Next City Ponders JTA Skyway's Future

April 5, 2016 8 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The residents of Jacksonville aren't the only community concerned about the future of the JTA Skyway and its potential to serve more than just the core of downtown Jacksonville.

Next City, a Philadelphia-based publication, recently highlighted Jacksonville's mass transit situation, to its nationwide audience of urban advocates.

Next City is a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic, and environmental change in cities through journalism and events around the world. Here's the introduction to Sandy Smith's Jacksonville Might Modernize 1980s People Mover.

Like bell-bottoms, leisure suits, platform shoes and Brutalist architecture, downtown people movers have come to be regarded by many as period pieces, another of those tragic fashions of the 1970s that might best be relegated to the dustbin of history. Of the four such systems built in the United States from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, only one could be considered an unqualified success: Miami’s. And that’s because the rapid transit system for which it was to serve as a collector/distributor also got built too. The system in Morgantown, West Virginia, is a qualified success, as the on-demand service is generally considered the first working example of personal rapid transit.

That leaves the other two systems, both orphans of grander plans that were never realized. Detroit’s people mover gamely soldiers on while private investors place their hopes for the future on a modern streetcar line. And then there’s the Jacksonville Skyway, a double anomaly in that it not only never got connected to a proposed light-rail system but it also employs a monorail technology that is no longer being made or supported. As the Skyway’s rail cars are reaching the end of their useful lives, the question of whether or how to equip it for the future has become a live one in Florida’s largest city.

Both the Jacksonville Transit Authority and local residents seem to agree that the Skyway should be modernized and maybe even extended so that it actually goes somewhere useful. What remains unsettled is how that should be done.

Enter Ennis Davis and Robert Mann, two of the co-editors/publishers of Metro Jacksonville, a blog devoted to news and opinion for the city with a special focus on development and planning issues. In its nine years of existence, the blog has championed food trucks as a vital element in a vibrant urban streetscape, fought ill-thought-out road-building proposals and torpedoed the JTA’s plan to turn a major downtown thoroughfare into a bus-only mall. The site’s small but knowledgeable staff has outsize influence on the shaping of Jacksonville’s future. Once again, the pair are offering an alternative vision for the JTA as it searches for a future for the Skyway:

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