9 Reasons to Expand the Skyway as a StreetcarNovember 23, 2015 8 comments 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.
2. Federal Payback Obligation
Under the assumption that anything other than keeping the existing obsolete Skyway vehicles or replacing them with similar APM technology would require the complete demolition of the Skyway system and the JTA would then have to repay millions to the federal government. In addition, the credibility we have in leveraging federal dollars for local transportation projects would be severely damaged. According to the Jax Daily Record, overall, decommissioning could cost the JTA and local taxpayers as much as $79 million. There's no need for us to go down this path if we retrofit the Skyway's existing infrastructure and stations to accommodate new vehicles.
3. Expansion Opportunities
The biggest local gripe about the Skyway is that it does not go anywhere. None of the current options under consideration resolve this issue. This potential Skyway expansion map illustrates all we need to know. This is due to the fact that the existing Skyway's APM technology acts as a downtown circulator, and is not a practical technical solution for expansion to areas outside of the downtown proper. In addition, there's a contextual problem with forcing the APM's elevated infrastructure into historic districts like Riverside/Avondale and Springfield. What's the point of investing millions into something that still won't be able to deliver transit riders to a variety of destinations outside of Downtown?
This sketch by Metro Jacksonville's Robert Mann illustrates how the Skyway's reach could be extended by switching to vehicles that can utilize the existing elevated structure and also operate at street level.
Conversely, in 1912, 13,828,904 passengers rode versions of the heritage streetcars represented above on a 42-mile system covering Jacksonville's entire urban core. This streetcar network had grown to 60 miles, stretching as far as NAS Jax and Panama Park, before being pulled up and replaced by buses in 1936. Today, the largest streetcar system in the country using heritage streetcar vehicles (both vintage and new) is in New Orleans. At 22.3 miles in length, it's proof that using these vehicles can facilitate expansion of the Skyway system to serve several areas of town outside of the Downtown proper.