Take a trip to downtown and you'll notice that Jefferson and Broad Streets have become a major construction zone. However, unlike most roadway construction projects in town, these are a part of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority's (JTA) plan to improve mass transit in Jacksonville. The transformation of this corridor happens to be the first visual signs of JTA's First Coast Flyer Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.
It's not light rail or streetcar, so don't expect many of the economic development benefits associated with fixed transit, but it should significantly enhance transit throughout our community.
According to the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP), BRT is a high-quality bus-based transit system that delivers fast, comfortable, and cost-effective services at metro-level capacities. It does this through the provision of dedicated lanes, with busways and iconic stations typically aligned to the center of the road, off-board fare collection, and fast and frequent operations.
At least through downtown, the First Coast Flyer will fit this definition with the installation of dedicated busways and iconic stations in the Northbank and Southbank. Included in this $13.4 million, five mile project is the reconstruction and streetscaping of Broad and Jefferson Streets. Portions of Broad, Jefferson, Bay, Forsyth Streets and Kings Avenue will include dedicated bus lanes. In addition, the transit line will feature green, low-floor, branded buses with easy-to-understand routes and real time bus arrival information.
Soon, a second $33.2 million, 9-mile extension through Northwest Jacksonville will begin. This phase will include a park-and-ride lot at Lem Turner Road and I-295, 18 stations and the purchase of eight buses powered by compressed natural gas.
First Coast Flyer BRT Downtown Enhancements - Phase 1 map
Additional planned corridors include:
1. An 11-mile Southeast Corridor to Avenues Mall with seven stations and eight buses, at the cost of $23.8 million.
2. An 18.5-mile East Corridor to Jacksonville Beach with 18-24 stations and 19 buses, at a cost of $42.9 million.
3. A 10-mile the Southwest Corridor to Orange Park Mall with 22-26 stations and 14 buses, at a cost of $19 million.
If JTA has its way, the First Coast Flyer BRT system will feature a total of 55 miles of routes, at the cost of $132.3 million, stretching across the city by 2019, with buses running every 10 to 15 minutes. In a March 2015 interview with the Florida Times-Union, JTA CEO Nathaniel Ford mentioned, “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.”
The First Coast Flyer won't be the first BRT system in Florida. Miami, Orlando, and Tampa all have implemented various versions of BRT over the last few decades. The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) MetroRapid is the latest to begin operation. That 17.5-mile initial system, running from downtown Tampa to Telecom Park, officially began revenue service on June 10, 2013.
The Downtown Phase of the First Coast Flyer BRT system is expected to be completed in December 2015. Here's a look the progress being made throughout Jacksonville's Northbank.