The Skyway's future is in question: What's next?

September 16, 2015 44 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The much-maligned Skyway is in need of critical repair, presenting the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) with a new dilemma on its hands.

A. Overhaul: Spend $70.2 million to keep the existing vehicles operating for another 20 years.

B. New Vehicles: Spend $85.1 million to buy new vehicles that will last 25-40 years.

C. Decommission: Spend up to $78.5 million to demolish it and payback $38.1 million obligation.

D. Repurpose: Spend up to $67.8 million to convert to "high line" and payback $38.1 million obligation.

Lucky for us, there's nothing new under the sun. Here's a brief look at the decisions made by six North American cities, when faced with the question of what to do with their aging fixed transit systems.

1. Harbour Island People Mover - Tampa, FL
Option selected: Demolition and replacement with TECO Line Streetcar System

The Harbour Island People Mover. Photo courtesy of Railway Systems Consultants, Ltd, West Sussex, UK

The Harbour Island People Mover began operation on June 27, 1985. Privately owned but operated by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), the 2,500 feet Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) system connected Downtown Tampa and Harbour Island.

By 1989, its ridership had declined to an average of 1,200 riders each weekday. Losing money operating it, the Beneficial Corporation attempted to sell it to HART for $1 in the mid-1990s. HART declined and an agreement was worked out that allowed Beneficial to pay the city $5 million in order to shut down and dismantle the people mover.

With no people mover, the plan called for Harbour Island to be served by trolleybuses and for most of the settlement money to be put in an endowment to be used for the operating costs of the subsequently built TECO Line Streetcar system.  The Harbour Island People Mover's last day of operation was January 16, 1999.

A few years later, the 2.7 mile TECO Line Streetcar System opened on October 19, 2002 at a cost of $13.7 million per mile, including eight heritage streetcars. Connecting Downtown Tampa with the Channel District and Ybor City, the streetcar has resulted in billions of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) in Tampa's urban core.

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