of Jacksonville (?) that heads this article and I notice there are no sidewalks along that roadway. That would be most unusual in San Diego, even along the many non-pedestrian friendly corridors that exist here. If that is a common condition, I think that it will be important to add infrastructure like sidewalks so people can first reach buses and trolleys. I must report that we are in the midst of a major battle in which several local groups, joined by the State Attorney General and the Sierra Club, have sued and won a case against the San Diego Association of Governments regarding the implementation of a 40-year, 200 billion dollar program of transport improvements which envisioned more roadway expansions early and transport improvements later. The plaintiffs wish to reverse the process so that the so-called urban core, transit first plan is implemented in the early stages. Sandag has agreed to negotiate, but I see more litigation. The City is implementing a bike share program next year to deal with the problem of the "last mile". That is something Jacksonville should do given its flat topography. Perhaps, you could try it at the major bus stops, the Skyway, and the future Florida railway station? Somehow, San Diego is implementing the bike share at no cost to the City. I am not sure how they are achieving this, but maybe you should check into it. A key player here is Councilman Todd Gloria (toddgloria@sandiego.gov). His office may be able to provide you with some information.Keep at it. We are all fighting the good fight.

Greenville just announced that the B-Cycle program will open there in the Spring. 
 
http://www.greenvilleonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012312050029

http://www.bcycle.com/

San Diego isn't listed in the B-cycle website, but maybe a similar organization is doing it there.

thelakelander

December 11, 2012, 12:34:04 PM
I am looking at the photograph of Jacksonville (?) that heads this article and I notice there are no sidewalks along that roadway. That would be most unusual in San Diego, even along the many non-pedestrian friendly corridors that exist here. If that is a common condition, I think that it will be important to add infrastructure like sidewalks so people can first reach buses and trolleys. I must report that we are in the midst of a major battle in which several local groups, joined by the State Attorney General and the Sierra Club, have sued and won a case against the San Diego Association of Governments regarding the implementation of a 40-year, 200 billion dollar program of transport improvements which envisioned more roadway expansions early and transport improvements later. The plaintiffs wish to reverse the process so that the so-called urban core, transit first plan is implemented in the early stages. Sandag has agreed to negotiate, but I see more litigation. The City is implementing a bike share program next year to deal with the problem of the "last mile". That is something Jacksonville should do given its flat topography. Perhaps, you could try it at the major bus stops, the Skyway, and the future Florida railway station? Somehow, San Diego is implementing the bike share at no cost to the City. I am not sure how they are achieving this, but maybe you should check into it. A key player here is Councilman Todd Gloria (toddgloria@sandiego.gov). His office may be able to provide you with some information.Keep at it. We are all fighting the good fight.

That's San Jose Boulevard in a suburban area of Jacksonville.  We have several arterial highways like this that lack amenities or thought for pedestrians, cyclist, and mass transit users.  It's probably one of the major reasons that we have one of the highest fatality rates for pedestrians and cyclist in the country.  Luckily, in this case, this stretch of San Jose is in the process of having sidewalks added.



jcjohnpaint

December 11, 2012, 12:43:08 PM
You know a trip to Miami this weekend got me thinking about how all the small communities in and around the city are gated.  Each block has walls against the sidewalk.  Basically you walk from block to block without ever seeing the front of a house or a porch.  Psychologically, this creates many dead zones from one block to another and gives the area a suburban feeling, although extremely dense.  You can walk a bit and not see too many people on the streets.  I do go to LA a bit and I feel the same way.  For mass transit to be beneficial it has to have high ridership.  I am just asking if the way a neighborhood is built (urban or suburban) persuade or dissuade ridership and support of mass transit? 

thelakelander

December 11, 2012, 12:47:30 PM
^Yes.  The way a neighborhood is constructed (land use policy) can have a dramatic negative impact on mass transit and walkability.

Captain Zissou

December 11, 2012, 02:59:37 PM
Last time I was in the Palm Beach area I saw a ton of this.  One road split two communities and there was nothing but stucco walls for over a mile and a half.  The two communities maintained the ROW, so it was pleasant, but it was by no means vibrant.

lewyn

December 13, 2012, 10:07:30 AM
First of all, LA is NOT denser than NY in any meaningful way.  LA has suburbs that are denser than NY, but what makes NY a transit city is the dense core.  So to compare these cities, you really should be comparing density in the central core.  Is Jacksonville's core (San Marco, Avondale etc) as dense as those of other cities listed above?

Answer: No.  According to city-data.com, San Marco has only 2290 people per square mile. Riverside has 3505 people per square mile.

By contrast, Atlanta's Midtown neighborhood (the first neighborhood north of downtown) has 6385 people per square mile.  Miami's Brickell has over 10,000 people per square mile.

Ocklawaha

December 13, 2012, 11:35:09 AM
LA on the other hand is built in a very different way.  According to the list/ overall LA is more dense than NY, but feels suburban and makes it hard to get transit off the ground.   

Actually there is a flaw in your history. Los Angeles was one of the most transit friendly cities in the world until 1963. The interurban Los Angeles to Long Beach passenger rail line served the longest – from July 4, 1903 until April 9, 1961. It was the both the first and last interurban passenger line of the former Pacific Electric. It still had long stretches of open country running on private right-of-way. With the closure of the Long Beach line the final rail link in the system was eliminated – replaced by the interurban Motor Coach 36f ("F" representing Freeway Flyer) route. This former PE route was the first of the new MTA light rail lines – rebuilt as the dual track Metro Blue Line.

The few remaining trolley-coach routes and narrow-gauge streetcar routes of the former Los Angeles Railway "Yellow Cars" were removed in early 1963. The public transportation system continued to operate under the name MTA until the agency was reorganized and relaunched as the Southern California Rapid Transit District in September 1964.

That Los Angeles somehow grew up with freeways is a myth, in fact most of the freeways such as the original FREEWAY 7 - LONG BEACH FREEWAY, simply paralleled interurban routes which had been well established by 1910. Closer to the core there was a dense network of streetcars (narrow gauge no less) which covered just about every avenue in the city. Where the Yellow Cars didn't go, the electric trolley buses did. It all came to a sad end which began a ill advised 29 year experiment that would have made Randal O'Toole and Wendell Cox burst with pride, but to the average Angeleno is was a disaster.

Whenever I traveled around the 'LA Southland' (1960's-70's) people would introduce me as a railroad guy, I quickly discovered that almost without fail the subject would come up, "What a crime that they took away our electric cars." This thought was never very far from the heart's and minds of the citizenry.




1,150 miles of "Pacific Electric Railway."

Pacific Electric "Blue Line" then...

"Blue Line - Light Rail" today...




642 miles of Los Angeles Railway


Los Angles Railway "Yellow Car" on Crenshaw Blvd.

RETURN OF THE YELLOW CARS!

WE GOT STREETCAR!
December 10, 2012
THANK YOU DOWNTOWN!After several years of working with Downtown property owners, residents, and other stakeholders, the Streetcar project cleared a huge hurdle…more
Click here for more information. http://www.streetcar.la

simms3

December 13, 2012, 01:01:31 PM
First of all, LA is NOT denser than NY in any meaningful way.  LA has suburbs that are denser than NY, but what makes NY a transit city is the dense core.  So to compare these cities, you really should be comparing density in the central core.  Is Jacksonville's core (San Marco, Avondale etc) as dense as those of other cities listed above?

Answer: No.  According to city-data.com, San Marco has only 2290 people per square mile. Riverside has 3505 people per square mile.

By contrast, Atlanta's Midtown neighborhood (the first neighborhood north of downtown) has 6385 people per square mile.  Miami's Brickell has over 10,000 people per square mile.

This is a very good point.  I'd really like to add to it.  Miami's Brickell neighborhood and Atlanta's Midtown are both exaggerated in terms of land area to the point of including several neighborhoods in Census tracts and overall "speak".  Miami's Brickell neighborhood probably pushes 20,000 ppsm as we know it and all of the neighborhoods surrounding downtown are in the 10,000 ppsm range, which is about as dense as it gets in the south.  Atlanta's Midtown neighborhood as should be considered is in the 10,000 ppsm range and all of the areas surrounding downtown are in the 6,000 ppsm range.

This is to me what makes cities such as Nashville much larger than Jacksonville.  Nashville's metro as discussed on MetroJax is very "not dense", bla bla bla, but Nashville's downtown and inner core are exponentially more built out and more dense than Jacksonville's urban core (maybe not on paper when you factor in the areas that are literally not built on, but like most piedmont area cities where there are buildings, there are buildings and people!).

I'd say south FL sprawl is pretty unique in the south, very dense...similar to CA sprawl, but more organized (no hills/mountains to contend with).  Jacksonville sprawl is a mix of denser south FL sprawl and very loosely organized and not dense Piedmont region sprawl.  Atlanta's suburban sprawl is a very very sad tale, but the urban sprawl within the perimeter (I285) is only ~3-4,000 ppsm on average because of the way the city is built out.  You have a lot of pockets of relative density built around ravines, railroad tracks, hills, and the like (very Appalachia like Pittsburgh in this regard), and then the business districts and megamansions of Buckhead take up a lot of space, as well.

I think Jax overall has relatively dense sprawl for southeastern cities to the point where the entire city from Riverside to the southside is built up around 3,000+ ppsm (Dallas and Houston are very much this way, too), but that doesn't mean much for transit or walkability on the surface (Houston to me seems like one of the most unwalkable cities in the world, yet has a very heavily ridden LRT line on one of the only walkable corridors in the metro, the rest of the metro being about the same density as the transit friendly corridor).

I think it will be difficult to make transit work on much of the SS.  How would a place like Southpoint even be served or connected?  Everything is too isolated and spread out.  I do think Riverside/Avondale/Springfield and San Marco set up very very nicely for LRT or streetcars so long as the historic preservation nazis are taken with a grain of salt and new infill is allowed to be constructed (not just "faux-old" houses, but real infill).

tufsu1

December 13, 2012, 02:04:53 PM
transit can work in suburbs....there is no magic number on density needed to support buses or rail.

case in point....I learned today that JTA had 1.25 million rides in October....that's their highest month ever...if that held up for the year, it would mean 15 million trips (which would be more than a 15% increase).

so even a limited/challenged transit system in a sprawling city can attract ridership.

simms3

December 13, 2012, 02:35:59 PM
Transit works very well in CA suburbs, which are literally built around transit or with transit in mind.  Same with DC suburbs.  My point is that many sunbelt suburban land use patterns no matter how dense make effective transit difficult.  My big question is how Southpoint is going to one day be connected to transit.  And Jacksonville's bus ridership is about the lowest in the country despite the overall density of the urban landscape relative to some of its peers receiving higher bus ridership.

thelakelander

December 13, 2012, 03:00:37 PM
Transit can work in any setting when you have complementing land use policy and effective connectivity.  It doesn't matter if you're packing 10,000 people per square mile or 3,000. For example, DART and the San Diego Trolley seem to be pretty decent in tying in certain suburban corridors.  Transit can work in Jacksonville but we'll a have to come to the reality that some areas/corridors in town are significantly better than others.  Thus, in some sections, we need to beef up and others retract to eliminate.  In short, you can't treat Jax as an 800-square mile one place fits all type of city.  In reality were a +30 square mile city surrounded by +750 square miles of suburbs and rural area.

spuwho

December 13, 2012, 08:39:31 PM
In some ways, yes, Jax sprawl is unique in that there are few entities like COJ that have centralized control over such a large area of undeveloped space. However, a lot of that space cannot or will not be developed.  Be it wetlands, swamp or greenbelt. This can cause some density and continuity issues.

Most sprawl in other locales in the last generation can be traced to civic entities not in coordination with each other due to a simple lack of understanding of urban planning. In the case of Jax, it seems to be a case of the internal entities not coordinating with each other or having too diverse of agendas.

It would be fascinating to see what would happen if COJ announced a cap on building permits or PUD's outside a geographical demarcation inside Duval County. Would it accelerate flight to the collar counties? Or would it accelerate development of urban infill? One city did use a moratorium based on geographics and was highly successful, but the demographics of Jax may not be so tenable to that kind of approach.

Ocklawaha

December 13, 2012, 11:40:47 PM

Interesting comment on ridership TUFSU1, JTA has actually managed to pull closer to another system...

MIAMI METROMOVER - 28,700 passengers daily x 4.4 miles = 6,522 passengers per mile per day. The key is the Miami system is down 1.68%.

JACKSONVILLE SKYWAY - 5,100 passengers daily x 2.5 miles = 2040 passengers per mile per day. Jacksonville's Skyway is UP 100%.

Otherwise we have an interesting SPRAWL that really is quite different then any other city. Our Rivers and Creeks as well as our coast line have dictated both travel and development patterns for a few hundred years. Lakeshore, Fairfax, Ortega Farms, Tallulah, Panama Park, Commodore Point, Venetia, etc... all defined by water.

I personally think we handle places like Southpont, Gate Parkway, Deerwood, Bay Center, Executive Park, Freedom Commerce Park, Western Way and Centurion Parkway area's by being creative. We could start with a fixed route, close headways, electric shuttle bus. The route would take the bus up close to the major buildings and the corporations could be brought into the planning process. The bus would stop at covered shelters or under awnings or roof extensions to make for a clean, weatherproof boarding. The system would be designed to get the maximum amount of people to the nearest commuter rail/BRT/light-rail station, while coming as close as possible to a number of restaurants, hotels, and special event facilities.

The ultimate goal would be a cutting edge, low cost, fixed rail system such as the Intamin Transportation Systems P-6 Monorail. Unlike the Skyway the P-6 is light enough that it's cost is attractive to fair operators, amusement parks and office complexes.  http://data.sphosting.ch/Intamin/Media/People%20Mover%20P6/P6.pdf 

Corporate buy-in would be key to developing such a solution. 

Another system is the Areomovel Rail System - http://www.aeromovel.com

and still another is the Doppelmayr Cable Car - http://www.dcc.at

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/J6tAwd5jYFQ" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/J6tAwd5jYFQ</a>

thelakelander

December 14, 2012, 12:03:01 AM
^Where did you get the 5,100 number for Jacksonville?

Ocklawaha

December 14, 2012, 09:06:58 AM
Third Quarter Repot from the APTA at:

http://www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Documents/Ridership/2012-q3-ridership-APTA.pdf

Column 1 / Page 15

I believe it proved our long-standing argument with the City that if the Skyway was fare-free and seamlessly integrated into the bus-transit system it would be at least a modest success.

tufsu1

December 14, 2012, 09:15:10 AM
^Where did you get the 5,100 number for Jacksonville?

the figures JTA released yesterday show that the Skyway had over 100,000 trips in October....on many weekends, it is not running, but I would assume it was for Florida-Georgia....and of course it now runs on Community First Saturdays.

simms3

December 19, 2012, 01:07:43 PM
Going back to density conversation, this blurb came out in my email.

Quote
The average household income in 2011 within three miles of the Krog Street Market development site was approximately $83,949, according to SRS Real Estate Partners, which is leasing the project. Also, the area has approximately 70,354 households with a population of 152,452.

Anyone can do the math...gentrifying intown neighborhood with strong income and rapidly rising, avg household size of 2.17, indicating a strong mix of both families and singles, and a density within 3 miles (28 square miles) of 5,392 ppsm, and growing rapidly.  That includes large swaths of office buildings, rail depots, ravines, shopping centers, etc.  Close to 3,000 multifamily units planned or under construction in the area, obviously all infill a la 220 Riverside, but much more confined area.

Jax needs to allow for more infill in more locations, more multifamily in Avondale, etc etc because it has the bones to have a really really dense grid like New Orleans.  There is no reason why Avondale should be close to 100% single family residential, despite the structural density.  Riverside Ave and Oak St should be promoted as corridors of density leading into Avondale, and San Marco style multifamily should be allowed into the traditional Avondale confines.  Bring more young people into the mix rather than stodgy moms and dads driving around their Lexus SUVs and Merc sedans, and you'll have a huge demand for streetcars and stuff to connect to.

With the way the street network and terrain is in Atlanta, there is no way it should be twice as dense as Jacksonville (actually the reverse).  Atlanta's core layout and model more closely follows Pittsburgh with a city center that follows Chicago's surrounded by suburbs that are laid out like DC's.  Jacksonville is on one of the best grids in the South (surrounding a river) and should strive to be a safer, cleaner New Orleans with lots of density and vibrancy with a more clean cut "growing" transient vibe.

Understandably Midtown Atl is going to be among the densest places in the south, but an Inman Park/Virginia Highlands/O4W/Morningside etc should not be more dense than Riverside/Avondale/Springfield/San Marco.

Jacksonville's sprawl is also laid out very nicely in a decent grid, so better planning should be implemented.  I am seeing more and more Atlanta style sprawl developments popup in NE FL, and there is no excuse.  Atlanta metro spent decades screwing up and the way it's laid out 50 miles in all directions is an utter nightmare.  Jax has the opportunity to at least have organized sprawl as in parts of CA, AZ, South FL, and Houston.  Having winding cul de sac roads to put office buildings and hotels on (as in South Point) will only make connectivity and transit more difficult if not impossible down the road.

thelakelander

December 19, 2012, 01:19:25 PM
I agree that Jacksonville's urban grid would provide it with some decent density via infill. However, why specifically Avondale and not Murray Hill or Five Points or were you just being generic?  How is high density infill integrated into Atlanta's historic districts?

simms3

December 19, 2012, 02:59:52 PM
Just being generic.  Murray Hill has a lot of potential if crime can be cut down (though in all honesty that shouldn't be the big hold up).

The difference between Jax and recently highlighted cities Tallahassee and Nashville and of course the master of combining old and new in lower densities, Atlanta, is that Jacksonville has a grid that makes it so easy that people have forgotten to think outside the box, and it has historic zoning regulations akin to those found in the oldest parts of Boston and New York (for areas that are not even historic for most cities).

Atlanta has no "square" sites available to develop in greenfield areas like SJTC/Gate Parkway.  Whatever site you're working with, small or large, the grade is highly uneven and the shape is very irregular with easements running every which way across it.  Anyone who builds something in the city of Atlanta has had to learn through trial how to fully utilize odd sites, so you have a lot of talented people able to integrate newer designs of higher densities into older neighborhoods.  Across from a development I worked on, which reworked an old meatpacking plant into high end shopping with a 1-unit-across 9 floor condo tower next door, is a multifamily mid-rise being constructed in a very infrastructure delicate corner site (already had part of the road collapse).  It's still happening, but the site itself is much more difficult than any I can think of in Jax...developers would run away from such a site down there, and the city would probably not even allow it.

On the other side of the meatpacking plant is another multifamily development going in.  Renderings below to show how narrow it is and how they have maximized the potential of the odd site.  Most sites in Jax are a developer's wet dream of easiness.











The above required the demolition of, gasp, an abandoned school that was old but not significant by any means.

A block away this is going up (tower crane up this week):

Old rendering-


New rendering-


Site, which is below grade and just a tough overall site-


Advertising (a little different from what I picture for advertising in Jax)-


The only area not so open to new development right now, and due to archaic historic zoning laws, is the sweet auburn area where the new streetcar is going.  2 years ago a developer wanted to rehab an old building on Auburn into loft office space with a modern addition on top and in back.  The African American community freaked out that they might lose their historic neighborhood to gentrification, and so due to politics and history associated with the area it was not hard to pass intense laws not unlike those found literally everywhere in Jax.

In Inman Park, there are some residents who dislike the traffic that new development has brought to the area, and some probably dislike the modern apartments going up everywhere, but overall the residents are pretty progressive and welcome the change, which has also brought the Beltline to their backyards.  In Jax, I don't see a "Beltline" gaining political support because the fear residents would have of crime, etc, let alone the "waste of money".

So in these other cities, which are much more difficult to develop due to the way they are laid out, you have cities that welcome growth, progressive residents who welcome or at least adapt to change, developers who are talented because they have to be, and a lack of zoning laws that literally make development/change overall unfeasible.
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