Do You Care About The Future Of Transit In Jax?

June 2, 2014 57 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Due to the lack of public engagement in our community over the last few months, the future of transit investment may be dramatically altered for the worse. Metro Jacksonville has become a popular place for ideas and quality conversation on improving mass transit throughout North Florida. However, we're failing to advance these ideas into reality because of a lack of involvement where it really counts. Tomorrow is the deadline for your comments and suggestions involving the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization's 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan. If you care about what type of transportation investments are destined for your neighborhood's future, this is your opportunity to have your ideas, thoughts, concerns and suggestions included in the planning process.

Why do we need a Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP)?

Federal regulations require all metropolitan planning organizations to prepare a Long Range Transportation Plan that addresses multi-modal transportation needs over at least a 20-year horizon. The plan for Northeast Florida (Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns Counties) must be updated every three to five years.  Projects included in the adopted Cost Feasible Plan must have funding identified. To be considered for the Cost Feasible Plan, a project must first be on the Needs Plan list.  

How is it used after it is created?

The Plan is used to decide which transportation projects are advanced and funded.  In order to receive federal funds, a project must be in the Long Range Transportation Plan.  Projects are selected from the LRTP for the five-year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

How do transportation projects get funded?

A funding source must be identified for a project to be in the LRTP Cost Feasible Plan.  Projects selected from the LRTP for the TIP have funding programmed for study, design, right-of-way, utilities and construction as available.  Funding comes primarily from state and federal allocations and grants.

2035 LRTP Cost Feasible Plan Projects

Current transit projects eligible for future federal funding assistance are shown above and described below:

Green (Dashed) - Commuter rail lines from downtown Jacksonville to Baker (I), Clay (H), Nassau (F) and St. Johns (G) Counties.

Orange (Dashed) - Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes to Arlington (A), Avenues Mall (D), Lem Turner Road Walmart (B) and Orange Park Mall (E).

Orange - Streetcar system connecting downtown Jacksonville with Springfield (L), Riverside (N) and Everbank Field (K).

Blue - Existing Skyway system

For more information on the 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan

Current 2040 transit projects being considered

With little input from the community, transit projects in the core of the city have been dramatically altered from previous planning efforts. Major changes include:

1. Elimination of the streetcar network included in the 2030 Mobility Plan and 2035 LRTP Cost Feasible Plan.

2. Springfield's Main Street streetcar route would be replaced by a Skyway extension that appears to go down Pearl Street to access UF Health Jacksonville. This route would run parallel the proposed North BRT Corridor, which will be two blocks to the west.

3. A Skyway extension to Five Points would possibly run down Riverside Avenue to Post Street, before terminating at Riverside Park.

4. A new Riverside streetcar loop would connect the Five Points Skyway extension to Fairfax and Avondale.

5. Additional Skyway extensions to the Stadium District's parking garages via Duval Street and to San Marco, along Hendricks Avenue are being considered.

6. While not shown in this map, the latest route for the north commuter rail line would utilize existing CSX track north of Gateway Mall, as opposed to the S-Line. The positive is such a route could provide direct connectivity between downtown, the Farmers Market and Gateway Mall. It would also be cheaper than rebuilding the S-Line Urban Greenway to accommodate rail. The negatives would be that districts ideal for infill and redevelopment, such as Durkeeville, Mrytle Avenue, UF Health Jacksonville, New Springfield and the Springfield Warehouse District would be left out of the mix.

The Basic LRTP Planning Process

A sketch of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority's proposed downtown Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line.

1. Development of Needs Plan

Based on the community's understanding of the demand for future travel, multimodal transportation projects will be identified to meet this demand.  At the point the project list is focused on needs and not restrained by cost, however it is known that our needs will exceed the funding available through the year 2040. If your idea is not included in the Needs Plan, it will not be eligible for inclusion into the Cost Feasible Plan or eligible for federal funding between now and 2040.

2. Develop Cost Feasible Plan

The Cost Feasible Plan will identify projects from the Needs Plan that are financially feasible, provide the greatest return on investment, and are consistent with the policies, goals and objectives.  This plan defines our path forward for investments to 2040.  The Cost Feasible Plan is required by federal legislation and will focus on the four-county area of Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns. If your idea is not included in the Cost Feasible Plan, it will not be eligible for federal funding between now and 2040.

3. Adopt & Document Final Plan

The final Cost Feasible Plan must be approved by the North Florida TPO Board by December 2014.  Reports documenting each step of the planning process will be prepared. If your idea is not included in the Cost Feasible Plan, it will not be eligible for federal funding between now and 2040.

4. What this means for Metro Jacksonville Readers

In short, if a transportation idea is not included in the Long Range Transportation Plan, it will most likely will not become reality over the next 20 years because it will not be eligible for federal funding assistance.

5. How to get your idea considered for inclusion to the LRTP?

The Comment Period deadline for the Needs Plan is Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Maybe you like the projects in the existing 2035 plan or the alternatives in the 2040 Needs Plan. Perhaps there's another idea you believe is better than what's illustrated in both plans. In any event, make your thoughts known before it's too late.  Getting your comments and suggestions considered for inclusion into the LRTP is just as easy as replying online to this article, twitter or average facebook post.

Better yet, take a minute and send your thoughts and suggestions today to

Redevelopment opportunities in under utilized core neighborhoods such as the Springfield Warehouse District would be possibly lost if the 2040 Needs Plan route for commuter rail, replaces the current S-Line connection.

For more information on the 2040 Needs Plan. Link includes maps of proposed roadway, bike/pedestrian, freight projects.