9 Reasons to Expand the Skyway as a Streetcar

November 23, 2015 8 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Like it, love it or hate it, it's decision time concerning what to do with the Skyway's future. Here's 9 reasons why the Skyway should be converted into a lightweight streetcar.

The JTA is currently conducting a Survey in which the public is being asked to select 1 of 5 options for the Skyway's (downtown's elevated train) future:

1. Refurbish vehicles and keep running for 20 years, with no expansion.

2. Replace vehicles and run for another 25 to 40 years, with no expansion to the system.

3. Replace vehicles, run for another 25 to 40 years, and expand the system.

4. Stop operating and tear down

5. Stop operating and convert to elevated multi-use path.

The Skyway's elevated support structure is designed to accommodate the loaded weight of a three-car Bombardier Vehicle (2-car version shown above). The unloaded design weight of the three-car vehicle is 33,100 lbs. The crush (fully loaded) vehicle weight is 53,260 lbs. This vehicle operates on a concrete center beam guideway. The dead load of the concrete guideway, which would have to be removed to accommodate a streetcar, is not included in this analysis.

What most may not understand is that the first three options are based on the concept of the Skyway remaining an elevated Automated People Mover (APM) with limited expansion potential outside of the downtown district.

The problem here is that a 6th option should be under serious consideration. That option should be:

Identify and replace with vehicles that can utilize both the existing elevated Skyway infrastructure, while also having the ability to operate at-grade (on ground and in streets).

Sometimes we make decisions that are less rewarding, more complicated and significantly more expensive than they have to be. Here are 9 reasons why something that's been around since the 19th century should be seriously considered as a potential solution to the Skyway's clouded future.

1. Utilize Existing Infrastructure

It's been determined that the existing guideway structure is unlikely to support a heavier streetcar system. No need to debate this. There is a logical reason for this. The load rating of the Skyway's existing elevated structure was designed to accommodate vehicles with a crush weight of 53,260 lbs. The Brookville liberty modern streetcar, one of the lightest modern streetcars in production, has a crush weight of 83,960 lbs.

With that in mind, here are three heritage streetcar vehicles in operation across the country with crush weights similar to existing Skyway vehicles (click on links for streetcar specifications):

Peter Witt Trolley - Weight (approximate): 33,000 lbs.

A Peter Witt Trolley car on San Francisco's Market & Wharves line.

Melbourne Trolley - Weight (approximate): 40,000 lbs.

A reconditioned Melbourne Trolley by Gomaco Trolley Company.

Presidents' Conference Committee (PCC) Streetcar:35,000 - 42,000 lbs.

San Diego's Silver Line began operations on August 27, 2011. The downtown loop utilizes five vintage PCC streetcars.

The existing Skyway system cost $184 million to construct and includes a double tracked bridge over the St. Johns River, connecting the North and South banks. The elevated structure also allows for efficient and reliable transit movement throughout the downtown core, which is critical in attracting and retaining riders. This invested cost is an asset that should be kept. The heritage vehicles mentioned and shown above preserve this unique Downtown transit amenity.

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