Author Topic: Commuter Rail's Return?  (Read 15442 times)

marcuscnelson

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Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #45 on: June 30, 2022, 09:41:27 AM »
JTA just randomly claiming that they could open a rail service in three to five years, for some reason.

Quote
While it's probably going to take hundreds of millions from the federal government to make it a reality, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority says commuter rail service in Northeast Florida is more feasible than some might realize.

Speaking to the St. Augustine City Commission earlier this week, Jacksonville Transportation Authority Director of Economic Development Richard Clark said there could be service between Jacksonville and St. Augustine in three to five years.

The two most difficult parts, Clark said, were getting all the local governments aligned and getting the federal government to allocate the "north of $600 million" needed for the rail project in Northeast Florida.

"In a perfect world, you could have an operating train in three years," Clark told the Commission, while acknowledging that three to five years was a more realistic, although still optimistic, estimate.

While every budgeting process is dicey, what Clark said the project has going for it are: obvious need and a route that already has right of way.

"Construction is the easiest part," Clark said. "It’s the quickest part. Laying track is a less than 12-month process."

As for the need, he said there are an estimated 40,000 commuters who drive into Duval County from St. Johns every day for work as well as15,000 going the opposite way.

St. Johns County is growing at a scorching pace with more than twice as many residents now as in 2000. There are numerous residential projects currently open and selling rapidly with more in the planning stages.

"We need to get way ahead of what traffic is coming our way," Clark said. "The most profound impact we can make is commuter rail."

JTA has hired WSP USA Inc. to study the feasibility of transit-oriented development along a potential 38-mile light rail corridor between downtown Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

St. Augustine City Manager John Regan said during the Commission meeting that Interstate 95 is "a slow-moving crisis" that isn't going to get better.

There are plans to expand the road by one more lane each way from World Golf Village to Jacksonville, but that will be the extent of potential expansion because of lack of right of way.

That's why city leaders are looking at adding a commuter rail station near the intersection of King Street and U.S. 1 in St. Augustine.

Later this summer, the commissioners will decide whether to create a new zoning designation called Mobility Oriented Development. And the owners of the property at that King Street-U.S. 1 intersection will apply to have it rezoned should the zoning designation be adopted. A rail station is part of the proposed redevelopment plan there.

But rail service plans routinely have been floated around and later discarded, mostly because of the high costs in establishing service.

Could this round be different?

St. Augustine Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline hopes so. She also serves on the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, which is the independent regional transportation planning agency for Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties.

She said the organization has gone through the financial feasibility study, and commuter rail service is slated to be developed in the period of 2036-2045. But she'd be glad to see it come together sooner.

"I'm grateful that JTA is making progress and that they're optimistic about the timeframe," she told the Business Journal. "But it did seem very optimistic to say three to five years when it's in the 2036-2045 timeframe. Not that it can't be moved up. Projects move around all the time.

"We'd love to have it tomorrow."

As Clark referred to, it's unclear exactly what kind of commitment and cooperation would be required of the various local governments. The St. Johns County government obviously would have to be heavily involved as would the government of St. Augustine.

Clark said a stop in the Race Track Road area — well outside the St. Augustine city limits — would be ideal for the St. Johns County segment of the project.

For the rail project to go forward, all Northeast Florida stakeholders must see it as beneficial.

"I think that would have to be supported among the (four-county) region," Sikes-Kline said. "Because you're competing against dollars on their projects as well, so everybody would have to agree that it was a priority."

For St. Johns County, Sikes-Kline said a commuter rail system would likely be used by tourists as well as residents going to and from work. That would help St. Augustine as it tries to encourage visitation without those people trying to park downtown, she said.

"We would encourage that because, ideally, they would be coming without cars," she said. "As you know, we have parking (issues). All desirable cities have parking problems. We have them, too."

https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2022/06/29/commuter-rail-from-jax.html
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

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Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #46 on: June 30, 2022, 10:44:50 AM »
Three to five years? Unless the $600 million has already been allocated then...that's a pipe dream that no one should tell the public. It only makes it worse, when five years arrive and nothing has been done.

In reality, construction alone would take a few years. I won't even get into the time needed to work out agreements with FEC, the various needed studies, design, permitting, etc.
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

jaxjaguar

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Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #47 on: June 30, 2022, 11:25:17 AM »
How about we (central Florida) sell JTA our heavy rail trains and railcars so we can upgrade Sunrail to electric lightrail ;P It's been getting so hot down here recently they've been limiting Sunrail to ~35mph because they're worried about the tracks buckling.

jaxlongtimer

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Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #48 on: June 30, 2022, 04:20:35 PM »
Three to five years? Unless the $600 million has already been allocated then...that's a pipe dream that no one should tell the public. It only makes it worse, when five years arrive and nothing has been done.

In reality, construction alone would take a few years. I won't even get into the time needed to work out agreements with FEC, the various needed studies, design, permitting, etc.

They should look at running rail down I-95 to avoid negotiation time with FEC :).  It's been done elsewhere so why not?  Maybe more expensive to build but they don't have to pay FEC for ROW forever and ever or deal with freight rail conflicts.  Might do more to promote TOD and offer more station options too.  If they reallocate the funds for the upcoming added lanes, they might even have a jump on some funding.

thelakelander

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Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #49 on: July 01, 2022, 08:17:19 AM »
Who is "they"? JTA is the entity talking about bringing commuter rail. I-95 is FDOT. For FDOT to add rail in I-95, it would take decades to begin that conversation, do countless studies, and secure billions for its construction.....assuming it was remotely feasible. I struggle to believe that commuter rail, as previously proposed by JTA, would draw decent ridership. I struggle more to believe that FDOT will fund a complete reconstruction of an urban interstate highway with constrained ROW, to squeeze in a seldom used commuter rail line serving autocentric suburbia.
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marcuscnelson

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Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #50 on: July 01, 2022, 09:13:37 AM »
I attended the FDOT Rail & Transit planning session for this district a few months ago. One of the needs/strategies they mentioned was preserving highway ROW to accommodate rail in the future. Obviously I pointed out the I-95 widening that would concurrently eliminate any ROW that even could be used for rail. Their only real response was that they couldn’t let a decade worth of planning go to waste. So that’s where their priorities are in terms of that.

The FEC corridor pretty closely parallels I-95 anyway, so I don’t think there’s really much benefit to pursuing a highway ROW option in that case. Plus the FEC/US-1 corridor is arguably better suited for TOD, straighter for higher speeds, and has far fewer grade crossings compared to south Florida. At least according to JTA plenty of the ROW is wide enough for 4 tracks, which at some points (particularly stations) is necessary to support mixed services.

And remember, this isn’t the FEC of 20-40 years ago who don’t want to deal with passenger rail in any capacity. Miami-Dade and Broward are working on local services along this same corridor. In the end, it’s really about the political will and constituency to have leaders that get it done. It’s especially sad to see JTA make these claims when just last week in their new strategic plan they stated that they don’t expect to get through PD&E and environmental review until fiscal year 2027. There’s not even a local funding agreement yet, which SunRail had four years before they even started construction. I don’t get how this article seems to completely ignore that the federal government won’t just hand out half a billion dollars, there has to be a state and local skin in the game. Not to mention that JTA very publicly decided that the local funding they could have used from Jobs For Jax, they would instead spend on converting the Skyway into an elevated road. They clearly know what their priorities are, so I’m not sure why they would randomly make this claim.
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

jcjohnpaint

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Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #51 on: July 01, 2022, 10:38:59 AM »
https://youtu.be/iEUg9ymgrXk
Interesting video on ridership vs. TOD and station location. Made me think of those stations in the middle of superhighways.

tufsu1

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Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #52 on: July 01, 2022, 10:45:18 AM »
https://youtu.be/iEUg9ymgrXk
Interesting video on ridership vs. TOD and station location. Made me think of those stations in the middle of superhighways.

I just finished a study that ended up recommending stations in the middle of the highway. It was clearly understood that this would lead to fewer TOD opportunities, but the cost to build the line was substantially less when using existing highway ROW. From a big picture urban planning perspective it was disappointing, but the line can be built quicker this way, thereby providing options to avoid congestion sooner. 

jaxlongtimer

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Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #53 on: July 01, 2022, 11:51:51 AM »
Who is "they"? JTA is the entity talking about bringing commuter rail. I-95 is FDOT. For FDOT to add rail in I-95, it would take decades to begin that conversation, do countless studies, and secure billions for its construction.....assuming it was remotely feasible. I struggle to believe that commuter rail, as previously proposed by JTA, would draw decent ridership. I struggle more to believe that FDOT will fund a complete reconstruction of an urban interstate highway with constrained ROW, to squeeze in a seldom used commuter rail line serving autocentric suburbia.

I acknowledged the option tradeoffs to some degree so not suggesting a miracle solution, just making sure all options are considered before defaulting to one.

That said, it exemplifies our transit issues when the two agencies responsible for transportation in NE Florida don't work together well.  Agency, government and political silos just lead to what we see everyday around here - poor planning, inconsistencies, inefficiencies, wasted taxpayer dollars and subpar results.

I attended the FDOT Rail & Transit planning session for this district a few months ago. One of the needs/strategies they mentioned was preserving highway ROW to accommodate rail in the future. Obviously I pointed out the I-95 widening that would concurrently eliminate any ROW that even could be used for rail. Their only real response was that they couldn’t let a decade worth of planning go to waste. So that’s where their priorities are in terms of that.

This... ego that doesn't allow for backing up the bus when it might be the best thing to do.  This is the same reason we have JTA pushing AV to salvage the wasteful Skyway.  Admitting mistakes from the past is the first step to making a better future.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2022, 04:16:05 PM by jaxlongtimer »

JaGoaT

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Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #54 on: July 01, 2022, 02:04:04 PM »
I have always envisioned a rail that runs parallel with Philips Highway starting in Downtown Jax then goes all the way to St. Johns County, then there would be a 2nd rail that runs parallel to JTB which starts where JTB and Phillips meet. The JTB connection would go all the way to beach connecting Downtown directly to the beach.

Gas is too expensive and I'm glad this idea is being discussed, fortunately there's already tracks that run parallel with Philips hwy!


marcuscnelson

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Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #55 on: July 01, 2022, 03:42:09 PM »
https://youtu.be/iEUg9ymgrXk
Interesting video on ridership vs. TOD and station location. Made me think of those stations in the middle of superhighways.

I just finished a study that ended up recommending stations in the middle of the highway. It was clearly understood that this would lead to fewer TOD opportunities, but the cost to build the line was substantially less when using existing highway ROW. From a big picture urban planning perspective it was disappointing, but the line can be built quicker this way, thereby providing options to avoid congestion sooner.

This is true if the only options are to use highway ROW vs a completely from-scratch greenfield route (like Brightline), or if it’s for a light rail that can’t share tracks with freight (like Orlando’s proposed light rail 20 years ago), but those aren’t the only options. In Jacksonville’s case, utilizing the existing freight rail ROW is an even easier and more affordable option than highway ROW.

I have always envisioned a rail that runs parallel with Philips Highway starting in Downtown Jax then goes all the way to St. Johns County, then there would be a 2nd rail that runs parallel to JTB which starts where JTB and Phillips meet. The JTB connection would go all the way to beach connecting Downtown directly to the beach.

Gas is too expensive and I'm glad this idea is being discussed, fortunately there's already tracks that run parallel with Philips hwy!

This kind of used to exist. The Florida East Coast Railway once had a spur that went along Beach Boulevard from the existing mainline to the beach. I’d argue that it would make a lot more sense to take the two inner lanes from Beach Boulevard for bus-only lanes that could eventually add rails and also be light rail stations. Ottawa, Canada did this with the O-Train Confederation Line.
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: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #56 on: July 01, 2022, 04:20:45 PM »
In Jacksonville’s case, utilizing the existing freight rail ROW is an even easier and more affordable option than highway ROW.

Is there an actual study comparing these two options to back up your conclusion?

tufsu1

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Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #57 on: July 01, 2022, 05:20:23 PM »
In Jacksonville’s case, utilizing the existing freight rail ROW is an even easier and more affordable option than highway ROW.

Is there an actual study comparing these two options to back up your conclusion?

the study that JTA has been doing assumes commuter rail would utilize the FEC tracks

jaxlongtimer

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Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #58 on: July 01, 2022, 05:44:40 PM »
In Jacksonville’s case, utilizing the existing freight rail ROW is an even easier and more affordable option than highway ROW.

Is there an actual study comparing these two options to back up your conclusion?

the study that JTA has been doing assumes commuter rail would utilize the FEC tracks

So not a comparative study done jointly with FDOT regarding FEC vs. I-95 corridors?  Thanks, but that is my point... lack of agency collaboration and looking at all options objectively.  Left hand not coordinating with the right hand....

thelakelander

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Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
« Reply #59 on: July 02, 2022, 07:13:02 AM »
There's no need to do a study yo compare the feasibility of running "commuter rail service" on the FEC vs I-95. It would be a colossal waste of tax money and resources to invest in a commuter rail line, running in the middle of a highway, when an active railroad or rail ROW exists as a parallel facility.  If we're going to build something from scratch, then we're likely looking at a different type of rail operation altogether (i.e. Brightline higher speed "intercity rail" running alongside the Beachline to connect to Orlando's airport. What JTA is proposing isn't that. Their service sounds like a less effective version of SunRail or Nashville's Music City Star.
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali