The Mobility Fee Compromise: Winners & Losers

April 11, 2013 28 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

On Tuesday night, the Jacksonville City Council approved a modified version of Councilman Clark's bill that called for a three year, 100% waiver of mobility fees in an effort to stimulate the continued construction of unsustainable new development at the expense of the taxpayer. Today, Metro Jacksonville's Ennis Davis shares what the bill means for Jacksonville and identifies winners and losers from the modified legislation.



Despite not having an opportunity to be a part of a "compromise" that calls for them to assume the greatest risk, Jacksonville's taxpayers will be forced to subsidize and assume the long term financial burden of all future infrastructure needs associated with unsustainable new private development. We can add this bad deal to a long list of money losing propositions the council has forced upon its constituents.


The major impetus of the mobility plan and fee structure is to incentivize market rate infill development by leveling the financial playing field for areas, such as downtown, where sufficient public infrastructure investment already exists. By providing an additional 18 months of subsidies for unsustainable low density growth, the incentive for smart fiscally sustainable development in Jacksonville continues to be delayed.


Nearly everyone in Jacksonville agrees that our mass transit system is unreliable. The mobility fee is the only local source that generates funding for the future implementation of fixed streetcar and commuter rail projects.  It's roadway projects are also intended to help improve high frequency bus corridors throughout the city.  Instead of continuing to utilize the excuse of having no funding to do necessary to enhance mobility (a political tradition in Jacksonville), the mobility plan and fee was structured to do just the opposite by serving as that innovative funding solution. Instead, the 18 month staggered subsidy further delays those quality-of-life improvements and the economic impact they would have on the City of Jacksonville.

Remains to be Determined

Bicycle and Pedestrian projects

On the surface, mass transit and roads appear to take the brunt of the fee reduction, due to an olive branch being handed out to the vocal bicycle/pedestrian community that stormed city hall in opposition to Councilman Clark's original bill.  However, a significant portion of mobility fee funded bicycle and pedestrian projects are included as a part of road construction costs.  For example, widening Normandy Boulevard to six lanes between I-295 and Cecil Commerce Center included over five miles of new sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides of the street as a part of the $54 million road construction estimate.  Those facilities were not included in the mobility plan's bicycle (+$36 million) and pedestrian (+13 million) budget.  Other examples of this include complete streets road projects along Southside Boulevard, Dunn Avenue, Trout River Boulevard, New Berlin Road and Philips Highway.  All of these major bicycle and pedestrian projects will still lose millions in funding over the next 18 months.

Lessons Learned

After being tossed out of Tuesday's Council meeting, some residents raised concerns that this 18-month mobility fee subsidy may be a small step in a larger long term effort by special interest to kill the concept of the mobility plan and fee for eternity.  

Others wondered if our council would actually go as far as killing off the potential of high profile concerts at Metropolitan Park. Everyone wants to know what's the next step for active residents to take in this high stakes game of chess overlooking Hemming Plaza. Well one thing is clear after being a part of this convoluted process.  There's an election coming up before this latest round of subsidies expire. With that in mind, a post from fieldafm in a Metro Jacksonville discussion board serves as a good closing statement for this editorial:

For everyone reading, remember this when these smart people step up to the plate and run for office.  There were quite a few last year that never got past the primary. Being proactive instead of apathetic, is the only way those people can make it happen.  This isn't North Korea, those smart people you speak of have to be elected into office in order to make a difference.  Otherwise, status quo will reign supreme.

Editorial by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at

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