Shands & The S-Line: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!

May 30, 2007 20 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Redeveloping the area around the Shands [Medical Center] campus will likely ensure the opportunity for growth and could enhance the hospital's reputation. We are going to make sure we do all we can to create an environment where they can grow more and have a stronger presence here for all the right reasons. Mayor Peyton - Jacksonville Business Journal 5/25/07

In a recent Jacksonville Business Journal article, Mayor Peyton goes into great detail about how special Shands Jacksonville is and the city's intentions to possibly help improve the campus through land acquisitions, road enhancements, beautification and development upgrades within the hospital.  While the fluff piece made mention of minor improvements such as streetscaping 8th Street, there is one major thing still being overlooked by sometimes clueless public officials.

That overlooked diamond-in-the-rough is the city-owned S-Line and the idea of using it for urban commuter rail, as opposed to spending hundreds of millions on a bus rapid transit highway that would run parallel to I-95, from downtown to Gateway Mall.  Over the last year, we have continued to push the benefits of using the S-Line as a part of our mass transit network, as opposed to the city's plan to convert the abandoned rail corridor into a 12' wide asphalt jogging path.

The images below illustrates how incorporating the S-Line and mass transit into a redevelopment plan could easily reshape a large portion of the inner city and improve Shands Jacksonville in the process.


S-Line Route Map

Highlighted in green, the S-Line snakes through the Northside, from the Prime Osborn, north to Gateway Mall.  Also shown in red, is the competing BRT north corridor from downtown to Gateway Mall. 

8. Over 1,100 residents are employed by Shands Medical Center, which is in walking distance of S-Line right-of-way.  A stop in this general area has high potential for a transit oriented development that can include needed affordable housing, in addition to reconnect the street grid, providing a stronger connection between Durkeeville, Springfield, and New Springfield.

To see S-Line photo tour, click here:


What is a TOD (Transit Oriented Development)?

Transit Oriented Development, is the exciting new fast growing trend in creating vibrant, livable communities. Also known as Transit Oriented Design, or TOD, it is the creation of compact, walkable communities centered around high quality train systems. This makes it possible to live a higher quality life without complete dependence on a car for mobility and survival.


The "Bloody Block" as a Transit Oriented Development site?


This recent aerial shows Shands Jacksonville and the area just to the north which consists of blighted apartment complexes that are a negative on the atmosphere of the communities surrounding it.



This aerial overlay highlights the high crime complexes in red, Shands Jacksonville, in yellow, and the S-Line right-of-way in light green.  Also shown is the proposed BRT line paralleling I-95, in purple, and city owned vacant land in dark green.

Using the S-Line would save the city and JTA millions in right-of-way costs.  A portion of the money saved could go into a public/private partnership with an entity, like Shands, to purchase the Bloody Block, which combined with the city's adjacent land would form a huge Transit Oriented Development site. 



This final aerial illustrates a potential buildout plan for a transit oriented development site that could feature a rail stop for the community and Shands Jacksonville, additional medical/office/retail facilities and housing for medical center workers and the adjoining communities.  With the Bloody Block eliminated and replaced with something positive, the street grid could be re-established creating a vibrant connection between Durkeeville, Springfield and New Springfield. 

This Transit Oriented Development example is only one of many sites along the S-Line that could not only add to the city's tax rolls, but be a catalyst for future economic development in the heart of the city and become a built in ridership destination for mass transit.  Economic development of this form is simply not possible with the current BRT plan, which would spend as much as 10 times more in public dollars to construct a partially elevated busway parallel to I-95. 


City's Current Position on the S-Line

Earlier this month, Metro Jacksonville had the opportunity to sit down and discuss various issues affecting the city with Adams Hollingsworth of the Mayor's Office.  Hollingsworth explained that the S-Line is in the possession of the Parks & Recreation Department, which intends to convert the rail line into a jogging path.  Their official position is that if the S-Line is best used as a mass transit corridor, then the city could easily take the land back, pull up the asphalt and go from there. 

To cut through the layer of "we intend to do nothing", the Mayor's Office appears to be fine with letting hundreds of thousands of public tax dollars be wasted for a 4 mile long jogging path, instead of taking a stand to take advantage of this unique opportunity and its positive economic impacts on Shands Jacksonville and a host of other Inner City destinations and neighborhoods.  With a huge budget crunch facing City Hall, you don't need a high school degree to figure out that continued inactivity and wasteful spending is not the best thing to do.