Touring the Westside: Commuter Rail Photo TourMarch 19, 2007 14 comments Print Article
CSX Transportation recently announced an agreement in principal to sell 61 miles of the A-Line, from DeLand to Poinciana, to the State of Florida for a proposed Central Florida Commuter Rail operation. This deal includes diverting most freight traffic away from Orlando and onto the parallel S-Line, which runs from Central Florida to Baldwin, meaning a significant portion of freight rail traffic currently paralleling Roosevelt Blvd will be shifted to a different line in the near future. To put it in layman's terms, the side effect of this deal is that commuter rail in Jacksonville could be much more feasible than originally thought. With that in mind, it only makes sense for Metro Jacksonville to provide you with a tour of what could be...
Riding Amtrak through Jacksonville's Westside
Jacksonville Rail Map - Westside Line
Locator Map Key:
Orange = proposed BRT routes. (system shown will cost tax payers about $1 billion and at least 20 years construction time)
Red Line = CSX rail line through the Westside. (BRT plans include purchasing ROW parallel to existing rail to build a highway for buses)
Blue Line = FEC rail line through the Southside. (Again BRT plans include new bus highways parallel to existing rail)
Green Line = S-Line through Northside. (city owned rail ROW. BRT plans ignore this asset and instead call for... building a brand new highway for buses)
Where will the cash for these duplicate transit corridors come from? Did somebody find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and forget to tell the rest of us?
Westside CSX Line Photo Tour
2. King Street
A rail stop in the vicinity of King Street would possibly spur redevelopment in a small abandoned older warehouse district near the crossing, as well as be within walking distance of Riverside and neighborhoods north of I-10, which is located about two blocks to the north of this picture.
2a. Park & King Commercial District
Another positive aspect of creating a stop near King Street is its proximity to the Park & King commercial district. Similar to Alexandria, Va's Metro Stop, this area can easily become a place that puts transit riders within walking distance of several pedestrian friendly establishments.
2b. Roosevelt Expressway Overpass
Just like the FEC line running through the Southside, the CSX line is also already significantly double tracked between downtown and Orange Park. Unlike BRT, once again, the existing infrastructure is pretty much already in place, meaning we could save millions of public tax dollars, as opposed to building new highways, specifically for buses.
2c. Redevelopment opportunities
While the line is mostly already developed, there are sites, such as this one near College Street, in the Riverside/Murray Hill area that could possibly be ideal infill redevelopment sites or park and ride lots.
3. Edgewood Avenue
In a recent BRT presentation, it was revealed that if JTA's planners have their way and construct a bus highway parallel to the CSX tracks and Roosevelt Blvd, several structures, such as buildings that are part of Jones College will have to be demolished for the new transitway. However, by using existing rail, these structures can remain in place, once again saving the public millions in cash and years in time.
Integrating the concept of rail transit in the Edgewood Avenue area also provides another stop adjacent to a pedestrian friendly urban commercial district.... Murray Hill's business district. Furthermore, if you go the opposite direction, Edgewood and its well maintained linear parks serve as a pedestrian friendly gateway to Avondale.
3a. Florida Community College Kent Campus
FCCJ Kent Campus is located just south of Edgewood Avenue along the CSX rail corridor and Roosevelt Blvd. The college campus is another of several existing activity centers located within one block of this rail line. Seriously, if you're a transit planner, you couldn't ask for a better path for a future transit line.
3b. Roosevelt Blvd.
While accidents, such as this one on Roosevelt Blvd, can stall vehicular and bus rapid transit traffic, rail transit uses its own fixed infrastructure. Passenger trains have a much better chance of not being delayed by reckless drivers.
4. San Juan Avenue/Roosevelt Square
While definitely suburban oriented, this commercial district would still be well served by a commuter rail stop. Businesses like Publix, CVS, and others would benefit from exposure to the additional traffic base in the area and transit commuters would have direct pedestrian access to businesses in other areas of town. This is important, because its a key ingredient in attracting "choice" riders. Choice riders are those that aren't forced to use transit, but choose to because it is convenient and a viable alternative to avoid our congested roadways.
5. Ortega River crossing
The CSX line crosses the Ortega River, via a drawbridge. About one mile to the west, the proposed Westside BRT line would terminate at Wilson Blvd, 20 YEARS from now. That's right WILSON BLVD. For those sitting in traffic on Blanding BLVD, closer to the county line, you can forget about having a viable mass transit option for your commute if the current BRT plan in implemented.
6. Timquana Road at Roosevelt Blvd.
7. NAS Jax
Once again, the tracks happen to already be double tracked near NAS Jax.
8. Orange Park
In this photo, the rail line gets ready to cross Kingsley Avenue in Orange Park, before continuing south to Fleming Island, Green Cove Springs and eventually Central Florida, where a commuter rail project is already well on it's way.
8a. Transit adjacent development (TAD)
Although not considered transit oriented development, this project is located across the street from the CSX rail line near Kingsley Avenue and serves as a great example of a possible TAD (Transit Adjacent Development).
Existing North-South Corridors
9. Roosevelt Blvd.
10. Blanding Blvd. (Clay County)
Who wants to sit in this mess now, much less a quarter century from now? Well, it's already known the billion dollar BRT plan won't do anything for this congested area when it's built out in an optimistic 20 years from now. Isn't it about time for public leaders and hard working First Coast residents to demand a little better?
This isn't a debate about the differences in rail or bus rapid transit technology and terminology. This argument is about taking advantage of our existing infrastructure, saving public money and reconfiguring the low density growth patterns of our community by integrating the two rapid transit systems together. This means abandoning the current concept of BRT lines running parallel to existing rail and replacing that idea with commuter rail using DMU technology. Doing this will save JTA and the city millions, leaving money available to implement BRT to serve and connect areas such as the beaches, where rail doesn't currently exist.
To learn more about commuter rail and why Jacksonville should take a serious look, visit:
Metro Jacksonville's BRT vs. Commuter Rail study:
Metro Jacksonville Transit Section: