Mayor Questions Validity of JTA's Transportation Center

July 15, 2011 131 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Mayor Alvin Brown was wise to slow down the momentum on the proposed Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center. Currently estimated to cost a whopping $180 million, the Mayor's Office, City Council, and JTA would be smart to consider reducing and compacting the scale of the enormous complex. Here are examples of recently completed or expanded transportation centers in cities of similar size along with their overall capital costs. In addition, aerials illustrate the scale of Jacksonville's proposed complex in relation with those in actual operation.

Jacksonville Regional Intermodal Center (JRTC)

Proposed JRTC layout

Capital Costs: $180 million

Completion Date: N/A (+25 years in planning and on-going)

Potential Modes Served: Amtrak, JTA bus routes, Greyhound, the Skyway, future BRT, commuter rail and streetcar lines.

Parcels covering JRTC layout for scaled comparison purposes.

Charlotte Transit Center

Capital Costs: $9.6 million

Completed: 1995

Modes Served: Charlotte Area Transit (CATS) bus routes, LYNX Blue Line LRT and the Charlotte Trolley (streetcar).  Retailers include Bank of America, Postal Plus, Plaza Sundries Food Store, Bojangles, Burger King, Lil Orbits and Subway.

** - This intermodal center is now operating over capacity and a new intermodal center is being built approximately a half-mile away that will accommodate commuter rail and Greyhound bus service.

For more information:

Detroit Rosa Parks Transit Center

Capital Costs: $22.5 million

Completed: 2009

Modes Served: Detroit Department of Transportation, SMART and Transit Windsor bus routes, Detroit People Mover and LRT (under construction in late 2011).

The $22.5 million Rosa Parks Transit Center at the corner of Cass and Michigan avenues in Detroit opens to the public Tuesday.

The three-story, 25,700-square-foot facility owned by the city will serve as a 24-hour central connection for Detroit Department of Transportation, SMART and Transit Windsor bus routes and the Detroit People Mover.

On site are a waiting area, restrooms, retail space, transit police offices, transit services and a Detroit Police Department mini station. There is also a taxi stand.

The project, begun two years ago, was funded by state and federal grants.

It was designed by Detroit-based Parsons Brinckeroff and the general contractor was DeMaria Building Co.

The Detroit Economic Development Corp. in 2007 approved a $5.5 million contract with USAShade & Fabric Structures Inc. of Costa Mesa, Calif., for the massive seven-peaked canopy structure atop the facility.

The project was built for DDOT by Detroit Economic Growth Corp., which staffs the DEDC.

The 20 DDOT routes served by the center are: Cadillac-Harper, Chene, Dexter, Fort, Hamilton, Hayes, Grand River, Grand River, Jefferson, Joy Road, Linwood, Mack, Michigan, Oakland, Plymouth, Russell, Tireman, Van Dyke, Vernor and Woodward.

Fort Worth Intermodal Transportation Center

Capital Costs: N/A

Completion Date: 2002

Modes Served: Amtrak, TRE commuter rail, Greyhound and the "T" local buses.

Fort Worth Intermodal Transportation Center (ITC) Station
TRE Western Fare Zone
Corner of 9th and Jones Streets
(1001 Jones Street, Fort Worth 76102)

The ITC is home to the T's largest bus transfer center, and the T's Customer Relations Center maintains a staffed kiosk inside for passenger information services. Taxi and Amtrak service is available also. Facilities and services are 100% wheelchair accessible.

Customer Features:

Wheelchair Accommodations
Ticket Vending Machines
"Kiss & Ride" Passenger Drop-Off/Pick-Up
Meeting Rooms
Customer Service Center
Amtrak Depot
Taxi Stand

Intermodal Transportation Center (ITC)

The term "intermodal" refers to the many modes of transportation available in the facility. The ITC offers access to commuter rail service on the Trinity Railway Express, regional and national Amtrak train service, taxi and bus & trolley service provided by the T.

The architecture of the ITC is designed to echo the city's past while blending with the surrounding buildings downtown. The most striking aspect of the building's exterior is the 70-foot, four-faced clock tower that has become a Fort Worth landmark.

In addition to the interior and exterior amenities, customers will find visual art an integral part of the ITC. A depiction, in clay, of the history of African American businesses/life that existed at the site of the ITC between 1865 and 1940 can be seen in five panels inset into the wall of the breezway entrance.
Sculpted by artist Paula Blincoe Collins.

On permanent display is a restored original Interurban Trolley (CAR 25) that ran the rails between Fort Worth and Dallas between 1924 and 1934. A shaded courtyard leads to a life-size interactive game board designed by local artist, Joan Zalenski.

Milwaukee Intermodal Station

Capital Costs: $16.9 million (2007 addition and renovation)

Completed: 1965

Modes Served: Amtrak, Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) buses, Coach USA, Greyhound Lines, Jefferson Lines, Indian Trails, Lamers and Megabus intercity motorcoach operators.

Orlando - LYNX Central Station

Capital Costs: $29.2 million

Completed: 2004

Modes Served: LYNX bus system routes, LYMMO BRT and future SunRail commuter rail.  Also home to LNYX's administrative offices and an Original Champ's Cafe.

St. Louis - Gateway Multimodal Transportation Center

Capital Costs: $31.4 million

Completed: 2008

Modes Served: Amtrak, Metrolink LRT, MetroBus regional buses, Greyhound and taxis.  The station's food court hosts local sundries-and-deli businesses, KFC and Pizza Hut.

St. Louis's Gateway Multimodal Transportation Center

Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub

Capital Costs: $21 million (an additional $32 million used to expand light rail system to hub)

Completed: 1999 (Amtrak), 2005 (Greyhound), 2008 (UTA)

Modes Served: Amtrak, TRAX light rail, FrontRunner commuter rail, Greyhound Lines, UTA local buses.

San Jose Diridon Station

Capital Costs: N/A

Completed: 1935, renovated in 1994, LRT platforms added in 1996

Modes Served: Caltrain, ACE, VTA light rail, Amtrak and in the future BART (heavy rail). This is in addition to California Shuttle Bus, Amtrak Thruway Bus, Monterey-Salinas Transit, San Benito Transit, Santa Cruz Metro (Highway 17 Express), SMART, local VTA and employer shuttles and buses.

How to Design a Transportation Center

For more information on transportation centers visit:

Transportation Center Too Big For Our Britches?

LYNX Central Station in Orlando.

Jacksonville ranks second to last with the list of sample peer cities, when considering metropolitan area statistics.  Estimated to come in at nine times the cost of some of the award-winning compact intermodal hubs highlighted above, one can only wonder if Jacksonville's proposed transportation center is out-of-scale for a metropolitan area and transit system of Jacksonville's size.  If so, it appears there may be a significant amount of pork to chop off of this pig.

Rank By 2010 Census City Population

1. San Jose, CA - 945,942

2. Jacksonville, FL - 821,784

3. Fort Worth, TX - 741,206

4. Charlotte, NC - 787,033

5. Detroit, MI - 713,777

6. Milwaukee, WI - 594,833

7. St. Louis, MO - 319,294

8. Orlando, FL - 238,300

9. Salt Lake City, UT - 186,440

Milwaukee's $16.9 million intermodal station serves Amtrak, Greyhound, local buses and a host of additional intercity bus lines.

Rank By 2010 Census Metropolitan Area Population

1. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX - 6,371,773

2. Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI - 4,296,250

3. St. Louis, MO - 2,812,896

4. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL - 2,134,411

5. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA - 1,836,911

6. Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC - 1,758,038

7. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI - 1,555,908

8. Jacksonville, FL - 1,345,596

9. Salt Lake City, UT - 1,124,197

Like an airport, Milwaukee's intermodal station is designed to serve multiple carriers within a single facility.  We should try the same locally.

Amtrak's counter in Milwaukee.

Greyhound's counter in the same Milwaukee building (not across the street or two blocks down).


Here are five recommendations for putting the transportation center on a diet for the sake of taxpayer's pocketbooks and finally getting this project off the drawing board:

1. Coordination of Planning

The desire to relocate the convention center next to the Hyatt is one of the city's worst kept secrets.  The longer we waffle on a decision, the more realistic of a chance we have in seeing an expensive, spread-out transportation center become a reality and Jacksonville the laughing stock of the nation.

There is a reason for the transportation center's sprawling serpentine layout.  It's JTA's and the City's inability to coordinate and decide on the future of the convention center's location and the abundance of adjacent available property.  In the past, instead of coming to the table to work out a viable solution, a decision was made to spend $180 million on a serpentine layout instead - totally unacceptable in today's economic climate.

At this point, it appears that a major goal of downtown's redevelopment involves the relocation of the convention center to the existing courthouse site on East Bay.  If so, let's go ahead and work together to set a timeline for this event, which would allow the existing Prime Osborn facility to be redeveloped into a compact transportation hub.  This move would make transferring between modes more user-friendly and allow several blocks of property to be sold to and developed by the private sector, stimulating Jacksonville's tax rolls in the process.  This is something the upcoming taskforce being headed by Don Shea should view as a major priority in resolving, before it can blossom into another Duval County Courthouse situation.

2. Eliminate the Office Building

Looking to cut costs.  Start with driving a stake through this thing's heart.  Use the spared land to shift more bus operations south of Forsyth Street.

According to Downtown Vision (DVI), downtown Jacksonville has one of the highest central business district office vacancy rates (23.5%) in the country.  With half of downtown Jacksonville's office buildings already abandoned, it makes little financial sense from the taxpayer's standpoint to fund the construction of a new office building for JTA that could cost as much as $50 million.  

If new offices are needed, follow Everbank's model and consider relocating to an existing building within the heart of the downtown core. This helps reduce the transportation center's capital costs, downtown's office vacancy rate, and stimulate more foot traffic in an area full of struggling small businesses. Pick a building adjacent to the Skyway, make JTA's employees use their own park-n-ride lots and we'll increase Skyway ridership too.

3. Combining Bus Terminals

Reviewing the compact intermodal terminals above, it appears that many have found a way to design facilities that accommodate multiple bus operations.  On the other hand, the JRTC places bus operations on three continuous blocks between Bay and Adams Street.  Total overkill and duplication of building material and labor costs.  Consolidating these operations to two (or block could drop construction costs significantly without hampering bus operations.

4. Plan Holistically


Based on the way plans and renderings are illustrated, one would assume it was located near the equestrian center instead of downtown.  For this to be a successful urban project, not only does it have to meet the needs of its core reason for existing, it also has to integrate well with the surrounding community and be a catalyst for quality, pedestrian-friendly development on adjacent parcels.  With this in mind, the planning process of Denver's Union Station would be a great example to follow.  Instead of simply shoveling people between mass transit modes, this intermodal center is being designed to be the central anchor of an entire neighborhood.

"Denver Union Station will be a multimodal transportation hub of international significance and a prominent and distinctive gateway to downtown Denver and the region.

Denver Union Station will bring critical elements of the public and private local, regional, statewide, and national transportation systems, both existing and future, together with private development and inspiring civic features.

Denver Union Station will create an exciting setting that will improve the connections between all transportation modes, respect the character and historical significance of the station and its adjacent neighborhoods, and provide a stimulating environment for public activity and economic vitality."

5. Reduce Amount of Parking

There are already more parking spaces than people in downtown Jacksonville.

2,200 spaces of structured parking are included in the JRTC's $180 million budget.  Currently, almost 200 acres of land in downtown is devoted to parking, including 168 small surface lots of under 100 spaces that negatively impact its aesthetics and urban form. Furthermore, according to the Downtown Jacksonville Master Plan produced in 1999, there were 41,576 spaces in downtown.  Since then, several new garages have been added in the area.  However, as the number of parking spaces have increased, the downtown employment base continues to decline and has fallen to 18,000 in the Northbank core.  

In addition, tied to a deal that guarantees certain garage owners an eight percent return on their investment, the city is already shelling out $4 million a year to subsidize empty garages that work against creating street-level vibrancy.  With such staggering statistics, would it really kill us or JTA if a proposed parking structure or two disappeared from the JRTC plan?  If we can find a way to limit our infatuation with the automobile in downtown, there is a ton of money to be saved considering the cost of structured parking ranges from $15,000 to $30,000 per space, excluding annual maintenance expenses.


Despite the tone of this article, the construction of an intermodal hub plays an important role in the redevelopment and revitalization of downtown, LaVilla and Brooklyn.  A well designed hub in a centralized location has the ability to create jobs, spur adjacent sustainable transit-oriented development, and become an economic powerhouse for the downtown area.  However, this can be accomplished with half the footprint and cost of the current proposal.

Article by Ennis Davis.