Jacksonville's Ten Major Missed Opportunities

October 27, 2014 39 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Parts of Jacksonville would look completely different if the opposite decisions were made on these ten missed opportunities.

7. Who Needs Streetcars? GM Says Buses Are Better!

Courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/31292

More than a half-century after streetcars were abandoned and burned, several U.S. cities are working to revive them. Why? Because of their uncanny ability to rapidly transform once-decrepit neighborhoods into economic powerhouses by attracting billions of dollars of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) within walking distance of their routes.

Jacksonville's affiliation with streetcars date back as far as the 1870s. 13,828,904 passengers rode the system in 1912. By 1936, with nearly 60 miles of streetcar track, it had become the largest streetcar system in the state.
Unfortunately 1936 was also the year that Jacksonville's system became the first of Florida's major streetcar companies to cease all operations and be replaced with buses.

In later years it was discovered that the streetcars were shut down and replaced by buses as apart of a General Motors streetcar conspiracy. Also known as the Great American streetcar scandal, the deliberate destruction of streetcars was a part of a larger strategy to push the United States into automobile dependency.

Since that time, the 30 square miles of walkable neighborhoods once served by Jacksonville's streetcar system have declined 50% in population, giving our city's heart the characteristic of being an aging rust belt setting in the sea of rapidly growing automobile dependent surburbia.

Now that we know better, a drive down the streets of the city's oldest neighborhoods today reveals that most of the walkable districts like San Marco Square, Five Points, Downtown, and Park & King, are a direct economic result of the defunct streetcar system.  This helps validate the nationwide push to invest in streetcar networks to serve as a catalyst for infill economic development and confirms our loss in dismantling our reliable public transit system.

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