The Role Of Mass Transit In Brooklyn's Renaissance

December 21, 2012 97 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

A redevelopment renaissance is underway in Brooklyn. However, there is one major problem. Brooklyn is physically separated from the downtown core. With this in mind, what role will mass transit play?

Mobility Plan: Streetcar

Original image (without Jacksonville signage) provided by Scarequotes at

A $50 million streetcar starter line tying downtown with Riverside is included in the mobility plan as a project that would be funded 100% by the collection of mobility fees in the surrounding area. The $36 million first phase would connect downtown's East Bay Street with Five Points.  A $14 million second phase would extend the line to the popular Park & King District. Destinations directly served include Hyatt, East Bay Street, Landing, Omni, CSX, Prime Osborn Convention Center, Brooklyn, Everbank, Fidelity, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Riverside Arts Market, Cummer, Memorial Park, Five Points, St. Vincents Medical Center, and Park & King. In addition, connectivity with the Skyway provides riders with access throughout the Northbank and Southbank.

The benefit here is that Brooklyn is the heart of this corridor with the ends being Riverside and Downtown.  Using mass transit as connectivity, without raising tax dollars, instantly allows residents along the corridor to enjoy the amenities of each budding urban district has to offer.  In addition, development pressures on Riverside would be further eased by Brooklyn's emergence.

This graphic highlights various conceptual routes for a streetcar tying Riverside, Brooklyn, and downtown together with Skyway connectivity to access the Southbank and San Marco.  In the upcoming days, we'll highlight a "no-frills" and affordable solution to enhance skyway service with the new Riverside Avenue developments.

Look no further than Milwaukee if you need economic numbers. Milwaukee has decided to move forward with their downtown streetcar because economic studies indicate the project will generate over 20,500 new jobs, 13,500 new residents and $3.35 billion in new tax base within a 1/4 mile radius of the streetcar route over a 20-year period.  I think we all can agree that urban Jacksonville would greatly benefit if even half that can be generated locally.

JTA Skyway Riverside Avenue Extension

Metro Jacksonville's conceptual "no-frills" station concept.  Graphic courtesy of Metro Jacksonville's Jason.

When the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) widened Riverside Avenue a decade ago, FDOT ended up purchasing more property than what was needed.  As a result, a parallel strip of land between the Acosta Bridge and Forest Street was donated to JTA for the possibility of extending the Skyway down Riverside Avenue.

With JTA's cash flow just as underwater as most of the houses in Duval County and a proposed streetcar serving the same general area, the possibility of the Skyway being extended to Forest Street seems unlikely anytime soon. Despite financial challenges, JTA should be applauded for its recent efforts to better utilize and integrate the Skyway into the downtown redevelopment picture.  Through the pursuit of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and the termination of bus routes at Skyway stations, ridership has increased from 1,700 riders per day to 5,100 over the last year.

Nevertheless, it would be a travesty if Brooklyn comes alive in 2014 and there is no reliable transit component tying this area with the rest of downtown.  However, the presence of the Skyway's Operations Center in Brooklyn provides us with a "no-frills" opportunity to utilize the Skyway as the glue that makes Brooklyn an extension of downtown as opposed to it being an area across the tracks, McCoys Creek and the Acosta Bridge. Literally, across the street from Riverside Park's retail center, an affordable temporary transit connectivity solution could be to include a simple ground level station on the property of the Operations Center.

Metro Jacksonville's conceptual "no-frills" station concept with Riverside Park (white) and 220 Riverside in the background.  Graphic courtesy of Metro Jacksonville's Jason.

Brooklyn and downtown Jacksonville are poised to make a comeback.  However, transit connectivity will play a direct role in how much of a comeback they'll see. How we address urban mobility in 2013 may very well end up being one of the most important challenges Jacksonville faces in bringing downtown back to life.

Article by Ennis Davis

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