As the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) looks into investing our hard earned tax dollars into Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Metro Jacksonville takes a look at what many have called the most successful recent BRT rollout to date: Cleveland's HealthLine.
For the last decade, the JTA has aggressively pushed the concept of BRT in a city where residents prefer fixed transit, partially for its ability to attract sustainable infill economic development. Many claim bus rapid transit has the ability to make public transportation reliable, attract choice riders, and spur economic redevelopment. To drive this position home, transportation agencies point to Cleveland's Health Line and the $4.3 billion in economic expansion along its main thoroughfare as proof.
By all accounts, the $200 million HealthLine is a success. Since its opening in 2008, ridership has grown more than 50% and the route's travel time has been reduced from 45 minutes to 32. However, the major question we should ask ourselves is this: is Cleveland's situation applicable to Jacksonville's proposed BRT system?
The HealthLine complements the RTA's Red Line heavy rail corridor.
Understanding the Context
The HealthLine's station near Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland.
To answer that question, we first have to understand the context of the HealthLine. The HealthLine operates on a 6.8-mile stretch of Euclid Avenue, between Public Square (Downtown Cleveland) and East Cleveland. Euclid is a major Cleveland thoroughfare that was internationally known for its beauty and wealth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Travel guides referred to it as the "Showplace of America" and the tax valuation of its mansions exceeded that of New York's Fifth Avenue.
Major destinations along this stretch of Euclid include downtown Cleveland's theatre district, Cleveland State University, Cleveland Clinic, and University Circle. Home to 30,000 jobs, 13,000 students, and 2.5 million annual visitors, University Circle is known for its world-class cultural, educational, medical institutions, and could be considered a city itself. The renown institutions include Case Western Reserve University [www.case.edu], Cleveland Institute of Art [www.cia.edu], Cleveland Museum of Art [www.clevelandart.org], Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland [www.mocacleveland.org], Cleveland Orchestra [www.clevelandorchestra.com], and University Hospitals/Case Medical Center [http://www.uhhospitals.org/case].
Given the context and adjacent land uses along the Health Line's Euclid Avenue, within Jacksonville, a thoroughfare like Main Street or Riverside Avenue would be the equivalent corridor, as opposed to Philips Highway, Blanding Boulevard or Broad Street.
Imagery of existing context along the HealthLine corridor