Author Topic: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase  (Read 6090 times)

bl8jaxnative

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #60 on: April 12, 2021, 10:08:27 AM »

Trying to update the skyway to handle robobuses is throwing good money after bad.

The cost of updating the skyway and having equipment to do that is likely to cost hundreds of millions on it's.  Just the cost of the hybrid stuff.  no ones ever done it.  And for good reason, it's extremely complex and not easy to have it occur safely 100% of the time.

There is zero need to use the skyway for U2C.  Zero.  It brings nothing but problems and costs.   Smarter people would walk away from it.  Politicians don't tend to be those sort of smart people.

marcuscnelson

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #61 on: April 12, 2021, 08:50:25 PM »
I'll keep your questions in mind. I'm meeting with JTA on Monday afternoon.

So how'd it go? Saw David Cawton tweet about you.
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thelakelander

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #62 on: April 12, 2021, 10:42:53 PM »
I spent about two hours with them. They had a lot to say about the technology they've been testing at their facility, what they've learned so far and where they'd like to go. My opinion and concerns remain the same about the Skyway conversion to the U2C specifically. There's a lot we don't know yet, many local decisions that are out of their control and the question of whether taxpayers should fund the U2C 100% with local gas tax money is something that can't be answered via a technology testing and evaluation overview. Nevertheless, they promised to provide an official response to all the questions I asked later this week.
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jaxlongtimer

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #63 on: April 13, 2021, 01:09:45 AM »
I spent about two hours with them. They had a lot to say about the technology they've been testing at their facility, what they've learned so far and where they'd like to go. My opinion and concerns remain the same about the Skyway conversion to the U2C specifically. There's a lot we don't know yet, many local decisions that are out of their control and the question of whether taxpayers should fund the U2C 100% with local gas tax money is something that can't be answered via a technology testing and evaluation overview. Nevertheless, they promised to provide an official response to all the questions I asked later this week.

Good of JTA to give you time to review your concerns.  That said, I will be interested in how they think they "can go where no one else has ventured before, exploring new frontiers."  I would think that after all their testing they would realize they are not qualified to climb the mountain before them.  Let better prepared others go and show the way.

Nat Ford has worked hard to build his and JTA's reputation so I don't know why he is willing to throw it all away over this project.  Its failure will way overshadow the BRT system and RTC he has built as the Skyway is a literally a white elephant that can't be ignored.  If he came out and said it's time to kill it I can't imagine anyone contesting the decision.  Most citizens would applaud his heroic action to do so.

I think using the Skyway as a Highline for pedestrians would qualify it as a manageable "transportation project" to be funded by the gas tax.  More people would use the Skyway for that than will ever ride the AV's and it could be delivered for a fraction of the cost.  As an amenity to Downtown as well as an iconic attraction, it could be a real driver for Downtown development.  The current plan will only push support for Downtown to ever lower levels.

thelakelander

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #64 on: April 13, 2021, 06:40:34 AM »
I seriously doubt the Skyway as a Highline is remotely feasible. That's been occasionally mentioned over the years, but neither the infrastructure or context is remotely comparable. Plus, the Emerald Trail is moving forward and essentially gives you the same thing in an Underline condition. No matter the transit investment, the area needs some density. Basically what it had when the Skyway was first proposed. IMO, keeping it simple remains the best approach for the Skyway as of now. Renovation, low headways and operation on weekends still makes the most sense, combined with feeding riders into it through complimentary transit coordination and land use development.  Regardless of what's done, the gas tax issue is a separate one. No single project should eat up such a large portion of that funding, IMO. Spread the wealth in a way that can be transformative, while benefitting thousands more Jaxsons.
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thelakelander

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #65 on: April 13, 2021, 07:36:50 AM »
Good move by the council. We need the nuts and bolts about this project and why it should be 100% funded by the gas tax at the expense of other needs around the city.

Quote
Jacksonville City Council questions mount about spending $379 million on Skyway conversion

A proposed $379 million overhaul and expansion of the Skyway system in downtown Jacksonville faces growing questions from City Council members as they prepare for a likely vote on doubling the local gas tax.

City Council Finance Committee Chairman Matt Carlucci sent the Jacksonville Transportation Authority a list of queries Monday and said that depending on how much public support and council buy-in there is, the amount of money for the Skyway might need to be reduced.

“What I’m telling people is to keep an open mind to it," Carlucci said. "That’s what I’m doing, but it’s up to the JTA to sell it. If it turns into some kind of big drama, it may need to be downsized because I don’t want the Skyway taking down all the other gas tax projects.”

https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/local/2021/04/13/jacksonville-skyway-questions-mount-over-using-gas-tax-project/7193852002/
« Last Edit: April 13, 2021, 07:41:52 AM by thelakelander »
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marcuscnelson

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #66 on: April 13, 2021, 07:56:38 AM »
^ Looking forward to seeing JTA's response, Lake. Very good points.

After some thought, research, and discussion, I think I've put together a possible explanation for how we got here. I'd like to lay it out and see if it makes sense.



Turn back the clock to 2015. JTA is finally seeking public opinion on what to do with the Skyway monorail. JTA's board and a committee of "downtown stakeholders" (not experts) gather opinion on five options:

Quote
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.

There's a crucial error made here. Construction of an LRT system, using modern vehicles such as Bombardier's Flexity or Brookville's Liberty, would require choosing Option 4 or 5, tearing down the system and paying back the federal government. Historic vehicles aren't viewed as an option due to the uncertain nature of their procurement and the expectation of the public demanding a modern system. The assumption is made that any "keeping" of the system is going to have to mean a people-mover or monorail system of some kind. But this isn't properly communicated. After much deliberation, Option 3 is chosen. JTA's board adopts a resolution to "keep, modernize, and expand" the Skyway.

But suddenly, multiple problems strike at once. The technical assessment reports modern LRT vehicles are too heavy for the guideway, while also operating beyond the mission of an urban circulator. Modern people-mover vehicles are designed for elevated, grade-separated guideway. But communities favored for expansion like Riverside, San Marco, and Springfield would be opposed to building elevated extensions down their streets, meaning any extension would have to be largely at-grade. Tearing down the existing system and starting over would require paying tens of millions back to the federal government, money JTA doesn't have right now, with no knowledge of whether voters or the city would provide any. JTA has already publicly committed to "keep, modernize, and expand" the Skyway. They've painted themselves into a corner.

Enter the autonomous vehicle, sometime in 2016. As stated in JTA's reports, AVs are largely untested, but at this point show promise as a solution to all their problems. Perhaps not now, but within a few short years, it could be realistic to operate next-generation versions as an urban circulator. Most of the renderings created at this time show AVs grade-separated, or at least in lanes separated from traffic. High risk, but high reward if it works, which the trend of technological development points to being the case. Looking at the options as they stand, they decide to make a bet on AVs.

Obviously people in places like this forum are confused, but the AV suppliers, like EasyMile, Navya, and Local, jump for the kill. For the next year and a half, JTA is inundated with promises about the capability of these vehicles, and the various stages of experimentation in which they exist. Eventually, they're even convinced that these vehicles will very soon be capable of mixed traffic operation. By late 2017, the buzzwords about technology and innovation have won the leadership over with the promise of near-future capability. It's okay that it doesn't work yet, because it will surely work soon.

But we've seen how it's gone. JTA has spent potentially millions experimenting, showered in the glory of national attention for their bravery. VP of Automation Bernard Schmidt is making a cool quarter-million a year to make it work. They're a darling of the industry, a national example of the future's promise, which they've attempted to make the public part of in spite of pesky nuisances claiming they're wrong. How could they be wrong? Sure, it's not ready quite yet, but it'll be ready soon. They've gone as far as to create dazzling presentations of a city crafted by technology they pioneered. They've applied for and accepted federal dollars to get started. It's not quite there but almost, just two, or three, maybe four more years! Soon enough! C'mon, just approve the gas tax and they'll show you how it works! They've come too far to just stop now!

Which brings us, to now. Five years of sunken costs and institutional momentum. Either they're going to the moon or blowing into smithereens. They've spent so much time in a bubble, surrounded by reassurances that this is all going to work soon enough, that the sudden collision with reality caused by the gravity of their funding request, one they chose to fully fund this project that's totally going to work, threatens to violently bring the whole ride to a halt. To the point that they're scrambling to defend their position as questioning Council members and a concerned public begins to circle in a way that's all too familiar to those who watched Lot J collapse just a few months ago.

All because they failed to consider the gravity of what was demanded by a mandate to "keep, modernize, and expand."
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

jaxlongtimer

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #67 on: April 13, 2021, 11:31:14 AM »
^As you infer, JTA's biggest issues are politics, egos and bureaucratic laziness (i.e. failure to explore all options and risks and weigh them appropriately vs. let's just get something done, anything, to look important).  They are not alone - these ailments seem to be running rampant nowadays in this City.  - more so than usual. 

Unfortunately, these deficiencies manage to conspire to create poor decision making processes, particularly when they require a business-like approach.  It should be about obtaining the highest ROI for the taxpayers' investments.  It's not about losing money but providing the greatest value, creating a sustainable solution and serving the most people.  The AV-Skyway is far from doing any of these things as/is was Lot J, the Hart Bridge ramps, the Landing, the Shipyards, Metro Park and many other City projects being pushed through lately.

thelakelander

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #68 on: April 13, 2021, 12:01:29 PM »
I love your overview Marcus! I laughed a few times as I read it.

There is a simple solution though. It's the Bay Street Innovation Corridor. There's no reason why a Bay Street (or even Park Street between Brooklyn and Five Points) can't be revamped into a "complete street" with a dedicated transit lane where technologies like AVs can be piloted (or even used by regular buses and the Flyer)....without touching the Skyway. Either corridor would be hundreds of millions cheaper to do and provide the same technology benefits that JTA has been trying to sell to the public. At the end of the day, JTA still gets to play with their experiment and if deemed successful, it could be utilized to secure additional state and federal funding. If things fail to materialized as dreamed, Jax isn't left holding the bag of a super expensive disaster. That same transit lane can be used by regular buses or converted into a shared use path or something. The hundreds of millions in gas tax money not allocated to the Skyway/U2C or whatever, means those dollars can be redistributed city wide to fund other projects that benefit a larger cross section of the city, which is a big political win for the mayor and council.

All because they failed to consider the gravity of what was demanded by a mandate to "keep, modernize, and expand."

What's described above also fits within the mandate to "keep, modernize, and expand". Even as a pilot, a completely different transit technology that connects to the existing Skyway system but serves a new corridor.....is expansion! Opening a new Skyway station in Brooklyn.....is expansion! So, "keep and modernize" the existing system by incorporating common peoplemover equipment used worldwide, which will drop maintenance cost and buy yourself another 20 years or so. More importantly, aggressively work to cluster density around the existing system. Because at the end of the day, no matter the transit technology selected, if downtown and the urban core remain dead, the system will also be a dead one that struggles to build and maintain consistent ridership.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2021, 12:03:47 PM by thelakelander »
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thelakelander

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #69 on: April 13, 2021, 12:15:21 PM »
Just got this via email from CM Becton's office. I assume CM Becton is a no to the gas tax, regardless of if the Skyway is in it or not:

Quote
Dear Colleagues, Constituents and Friends,

A new year is finally here, and it could not have come soon enough. It was over one year ago that we began changing many aspects of our lives, which may alter our pursuit of happiness and quality of life forever.

It will be up to us to maintain some level of reasonableness when understanding the difference between a life without the ability to smile at one another and how everyday life has some levels of risks worth taking. So, how valuable are personal freedoms to you? The answer will slowly unravel in the months and years ahead as to whether our freedoms are restored or given up forever.

One thing that I am certain of is the heavy price we paid, and will continue to pay, for the decisions that have been made and actions taken over the past year. Trillions of dollars lost on a national level, and over $100 million locally has been spent in the blink of an eye. Checks have arrived in the mail for most Americans and assistance has been provided for those in need. For those who expected these actions to not have consequences, I hope I am not the barrier of bad news with this reminder: Nothing in life is free. Sooner or later, as we have seen time and time again, those who are being helped today are more likely to be the ones who will suffer the most in years to come.

Locally and nationally, I am witnessing constant pressure every day to raise taxes. Over the past year, I have personally stood against those who wanted more of your money with the justification that it is never enough. It is often stated that Jacksonville runs on the cheap and at the same time it is questioned if our consolidated government we have, working the way that it is supposed to? Well, it is my contention that our city does have a millage advantage over others, and it is exactly for this reason, consolidation has provided efficiencies in which yes, we are financially advantaged.

The topic of a new gas tax appears to be the soup-de-jour and new desire for those tax and spending supporters. While the idea of spreading our transportation expense over a broader group of taxpayers is appealing, what really brother’s me - outside of it just being a flat out a “tax Increase”- is the fact that we are again looking to mortgage our children’s future tax revenue. The idea of utilizing the next 30+ years or more of gas tax revenue to pay for $930 million of road improvements today makes me question; what will be left for those taxpayers when those same roads and more need resurfacing in 15 years? Where will they be expected to find tax revenue to pay for their needs? Already, we have pushed our pension liabilities out thru 2045 and beyond, with the extension of the sales tax. And, if you think these taxes are ever temporary? Well, we all know the answer to that question. As I have stated to constituents that have asked, I do not support an increase in taxes unless it is accompanied by an offsetting tax decrease somewhere else. Our budget is already over by $300 million more annually today and still growing than in 2015. My contention, we do not have a Revenue problem. We have a Spending problem!
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WAJAS

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #70 on: April 13, 2021, 01:25:24 PM »
If they really think the AV thing can work, then there should be similar opinions from other successful Transportation Organizations. I wonder if this technology is being pursued anywhere else in the States. I know Lake Nona has a driverless bus shuttle operating, and it went pretty smoothly on a public ROW with other parked and moving vehicles. It's speed was low though. I wonder what those residents think about it.

thelakelander

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #71 on: April 13, 2021, 02:12:42 PM »
^None of those things are popular for everyday transit use. Most of those pilots, Lake Nona included, are gimmicks but very important for the testing of a technology with a ton of unknowns. Heck, half of these things still can't even operate properly in rain. So when it comes to the Skyway, it's better to separate the two. If someone wants to test things in a real world environment, take a local street and retrofit it to do it. One up that by taking a local street that actually connects an existing Skyway station with a viable destination where the Skyway does not currently operate. TIAA Bank Field and Five Points are two examples. We can do both without touching the Skyway infrastructure. So remove the cost of modifying the Skyway infrastructure out of the gas tax and lets see what the gas tax savings are. We can play the same game with the various expansion routes as well.
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

marcuscnelson

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #72 on: April 13, 2021, 04:04:48 PM »
^As you infer, JTA's biggest issues are politics, egos and bureaucratic laziness (i.e. failure to explore all options and risks and weigh them appropriately vs. let's just get something done, anything, to look important).  They are not alone - these ailments seem to be running rampant nowadays in this City.  - more so than usual. 

Unfortunately, these deficiencies manage to conspire to create poor decision making processes, particularly when they require a business-like approach.  It should be about obtaining the highest ROI for the taxpayers' investments.  It's not about losing money but providing the greatest value, creating a sustainable solution and serving the most people.  The AV-Skyway is far from doing any of these things as/is was Lot J, the Hart Bridge ramps, the Landing, the Shipyards, Metro Park and many other City projects being pushed through lately.

The problem is what I pointed out happened in ~2017 and later. This isn't about ROI or serving people anymore. They've spent years in an echo chamber being told they're pioneers, they're building the transportation system of the future, they're innovating, transforming Jacksonville into a smart city. They're the ones hosting the industry forums. Look at this response to a question I submitted at their TOD presentation a year ago. "Leading the way for the technology." But also "it's phased" because it's not there yet but soon. JTA is "writing the book." "We just need to not lose sight of what this program is." "It's an urban circulator, not a rail system."

There is a simple solution though. It's the Bay Street Innovation Corridor. There's no reason why a Bay Street (or even Park Street between Brooklyn and Five Points) can't be revamped into a "complete street" with a dedicated transit lane where technologies like AVs can be piloted (or even used by regular buses and the Flyer)....without touching the Skyway. Either corridor would be hundreds of millions cheaper to do and provide the same technology benefits that JTA has been trying to sell to the public. At the end of the day, JTA still gets to play with their experiment and if deemed successful, it could be utilized to secure additional state and federal funding. If things fail to materialized as dreamed, Jax isn't left holding the bag of a super expensive disaster. That same transit lane can be used by regular buses or converted into a shared use path or something. The hundreds of millions in gas tax money not allocated to the Skyway/U2C or whatever, means those dollars can be redistributed city wide to fund other projects that benefit a larger cross section of the city, which is a big political win for the mayor and council.

Some urban planning folks I've been sharing our city and particularly the Skyway/U2C with, have called it, particularly the Bay Street Innovation Corridor, a "gadgetbahn," which I suppose says a lot about how common the mentality is. Like I said, one of the big problems is them being inundated with promises about the "near-future" capability, which is how we went from something vaguely along the lines of what you're saying:



To what they're now insisting is just two, well now three or four, years away:



And keeping in mind that the point is "modernizing" the system, which to them has meant replacing the monorail with those "next-gen" vehicles that are right around the corner.

All because they failed to consider the gravity of what was demanded by a mandate to "keep, modernize, and expand."

What's described above also fits within the mandate to "keep, modernize, and expand". Even as a pilot, a completely different transit technology that connects to the existing Skyway system but serves a new corridor.....is expansion! Opening a new Skyway station in Brooklyn.....is expansion! So, "keep and modernize" the existing system by incorporating common peoplemover equipment used worldwide, which will drop maintenance cost and buy yourself another 20 years or so. More importantly, aggressively work to cluster density around the existing system. Because at the end of the day, no matter the transit technology selected, if downtown and the urban core remain dead, the system will also be a dead one that struggles to build and maintain consistent ridership.

It does also fit, but it's at odds with the culture and mentality that the AV suppliers and their own hubris have built over the last five years. The goal is having something they can build as soon as it's ready into Springfield and Riverside and San Marco, because the lesson they feel they've learned is that they have to build the full 10-mile system ASAP or it's not happening at all. It's not supposed to be an experiment anymore, it's almost ready, it's going to happen, right around the corner. The question is whether the coming storm of political and public pushback is enough to force a rethink of their plan, or if they circle the AVs and soldier on.
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

jaxlongtimer

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #73 on: April 13, 2021, 05:35:48 PM »
Quote
Some urban planning folks I've been sharing our city and particularly the Skyway/U2C with, have called it, particularly the Bay Street Innovation Corridor, a "gadgetbahn," which I suppose says a lot about how common the mentality is.

I have a better name... the "gadgetKHAN" as I believe that is the only reason there is a push to put all these resources into the portion of Bay Street that just happens to lead to the stadium.  If Lot J went through, or now the Four Seasons, it all would benefit Khan... if it ever works which remains an open question.

marcuscnelson

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Re: Skyway expansion in Jacksonville at stake in proposed gas tax increase
« Reply #74 on: April 13, 2021, 06:07:45 PM »
Very funny, although I think in general there's good reason to build connectivity to the stadium district anyway, regardless of Khan. It'd be a good thing if you could get there without driving.

Side note, a few minutes ago I spoke at tonight's City Council meeting about the U2C, and just now some "Transportation Specialist" at Michael Baker just checked my LinkedIn profile.
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey