The Seven Blunders of Jacksonville

November 2, 2007 37 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

We've given you a list of the Seven Wonders, now it's time to give you Seven Blunders.

7. The creation of JTA

Sometimes consolidation can be a bad thing.  The decision for our expressway authority to take over our mass transit system is a prime example of this.  While JTA has done a great job of highway planning, its efforts to run a dependable mass transit system leave a lot to be desired.  This little act of giving a road building control over mass transit has cost the Jacksonville taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the last few decades and we still have a system that lacks the basic essentials needed to be dependable and attract choice riders.



6. Not taking advantage of Super Bowl XXXIX

Salt Lake City used hosting the Winter Olympics to get light rail.  Houston did the same with the Super Bowl.  Detroit and San Diego used the big game to help jump start downtown revitalization and entertainment districts.  If you look into the past, you'll find that most cities have taken advantage of hosting big events to push legacy projects through.  Here, we squandared that opportunity for three lighted bridges, a few paved roads, and a carnival on Bay Street that packed up and left town the morning after the game.


5. Rail transit planning

At one point we had over 70 miles of streetcar track in this town and we tore it all out in 1936 for buses.  40 years later, we constructed a downtown people mover to nowhere which cost the same amount of money as a light rail line running from downtown to the airport would have. 

Today, our transit authority is trying to push a larger boondoggle down our throats called Bus Rapid Transit.  If we never touched the streetcars in the first place, there would be no need to spend a billion dollars on BRT and our community's development patterns would have been completely different, greatly eliminating a large portion of the sprawl we deal with today.



4. Elimination of gridded streets

Bad zoning can have a negative impact on a city's growth.  The decision not continue the city's gridded street network and to allow cul-de-sac developments that force all of their traffic onto single throughfares like Beach, Blanding, and Atlantic Blvds has been disasterous.  This has resulted in a community that has been planned for cars as opposed to pedestrians.  In the event that mass evacuations are needed, we'll always be limited due to a lack of parallel alternative streets.


3. Demolishing our history

Imagine a city with a vibrant blues and jazz nightlife district, a theater district, a mile long row of mansions lining Riverside Avenue, wharves filled with fresh seafood markets, and a downtown loaded with a diverse collection of architecture from all ages.  These are the type of things that people travel to places like Charleston, Seattle, New Orleans and San Francisco to see.  Believe it or not, we had it here, but over the past 30 years we have continued to rip our history to shreds for bland office buildings, parking lots and ill-advised parks.  Our shortsightness has gotten so bad that today we have heated debates on whether an expanded convention center is even needed due to the lack of things to do around downtown... because we tore everything down.


2. Bridge Planning

You don't have to stay at a Holiday Inn to realize that we are a city split down the middle by a large river.  Unfortunately, there are only two river crossings outside of the downtown core.  It's also no secret that gridlock awaits anyone trying to cross the Buckman and Matthews Bridges or driving down Atlantic, Beach and JTB during rush hour.  The solution to these congestion problems revolved around two decisions: not constructing the Timuquana Bridge and not constructing the 20th Street Bridge.  These decisions will forever leave us struggling to get the upper hand on our traffic congestion situation.

*Honorable mention goes to the construction of the Dames Point Bridge.  Because it was not built as a tunnel, similar to those in Mobile, AL and Norfolk, VA, our port's growth will be restricted if ships continue to grow in size.


1. Running the Movie industry out of town

In 1916, Jacksonville was the home to more than 30 movie studios and considered the Silent Film Capitol of the country.  Fed up with the industry's reckless ways, such as using fire alarms to get people out of buildings to create crowd scenes, the community ran the industry off to a sleepy little hamlet called Hollywood.  As of 2005, while attracting tire distribution centers make the front page in our paper, with Hollywood at the center, the motion picture and television industry has created over 1.3 million American jobs at an average wage of $73,000, generating $60.4 billion for the U.S. economy.


Feel free to debate, or create your own list.