JTA's new transit system takes shape

August 31, 2015 2 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Fresh off the heals of their successful implementation of their route optimization initiative, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) plans to put its first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor into service this winter. Branded the First Coast Flyer, JTA is hoping the system will redefine the local bus riding experience by offering a quick, reliable and more efficient transit commute than what has been traditionally available in the region.

Running with its own dedicated lanes, Cleveland's Health Line is an example of metro-quality, full service BRT.

BRT is essentially a bus-based system that attempts to mimic the high-capacity, high-performance characteristics of urban rail systems at a much lower price. Many transit agencies believe metro-quality full service BRT, which provides buses with their own separate right-of-way, offers the speed and reliability of rail and the operating flexibility and lower cost of the conventional bus.

Sharing lanes with regular traffic, the Kansas City Max is an example of BRT-lite.

Although being called BRT, many in the industry consider projects like the First Coast Flyer to be a form of BRT-Lite. According to the Berkeley Institute of Urban and Regional Development, BRT-Lite offers some form of bus priority but not full-segregated bus ways and instead of stations usually has simpler bus shelters. This definition defines the First Coast Flyer's North Corridor perfectly. Anticipated to begin service in December 2015, the $33 million North corridor extends north from Broad Street and State Street in downtown Jacksonville along Boulevard Street to Golfair Boulevard, and then extends west along Golfair Boulevard and north along Brentwood Norwood Avenues to Lem Turner Road, ending approximately at Armsdale Road (south of I-295).

Proposed North Corridor

With 80% of the funding coming from the federal government, the First Coast Flyer's North Corridor will include enhanced branded shelters with scheduled information, 8 branded buses powered by compressed natural gas, intersection technologies to improve bus reliability, sidewalk and streetscape improvements near bus shelters.

In addition, the 9-mile line will include a park-and-ride lot near Interstate 295 and feature approximately 2.2 miles of dedicated bus lanes north of the Trout River on Lem Turner Road. This section of the 4-lane roadway was previously designed to accommodate six lanes. According to JTA CEO Nathaniel Ford, “The First Coast Flyer is a way to better serve existing customers and attract new riders with direct, high frequency service on new, clean, energy efficient buses.” By 2019, JTA hopes to add three additional First Coast Flyer routes, expanding the overall system to 55 miles in length.

Map of full proposed First Coast Flyer system.

Here's a look the construction progress of the First Coast Flyer's north corridor.

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