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.


Image: Rochester, NY Downtown BRT corridor (Bus Rapid Transit)

Bus Rapid Transit is enhanced transit service using low-floor buses operating within a service corridor with a reduced number of stops (typically 1 to 2 per mile), expedited operating speed due to traffic signal priority favoring the buses, frequent service (often 5 to 15 minutes apart in peak hours).

BRT can operate on exclusive transitways, HOV lanes, expressways, or ordinary streets. A regional example of BRT is the South Miami Busway. BRT can consist of dedicated lanes for all or part of the route and/or elevated or even underground separated rights-of-way. The average trip lengths for BRT range between 4 to 6 miles. This option could be built within the rail corridor where the busway can be properly separated from the freight rail, and there is adequate right-of-way.

BRT can utilize various vehicle types and technologies. Some BRT use a Guided bus which can be steered for part or their entire route by some form of external trackway which parallels existing roads. The trackway is dedicated for bus use only and allows for high speed operation and reliable schedules. Small guide wheels are attached to the regular wheels of the bus. Other guided buses are steered on the roadway with new Guided Light Transit technology. This technology allows the bus to guide itself along the roadway following pavement marking detected by the bus.

There is a significant cost differential between LRT and BRT. The differences in cost are primarily a function of providing the electrical power for light rail as well as the higher cost of LRT vehicles. Due to the difference in the capacity of the vehicles, BRT is likely to have somewhat higher operating costs (more vehicles would be required to provide the same passenger capacity as LRT).

Light rail has demonstrated the capacity to support economic development and transit-oriented development in virtually every LRT system that has been implemented in the country in recent decades. To date, BRT systems do not appear to have as high of a potential to stimulate economic development as LRT. The size of the investment and the permanence of the infrastructure of LRT systems are cited as the reasons that LRT has a larger, positive impact on economic development than BRT.

Impact on Jacksonville:

JTA's BRT plans have significantly changed since being challenged by Metro Jacksonville. An expensive boondoggle in 2006, previous plans called for constructing dedicated busways that would run parallel to existing rail corridors, based on an argument that it would be cheaper than investing in rail.  These plans also included paralleling the skyway (competing for riders) converting Adams Street into a bus transit mall with buses coming along this corridor at a rate of one every 90 seconds during rush hour. 

It was successfully proven by Metro Jacksonville and the community that this plan would cost more than rail, yet not bring in the economic benefits associated with fixed route transit investment.

Today, JTA's BRT plans appear to be adjusting to reflect an express bus service that travels on existing streets.  What this means is a massive reduction in costs, which will free up limited dollars for rail investment while creating limited stop bus lines that serve areas not adjacent to rail corridor.

Potential Rapid Bus & Light Rail corridors are indicated in blue.

Typical BRT Characteristics

Capital Cost/Vehicle: $0.2 - 0.5 million-shared lane

$8 - 25 million-dedicated lane or guideway

Capacity: 60 - 100 per bus

Speed: Average 30 mph; Maximum 60 mph



Image: Express bus in Chicago (Express Bus)

Regional Express Bus offers flexibility in the location and level of service provided. Capital cost to expand service is relatively low. A wide variety of service types can be provided with buses used in premium service, such as express and limited stop.

In express or limited stop service, buses have very few or no stops between where passengers board and the end of the route. Park-and-ride lots are often provided for the users of express bus service. Service frequency can be changed to meet peak period, off-peak period and special event demand. Capacity is limited somewhat by vehicle size. Since buses operate in mixed traffic, it is hard to provide a travel-time savings versus travel by car.

Impact on Jacksonville:

As JTA's BRT network changes from an investment in busway infrastructure to a system that uses existing streets, this system will begin to blend in with the definition of Regional Express Bus service integrated with a few BRT characteristics (ex. traffic signal priority, reduced number of stops, modern stops, etc.).

Potential Express Bus corridors are indicated in green.

Typical Express Bus Characteristics

Capital Cost/Vehicle: $200,000 + (40 ft. urban bus)

Seated Capacity: 15 - 100 per bus (depending on vehicle size and type)

Speed: Average 35 mph; Maximum 60 mph



Image: A tram in Dublin, Ireland (Modern Streetcar)

A tram, tramcar, trolley, trolley car, or streetcar is a rail vehicle of lighter weight and construction than a train, designed for the transport of passengers on tracks running primarily on streets. Certain types of cable car are also known as trams.

Tramways or street railways were common throughout the industrialized world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but they disappeared from most British and U.S. cities in the mid-20th century. By contrast, trams in continental Europe continued to be widely used. In recent years, they have made a comeback both in many U.S. cities and throughout the world.

Streetcars function as a short transit shuttle or connector, in contrast to the longer-distance commuter services typically provided by bus or other rail operations.

Streetcar trips range from a couple blocks to a couple miles, comparing to the average trip length for commuter rail, which ranges from 20 to 23 miles; light rail at 4.4 miles; and bus rapid transit, which is between 4 to 6 miles.

Source: http://www.peachtreecorridor.com/streetcar/

Image: M-Line Streetcar in Dallas (Heritage Streetcar)


Impact on Jacksonville:

JTA's transit plans include the development of a potential streetcar system that could connect Downtown with Springfield, Riverside and San Marco.  If Jacksonville decides to move forward with a streetcar system, it could become the major catalyst for enhancing the image, livability, tax base, population density and atmosphere of the urban core.

Potential streetcar routes are indicated in purple.

Typical Streetcar Characteristics

Capital Cost/Mile: $10 - 40 million

Seated Capacity: 30-125 passengers

Speed: Average 8 to 15 mph; Maximum 45 mph

Sources: Bob Mann, Transportation Consultant & http://www.okfgs.org/documents/maps/fw-d-stc.pdf




Image: Indianapolis Clarion Health Peoplemover (APM)

A people mover or automated people mover (APM) is a fully automated, grade-separated mass transit system. The term is generally used only to describe systems serving relatively small areas such as airports, downtown districts or theme parks, but is sometimes applied to considerably more complex automated systems.

The term was originally applied to two different systems, developed roughly at the same time. One was Skybus, an automated mass transit system prototyped by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation beginning in 1964. The other, called PeopleMover or Goodyear PeopleMover, was an attraction sponsored by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company which opened at Disneyland in 1967. Now, however, the term "people mover" is generic, and may use technologies such as monorail, duorail, automated guideway transit or maglev. Propulsion may involve conventional on-board electric motors, linear motors or cable traction.

Some complex APMs deploy fleets of small vehicles over a track network with off-line stations, and supply near non-stop service to passengers. These taxi-like systems are more usually referred to as personal rapid transit (PRT). Other complex APMs have similar characteristics to mass transit systems, and there is no clear cut distinction between a complex APM of this type and an automated mass transit system. 

The greatest cost liability of monorails relates to their greatest inflexibility – their need to be built entirely grade-separated in some fashion, usually elevated. Even for comparatively small, light-capacity monorails, this means relatively huge, elevated stations, with elevators and, especially for higher-traffic locations, escalators. 

Source: Light Rail Now - http://www.lightrailnow.org/myths/m_monorail001.htm & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People_mover

Impact on Jacksonville:

A 2.5 mile monorail already connects the North and Southbanks of Downtown.  While the Skyway system would benefit from the potential short expansions, ultimate success will depend on Jacksonville's ability to establish regional commuter rail and streetcar routes to feed it with riders traveling from areas outside of Downtown.

Typical Urban Monorail Characteristics

Capital Cost/Mile: $70 - 100 million per mile.

Seated Capacity: 20 to 240

Speed: Average 25 to 35 mph; Maximum 45 mph

Source: 2001 Parsons Brinkerhoff JTA Technology Assessment Report


Article by Ennis Davis

**This article uses the SFECC Description of Conceptual Alternatives as a base for explaining various transit technologies that may become a part of Jacksonville's transportation network. 

The South Florida East Coast Corridor Study:


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