Attracting Choice Riders By Engaging NeighborsSeptember 13, 2013 26 comments Print Article
Over two years ago, Metrojacksonville.com introduced a 4 month pilot program linking the restaurants and bars of Riverside, San Marco and Downtown neighborhoods together via a convenient transit option that utilized privately rented trolley buses. The experiment was a smashing success as hundreds of riders packed into these trolley busses while restaurants and bars hummed with the sound of welcomed commerce. Despite this successful tactical urbanism experiment, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority counter intuitively chose instead to increase headways and initiate route changes to the Riverside Trolley which ultimately resulted in a large drop in ridership.
On Saturday September 14th from 6:00pm until Midnight, Riverside Avondale Preservation along with 23 local businesses will be funding another pilot program called the Riverside Avondale Night Trolley. While neighborhood advocates have pleaded JTA to expand convenient transit options throughout the Riverside and Avondale neighborhoods for years only to have their calls go unanswered, it is fitting then that the acronym for this service would be ‘RANT’.
Tickets for RANT cost $5 and are available for presale online at RiversideNightTrolley.eventbrite.com and will also be available for sale while boarding a trolley during the night of the event. A ticket allows riders unlimited service from 6:00pm to 12:00AM. In order to make the service convenient for choice riders, users can access a route map and track real time trolley locations via a mobile device by visiting trolley.jaxmob.com. To ensure the service offers a viable alternative to driving a car, headways are estimated to be 15 minutes or less.
Operating late night transit routes linking entertainment districts is not a new concept. JTA already operates the Beaches Trolley, serving the communities of Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach. In Gainesville, FL the popular Later Gator service links downtown to destinations such as the University of Florida campus, high density apartment complexes on the southwest side of town and the Oaks Mall. In Tallahassee, Florida the Night Nole service connects entertainment districts to the campus of Florida State University. The Downtown Express rolled out in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to link downtown with the campus of the University of Alabama. In Austin, Texas the Night Owl Service connects four separate neighborhoods with late night service to downtown. Finally, the KnightLYNX service in Orlando links popular destinations such as downtown and the Waterford Lakes Town Center with the University of Central Florida campus.
Reliable and convenient transportation alternatives connect people to third places like restaurants, coffee houses, retail stores and bars that contribute in making neighborhoods vibrant places. Viable transit operations are a key element of a comprehensive multi-modal transportation plan that relieves automobile congestion and encourages efficient utilization of parking supply within mixed use neighborhoods.
With new leadership in place at JTA, the question remains as to whether this public transit organization will work hand in hand with neighborhood advocates to roll out new and much needed transit solutions. Perhaps all that is needed is another demonstration of how successful RANT’ing can be?
Article by Michael Field