JTA Shrinks Transportation Center's Footprint

August 22, 2014 21 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

For years, Metro Jacksonville has claimed the Jacksonville Transportation Authority's (JTA) Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center (JRTC) was too big for its britches and expensive for taxpayer's wallets. Now it appears that JTA is beginning to move in the right direction with a revised plan that reduces the JRTC's massive footprint.

The original plan for the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center (JRTC) incorporated a Greyhound bus station, a city bus terminal, JTA Skyway station, JTA offices, retail shops, and a new Amtrak station. When this plan was developed in 2002, the Prime Osborn Convention Center stood between Amtrak and other surface transportation modes, so the transportation center was planned around it.

As advocates of public transportation, the original design was always seen as undesirable from the end user's perspective in Metro Jacksonville's eyes. In layman's terms, eight city blocks, five massive new buildings, four stand alone stations, and hundreds of millions out of taxpayer's back pockets would only buy us dysfunctional transportation center and make Jacksonville the laughing stock of the transit world.

Shortly after being elected in 2011, Mayor Alvin Brown even questioned the validity of the sprawling complex that had grown to an estimated whopping $180 million to construct.

In 2013, we even went as far as creating an alternative proposal that transformed the Prime Osborn to reflect its original use as a true multimodal terminal downtown. That plan also called for the removal of the convention center from its LaVilla location.

Nevertheless, plans for the enormous complex continued to progress major tenants started getting cold feet. Originally, a major tenant of the JRTC's proposed office building, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Northeast Regional Transportation Management Center abandoned the site altogether, instead choosing to build their own 30,000 square foot building at the State of Florida's office complex near state and Davis Streets. 5,000 square feet of this structure will house the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), who also planned at one time, to utilize office space at the JRTC.

The largest ball to drop may have been Greyhound falling out of favor with the JRTC in early 2014.  Feeling they'd end up being the only mode built at the proposed JRTC site for the foreseeable future, a Greyhound spokeswoman told Florida Times-Union reporters that the company would move into the new terminal only after construction is complete on it as well as an adjacent "multimodal facility" that JTA officials had originally envisioned to be a major transportation hub.

“The multimodal facility is a primary and very important part of this project and Greyhound will plan its move to the new terminal around the completion of the multimodal facility,” said Lanesha Gipson, a Greyhound spokeswoman. “We do not plan to move into the terminal prior to its completion since interacting with other modes of transportation would provide customers with a seamless, more convenient travel experience.”

Now JTA has a new plan. One that apparently pleases Greyhound, that also includes an integrated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), intercity bus, and Skyway terminal breaking ground as early as 2016.  The new plan relocates Greyhound's terminal from Adams to Forsyth Street, freeing up roughly 1.5 blocks for infill private development. Across the street, a new BRT/intercity bus terminal would be built around an existing Skyway Station and bus slips currently utilized by Megabus. There would also be room to add a zip car station if there is demand.

Future phases would add Amtrak, a structured garage and possibly a smaller JTA office building on top of the $6 million Greyhound and $21 million intercity bus terminal. When complete, the new plan could end up being nearly $100 million cheaper for taxpayers than the original. While an improvement compared to the original concept, not everyone is happy about the new plan. According to Ocklawaha in a recent Metro Jacksonville forum thread "the JRTC 2.0 is just the latest epic fail in the making." Take a look and decide for yourself!

NEXT PAGE: Original and Revised JRTC conceptual site plans

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