Author Topic: Commuter Rail's Return?  (Read 7329 times)

Tacachale

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8064
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #30 on: August 02, 2021, 02:38:19 PM »
^This route likely makes more sense. Clay has traffic gridlock that the I-95 corridor will never have and there's no viable roadway based solution out there to resolve them north of Fleming Island. On the other hand, FEC appears to be much easier to work with than CSX. That's about the only reason why I can see the push to get something on the FEC up before the CSX A line.

Anecdotally, I have a friend who works for FEC after years at CSX. He says it's like night and day between the companies when it comes to these kinds of relationships.
Do you believe that when the blue jay or another bird sings and the body is trembling, that is a signal that people are coming or something important is about to happen?

marcuscnelson

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1439
  • Gen Z - Tired of the status quo
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #31 on: August 02, 2021, 03:10:18 PM »
I get that Gatlin is going to build, I'm saying that there's still room for the station even with the apartment going there.

I'm confused. Where? That's wetland to the south of the apartment complex property. It would be pretty difficult to gain approval to acquire environmentally sensitive land in the back of a residential area and fill it in for a train station parking lot.

I put together this concept, but I do now see that's a wetland. In which case, I'm not sure there's still an option for JTA along that section of the corridor. Unless they build it down at Nease High or up at maybe the Gate in Bayard, I think Racetrack might be beyond saving in terms of a station.



I'd really, really, really be surprised if FDOT took over a commuter rail project on the FEC....or anywhere in Northeast Florida. Especially, FDOT District 2.

That seems to be the plan, whether it's truly doable is in Nat Ford's court, really.

Jax would be smart to include a secondary route in this study: Downtown - Murray Hill - NAS - Orange Park

The FEC has been the preferred corridor to launch commuter rail since 2013. The federal grant they're using for this study only includes these four specific stations on the FEC. My guess is that St. Augustine is considered a stronger terminal destination than Orange Park or Green Cove, plus the issues with the host railroads.

^This route likely makes more sense. Clay has traffic gridlock that the I-95 corridor will never have and there's no viable roadway based solution out there to resolve them north of Fleming Island. On the other hand, FEC appears to be much easier to work with than CSX. That's about the only reason why I can see the push to get something on the FEC up before the CSX A line.

From JTA's standpoint, there's also the issue that if you're trying to fund this as highway mitigation, there's no highway project to piggyback off of in Clay County. It might be better in terms of being able to build your ridership, but that's not meaningful if you have no avenue to fund it in the first place. Although it's certainly be nice if whatever infrastructure bill package has enough funding that can be used to turn attention to the A-Line, whether that's through getting the FEC line done or being directed into the A-Line corridor.

I spoke to some friends who also have involvement with transit, and their big question was why it sounds like JTA is planning a SunRail-style service with bilevel coaches and a locomotive instead of something more akin to TexRail with Stadler DMUs. They're also going for low-level platforms, which seems strange if there are no existing stations mandating that standard. Unless they're getting used rolling stock for steep discounts, building the foundation for future, more rapid service seemed useful.

One thing I'm also worried about is the eventual cost. I know Lake's pointed out the utility in waiting for Brightline, but assuming that doesn't happen, JTA really needs to go all-in and have in-house rail development. They already know they want to spend the next twenty years building out a rail network, so bring the people in now instead of spending millions on consultants. We've already watched the price more than double in a decade, at this rate the actual built line will be a billion dollars, before you start looking at all the CSX lines to deal with.
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

thelakelander

  • The Jaxson
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32881
    • Modern Cities
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #32 on: August 02, 2021, 09:39:55 PM »
Racetrack may not work as proposed but perhaps the area around the CR 210 overpass can be an alternative possibility?

I'd really, really, really be surprised if FDOT took over a commuter rail project on the FEC....or anywhere in Northeast Florida. Especially, FDOT District 2.

That seems to be the plan, whether it's truly doable is in Nat Ford's court, really.

FDOT calls their own shots. Totally opposite approach from the U2C, which they tried to fund totally with local dollars. With this one, they seem to want FDOT to take it over. I find it very hard to imagine the state wanting to fund this. The I-95 widenings start in 2023. If this were to be a mitigation project, it should have been funded and already underway by now. Considering they haven't done a PD&E yet (which takes a few years itself) chances are that the I-95 work will be largely complete before they ever break ground on this.



Quote
^This route likely makes more sense. Clay has traffic gridlock that the I-95 corridor will never have and there's no viable roadway based solution out there to resolve them north of Fleming Island. On the other hand, FEC appears to be much easier to work with than CSX. That's about the only reason why I can see the push to get something on the FEC up before the CSX A line.

From JTA's standpoint, there's also the issue that if you're trying to fund this as highway mitigation, there's no highway project to piggyback off of in Clay County. It might be better in terms of being able to build your ridership, but that's not meaningful if you have no avenue to fund it in the first place. Although it's certainly be nice if whatever infrastructure bill package has enough funding that can be used to turn attention to the A-Line, whether that's through getting the FEC line done or being directed into the A-Line corridor.

I-95 is a FDOT project. They can (and likely will) widen the road without paying $400 million for a parallel rail project with low ridership. Not sure where FDOT would need JTA involved to widen the highway in St. Johns County. I also expect that Amtrak and Brightline will get money out of that infrastructure bill package before any rail construction money comes to JTA. So hopefully, either avenue will benefit NE Florida.

Quote
I spoke to some friends who also have involvement with transit, and their big question was why it sounds like JTA is planning a SunRail-style service with bilevel coaches and a locomotive instead of something more akin to TexRail with Stadler DMUs. They're also going for low-level platforms, which seems strange if there are no existing stations mandating that standard. Unless they're getting used rolling stock for steep discounts, building the foundation for future, more rapid service seemed useful.

The concept is so conceptual that I wouldn't worry too much about it at this point. Once they move into more advanced analysis, a lot of what's presented and assumed will change....and the cost will also go up.

"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

jaxlongtimer

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1360
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #33 on: August 02, 2021, 11:31:14 PM »
I wonder if there is another option not being discussed here which is to bring the rail down the center or sides of the interstate.  I have seen this elsewhere such as the Metro running down Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia outside DC. If we did long range planning for rail we would leave this possibility open on I-95 and maybe I-295.  But around here, it is probably just a pipe dream.




Elsewhere:

thelakelander

  • The Jaxson
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32881
    • Modern Cities
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #34 on: August 03, 2021, 08:51:21 AM »
^Pipe dream. NE Florida's low population density doesn't support that option (DC Metro is heavy rail) and it would be a couple billion verses the $400 million project (I-95 basically parallels FEC, so existing rail would be preferred for commuter rail) being discussed now.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2021, 08:53:45 AM by thelakelander »
"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

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1439
  • Gen Z - Tired of the status quo
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #35 on: August 15, 2021, 02:30:15 AM »
Racetrack may not work as proposed but perhaps the area around the CR 210 overpass can be an alternative possibility?

Last I checked, that was currently planned for an industrial park.


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

thelakelander

  • The Jaxson
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32881
    • Modern Cities
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #36 on: August 15, 2021, 12:36:05 PM »
I was thinking of a portion of the triangular track shaped by FEC, Old 210 and the 210 overpass. Right near the utilities facility. Anything planned there?
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

thelakelander

  • The Jaxson
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32881
    • Modern Cities
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #37 on: August 15, 2021, 12:40:36 PM »
That industrial development may work as well if JTA believes in the project enough to buy a parcel from the developer, sooner rather then later.
"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

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1439
  • Gen Z - Tired of the status quo
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #38 on: August 15, 2021, 08:27:10 PM »
I was thinking of a portion of the triangular track shaped by FEC, Old 210 and the 210 overpass. Right near the utilities facility. Anything planned there?

Oh, that. On the master development plan that's all "light industrial/office/flex space" space, including a school bus depot (which the school district has already bought land for) and some workforce housing.



So it's possible they haven't secured tenants for the remaining flex space, and if JTA wanted to/could afford to, they could buy it for a more mixed-use development. It wouldn't be all that conveniently located compared to the rest of the development, or to Nocatee and Durbin where they might have hoped for the additional ridership from, but they could.
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

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1360
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #39 on: August 15, 2021, 09:59:56 PM »
It wouldn't be all that conveniently located compared to the rest of the development, or to Nocatee and Durbin where they might have hoped for the additional ridership from, but they could.

Looking at the aerials, it would appear that 210 easily flows into Nocatee's 4 lane Valley Ridge Blvd. that cuts through the heart of Nocatee.  It also appears that with what appears to be sizable FDOT retention ponds on the east side of US 1 at 210, an interchange between 210 and US 1 could be built a la the one between US 1 and Nocatee Parkway.  If this was done, those on Race Track would have easy access to a station off 210 by traversing south on US 1.  I am actually a bit surprised the interchange isn't already there and wonder if it is in a master FDOT plan somewhere.  Anyone know?

Charles Hunter

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3550
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #40 on: August 15, 2021, 10:09:58 PM »
If I remember correctly, FDOT has (had?) plans for a second phase at the new overpass connecting the two parts of 210. They would add ramps so US 1 traffic to/from the west wouldn't have to get caught at the RR crossing.

thelakelander

  • The Jaxson
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32881
    • Modern Cities
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #41 on: August 19, 2021, 09:30:56 PM »

That industrial development may work as well if JTA believes in the project enough to buy a parcel from the developer, sooner rather then later.
Received a response from JTA about this commuter rail plan for a future Jaxson article. At this point, this isn't a serious proposal. At this time the JTA is discussing the concept with stake holders to see if there is an interest to have formal discussions on the idea.
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

Charles Hunter

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3550
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #42 on: August 19, 2021, 11:14:11 PM »
Received a response from JTA about this commuter rail plan for a future Jaxson article. At this point, this isn't a serious proposal. At this time the JTA is discussing the concept with stake holders to see if there is an interest to have formal discussions on the idea.

So, JTA is having discussions to decide if they will have discussions?   ::)

jaxlongtimer

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1360
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #43 on: September 20, 2021, 06:03:07 PM »
Here is the latest out today on JTA, commuter rail and TOD:
Quote
Someday, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority would like to see commuter rail running between downtown Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

First, it wants to see if private-sector development would support such a project.

“We know we are looking at commuter rail,” JTA CEO Nathaniel Ford Sr. told the Business Journal. "We see doing a study like this helps us with the development of the project and potential revenue to support the building of the station. When you look at the commuter rail operation, there’s an opportunity for private investment to help support the operation and the construction of the operation.”

To see what the potential is for such support, JTA is in the process of hiring WSP USA Inc. to study the feasibility of transit-oriented development along a potential 38-mile light rail corridor between downtown and St. Augustine.

The goal of the study, Ford said, is to identify development opportunities that would offset the cost of erecting commuter rail stations. Such opportunities, known as transit-oriented development, could include residential housing, retail and restaurants around the station.

While such development may not directly generate revenue for JTA, it could play a role in making the agency a more credible candidate when it applies for infrastructure funding from the Federal Transit Authority and other federal agencies.

JTA will pay WSP $1.21 million for the study, which would focus on four possible station locations: the northern terminus at the Prime Osbourne Convention Center; an ‘Avenues Walk’ location adjacent to Southside Boulevard and U.S. 1; a northern St. Johns County location near Race Track Road and U.S. 1; and the southern terminus on the outskirts of downtown St. Augustine at the intersection of U.S. 1 and King Street.

The authority owns the Avenues Walk Park-n-Ride facility along U.S. 1 as well as the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center but not property adjacent to the two other proposed stations. It does not plan to purchase property for the commuter rail project, which would run on track owned by Florida East Coast Railway.

Federal dollars are paying for 80% of the cost of the commuter rail study and a similar one looking at transit-oriented development around the First Coast Flyer Green Line, the bus rapid transit connector between the JTA headquarters and the Armsdale Park-n-Ride facility located near Interstate 295 in North Jacksonville.

Bus rapid transit, or BRT, is a system in which buses use dedicated lanes and premium terminals and have fewer stopes, providing some of the benefits of rail without the expense.

In its application for federal funding, JTA identified the Green Line as ripe for transit-oriented development because the route operates in multiple opportunity zones and “impacts a historically underserved area in terms of infrastructure improvements."

Although the 10-mile-long Green Line opened in 2014, this is the first time JTA has looked at what development could take place along the $33.2 million project.

"What we are trying to do is encourage development in and around BRT nodes, similar to what you would do around a rail station,” Ford said.

JTA is negotiating with Renaissance Group to handle the $1.17 million Green Line study. The contracts with both WSP and Renaissance are slated to be signed this fall with the studies are scheduled to be completed in October 2022.

More information on transit-oriented development is also on the way. Ford said the agency should have a study on the potential for development around the Ultimate Urban Circulator project finalized by the end of September, providing context on transportation, residential housing and business opportunities along the proposed 10-mile network.

That study was funded by a $1 million grant from the FTA and conducted by WSP.

Ford said having studies in hand allows JTA to approach developers and encourage them to do projects along JTA's routes.

“We can’t wait for the development community, in some cases, to understand the value of transportation infrastructure,” Ford said. “The USDOT is providing transit authorities that funding that allows us to front-load some of that planning work and make it enticing. A lot of the planning work that a developer would have to do on their own dime, we’re doing it.”

https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2021/09/20/jta-tod-study.html?utm_source=st&utm_medium=en&utm_campaign=ae&utm_content=ja&ana=e_ja_ae&j=25091811&senddate=2021-09-20

marcuscnelson

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1439
  • Gen Z - Tired of the status quo
Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #44 on: September 20, 2021, 10:24:51 PM »
So… basically no progress. I thought they'd signed the contract for the study weeks ago.

Perhaps not the worst thing that they'll take a year to do it, the broader climate re: federal funding and Brightline's path to North Florida might be clearer by then.

I'm a little confused, though. If the development doesn't generate revenue for JTA, how would it offset the cost? Am I missing something there, or are they explaining it wrong?

It's been explained pretty extensively that the Race Track Road station as originally planned won't work, so I'm curious what alternative WSP will find.

It's also worth noting that if it ever happens, this would be the first commuter operation in the state to not operate on state-owned trackage. Curious how FEC and Brightline will respond to/accommodate that. Also unsure of how exactly they're going to manage operating from stations they don't own, in the case of Race Track Road and St. Augustine.

Re:U2C, I'm particularly curious to see just how supportive the market is going to be of investing around a transit system designed to be easily moved. Especially when they've only designed 30% of one portion of it, and are still picking the technologies that will make it work.
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