Rethinking the Jacksonville Transportation Center

May 28, 2013 73 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Eight city blocks, five massive new buildings, four stand alone stations, and hundreds of millions of dollars will buy us a dysfunctional transportation center. The alternative is, remodel the Prime Osborn to reflect its original purpose by removing most of a single building, adding pavement and train tracks. For a fraction of the Jacksonvillle Regional Transportation Center (JRTC) planned costs we get eight city blocks of new infill projects, a new convention center and a true multimodal terminal downtown, this is how its done.

An Alternative Idea & Plan

Illustrating a lack of coordination between public agencies, the $180 million JRTC plan didn't take into account that the convention center is outdated, too small and will be possibly relocated from the site.  Ignoring the convention center issue, the current transportation center plan was literally planned around the existing Prime Osborn.

The result is perhaps the most hideous example of epic fail ever to grace a digital screen. Catastrophic, is the word that befits the position Jacksonville will be in if JTA proceeds to break ground in August on the Greyhound station a few blocks north of the Prime Osborn. In the current plan, all of the modes have their own separate station modules, scattered over many city blocks, divided by boulevards and high speed freeway ramps. This is the antithesis of a properly designed transportation center. In fact, when one factors in the current JTA properties, the several proposed multimodal stations, the Skyway maintenance facility, and future rail yards, the combined size is larger then the Vatican, a sovereign state.

However, Greyhound has already signed a lease with JTA for the new station requiring users to walk seven city blocks from train side via a serpentine elevated pedestrian concourse system. This note of alarm was brought up in several meetings I've had with our various city/state agencies, "How do we get out?" "What to do?" As some of you know, I cut my 'transportation teeth' as a supervisor for Tamiami Trailways (Younger people think Greyhound with red paint), which was purchased by Greyhound. In conversations with Mr. David Leach, CEO of Greyhound Corporation, and other officials, I can tell you that Greyhound would be happy to wait another year or two if it results in a better station and superior location. Greyhound added to our conversations that they have already been waiting for '20 years' and don't plan on waiting another 20. In short, we have a shot at a real and effective transportation center, but we've got to stop talking and start doing.

In the conceptual revision of the JRTC plan, virtually all new buildings are eliminated, along with a significant portion of the existing Prime Osborn exhibition hall. The remaining portion of existing exhibition space would be converted into bus and motor coach space. In a strange quirk of fate, the long east-west concourse that was added on the north side of the convention centers exhibition building nearly duplicated one in that 1975 plan.

By elimination of excess construction we could probably cut the bill for the JRTC in half. The cost savings could then be applied to a new convention center in the downtown core. Without a need for all of the buildings in the JRTC plan, grant matches could easily be made by selling the now vacant eight city blocks to a private developer such as Flagler, All Aboard Florida, Hallmark etc. With the developers buying into the plan we get a new and functional transportation center, a new convention center and infill development in LaVilla. This seems like a win for all.

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Left: The expansive proposed JRTC site plan. If JTA has their way, a $5 million Greyhound terminal would break ground this summer, three blocks north of the existing terminal.
Right: An example of a consolidated design that creates additional land for privately built infill development.

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Slides 11 and 12: Examples of what existing infrastructure and buildings could be repurposed for as opposed to building multiple similar structures on surrounding blocks.

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Land and buildings utilized by existing convention center are highlighted in blue.

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Slides 14 and 15: Transportation Centers should be more than places where passengers transfer between modes.  Today, transit districts are being proposed around intermodal centers across the country.  With multiple city blocks available at our disposal, why not Jacksonville?

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As much as eight publicly owned city blocks bounded by Interstate 95, Adams, Lee, and Bay Streets could be utilized for property tax generating transit oriented development, bringing life to LaVilla in the process.

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Article by Robert "Oklahawaha" Mann

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