Understanding Transit in Jacksonville

December 26, 2012 32 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

From the Times-Union and City Councilmen to the average Jacksonville resident, understanding mass transit technologies remains a mystery. Here is an overdue review on mass transit technologies and how they may potentially play a role in the development of Jacksonville's future.

An Overview of Technology/Transit Services Alternatives and how they relate to Jacksonville

Image: NJ Transit (Regional Commuter Rail)

Due to the growth patterns, highway capacity constraints and financial realities in Jacksonville, mobility options such as premium transit must be considered. Premium transit services are those such as commuter rail, streetcars, light rail transit, bus rapid transit, express bus routes and other potential options.

Many of these types of transit provide higher quality, capacity and higher speed transit service, compared to regular fixed-route bus service.  These features make them much more competitive with automobile traffic in terms of travel time and with regular bus service in terms of attracting choice riders.

San Diego, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Austin, Denver, Charlotte, Houston, Baltimore, and Salt Lake City are among the cities across the nation that have examined the use of existing rail corridors and parallel streets for developing new premium transit service corridors.

When contemplating a transit system, there are various considerations relating to technology and alignment. The decision relating to the location of the service depends on right-of-way availability, adjacent land uses, future freight demand and capacity for passenger service, and other considerations.

The decision on the type of technology may be established based on the varying characteristics of each technology, the desires of the community, and the available alignments. Additional criteria to consider when choosing a technology also depends on: capital cost, operating costs, service distance, station spacing, service frequency, capacity, power source, speeds, right-of-way requirements, vehicle life, accessibility, maneuverability, integration with other transportation modes, flexibility, etc.

Image: The EL in Chicago (Heavy Rail)



Image: Trinity Railway Express in Dallas (Commuter Rail) - source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TRE_Train_F59PH_566_leading.jpg

Regional Commuter Rail is typically a diesel-propelled railway technology for urban passenger train service  An example of the use of this technology in South Florida is Tri-Rail.  This rail service may (or may not) share the use of freight railroad tracks, with locomotives pushing or pulling passenger cars, or with passenger cars that have internal diesel engines. Stations are usually 2 to 5 miles apart. The average trip lengths for commuter rail range from 20 to 23 miles.

Larger cities that run very frequent service on commuter lines will also employ electric trains for their increased acceleration capabilities and fuel savings.

Impact on Jacksonville:

JTA's Regional Transit Plan includes three regional commuter rail corridors.  One will utilize the CSX "A" Line to serve as a link between the Jacksonville Transportation Center (Downtown) and Clay County.  Another will take advantage of the FEC corridor to provide a direct link between the JTC (Downtown), Southside and St. Johns County.  A third could link Baldwin with Downtown, using existing track paralleling Beaver Street.

Potential Regional Commuter rail corridors highlighted in red.

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