Author Topic: Nat Ford: Why Jax should invest in the future of transportation, Downtown  (Read 14535 times)

thelakelander

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^That's my hope as well. I hope that the council will realize that the $44 million Bay Street corridor is already funded. Let's go ahead and get it up and running and let's see if it is what the JTA is selling. My prediction is we'll find out it won't be as planned and that if it isn't, JTA will say that you can't judge it without spending millions more to retrofit the Skyway itself. Let's just hope that our future council is smarter.
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Fallen Buckeye

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^That's my hope as well. I hope that the council will realize that the $44 million Bay Street corridor is already funded. Let's go ahead and get it up and running and let's see if it is what the JTA is selling. My prediction is we'll find out it won't be as planned and that if it isn't, JTA will say that you can't judge it without spending millions more to retrofit the Skyway itself. Let's just hope that our future council is smarter.
Maybe the way to make all of these folks happy would be to reduce the current tax being proposed to pay for the other worthwhile projects on the list, and then discuss raising the tax again pending the results of the Bay St. corridor experiment. You'd make the Aaron Bowman's (Bowmen?) of the world happy for reducing the taxes being proposed. You're not giving an absolute no to JTA yet, and most importantly we're not wasting money on boondoggles without some evidence that this could work.


Good. I must have misunderstood one of the other comments.
Last night, they allowed comments via zoom.

marcuscnelson

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The frustrating part of that for me is watching us lose 5 years waiting to see Bay Street happen in order to hopefully convince Council or a future JTA board to demand something else. 5 years we could have spent on commuter rail, or actually building proven transportation downtown like streetcars or BRT instead of waiting for an experiment. 5 years for the Skyway vehicles we already knew were in rough shape six years ago to continue to decay.

I've griped about this before, but I still can't believe what an institutional failure on JTA's part this was. To have so brazenly decided to abandon their duty as a public transit agency in order to spend a decade and millions in taxpayer dollars to LARP as Silicon Valley tech bros is such an insult to people that have put so much effort into trying to improve their community. It's shameful.

In terms of now, has anyone talked to Cumber about her amendments? Her Amendment 2 would cut the funding, although disappointingly enough I think it might also defund the JRTC rail project. Or is there anyone else who might be interested in proposing an amendment along the lines of either requiring Council approval following the completion of Bay Street to release funds for a local share of the conversion or even just outright redirecting the money to other transit projects?

Personally I don't see why they couldn't essentially mandate and fund the creation of an alternative to be operated by JTA, but I get it if that's out of the question.
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

Ken_FSU

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Great op-ed today by one of the U2C designers in support of the project that, quite literally, does nothing at all to explain the value of the U2C.

Literally nothing.

Just more goofy Bold New City of the South nonsense and baseless platitudes about how 15 years from now, Jacksonville is going to known throughout the world as the most advanced city on planet Earth.

Just further demonstration of how little common sense anyone involved with this thing appears to have.

https://amp.jacksonville.com/amp/5081601001

Charles Hunter

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Gee Whiz Boys and Girls ... it's the Jetsons!

jaxlongtimer

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Great op-ed today by one of the U2C designers in support of the project that, quite literally, does nothing at all to explain the value of the U2C.

Literally nothing.

Just more goofy Bold New City of the South nonsense and baseless platitudes about how 15 years from now, Jacksonville is going to known throughout the world as the most advanced city on planet Earth.

Just further demonstration of how little common sense anyone involved with this thing appears to have.

https://amp.jacksonville.com/amp/5081601001

I love to break down the elements to these epistles to try and grasp the same straws their writers are.

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Jacksonville is regarded as one of the greatest modern examples of city transformation. Jacksonville has improved year after year in pedestrian and bicycle friendliness, livability, and coastal resiliency. Experts argue that Jacksonville is the global leader in digital innovation. Students studying architecture, engineering, and city planning travel to Jacksonville to perform analysis on the city’s evolution as a premier coastal city. The city’s striking balance of innovation and entrepreneurialism compliments  the natural beauty and amazing culture full of hospitality and charm. It is hard to deny the impact smart city technology has had on Jacksonville’s renewal.  The year is 2035 and looking back, the city has been on this trajectory for 15 years.

Anyone who has lived here for the the last few decades knows this vision must be seen to be believed.  It is so out of step with our leadership and execution by those leaders that, while we all wish for this utopia, it would take a revolution, and not a technology one, but rather of leadership, to make it happen.  Past trends to-date don't bode well for that.  Further, the very project Mr. Chang is pushing for will actually create the opposite result of what he pines for here.

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In 2020 Jacksonville was one of the few American cities that was able to turn lemons into lemonade. During the global pandemic Jacksonville  was a recipient of good favor, seeing a boom in our housing market and business community. 

How is this relevant to the U2C?  And, most of that boom is in the suburbs and beyond.

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In 2021 something dramatic happened. A group of civic leaders championed bold plans to reimagine the role of technology in infrastructure investment within the city. The plan continued the hugely successful Better Jacksonville Plan’s infrastructure investment with a new twist, investment in digital infrastructure. The plan required confidence in the waning days of the global pandemic to believe that digital transformation was within our grasp.  This plan was known as the “Jobs for Jax” plan and included the careful planning of our city’s most innovative leaders (Nathaniel Ford of JTA and Jeff Sheffield of TPO).  The digital elements of the plan were supported by leadership at Florida DOT, U.S. DOT, Jacksonville Chamber, and private sector technology companies.  The digital infrastructure includes IoT (internet of things), communications systems (5G), and autonomous vehicles. After careful consideration of the multiplier effect from the investment, City Council supported the measure.

Yeah, the plan is bold, but not for the reasons cited above.  It's bold to put it forward when the technology is not proven, there is little or no demand for what it will offer and there is no plan that can be properly costed out.  The reference to it requiring "confidence" to "believe digital transformation" is within our grasp reminds me of a line like that spoken by the Wizard of Oz and we know what a fraud he was.  "Careful planning" but no detailed drawings/engineering, uproven technology, no handle on costs, no ridership surveys, no economic analysis?  Haven't seen any evidence of that, just platitudes like this piece.  Digital elements with supporters?  What are digital elements exactly?  And the supporters listed are ones that think this project will benefit their egos, careers and/or pockets.  What multiplier effect is he referring to?  If there is such a study, what is it based on?  Has it been made public?

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As a technologist, I find it useful to imagine the world we want to live in and then envision the steps it would take to get there. Technology is only part of the story of transformational initiatives. Public policy, economics, legal framework, political partnerships, and civic leadership all play key roles in transformation. In the case of  significant change it must all come together at the same time and in the right sequence. I believe that the upcoming decision City Council faces on Jobs for Jax enables the opportunity for Jacksonville to reimagine our future. I urge the council members to strongly consider the multiplier effect that investment in our community will have at this pivotal time.

"Imagine," "belief," "reimagine"... great words for a fairy tale such as this.  All the elements he refers to for success have not been addressed to date and the biggest one, the unproven technology, he dismisses as "only part of the story" so as to sidetrack us from the real issue that it isn't close to working with no end in sight as to when it will.

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Matthew Chang is a professional engineer and expert in autonomy, disruptive technology, and automated systems. Matthew served the JTA and city of Jacksonville as the first administrator and concept designer of the JTA’s U2C program.


No doubt Mr. Chang is a nice guy.  But this comes across as someone pleading to save a project that he has put his heart and soul in.  While I have sympathies for his position, Jacksonville taxpayers should not have to bail out his "dream" for the U2C.  It appears Mr. Chang has moved on from working on this project and, like him, we should too.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2021, 11:48:09 PM by jaxlongtimer »

marcuscnelson

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I saw that last night when it published, was wondering when someone else here would see it. Here's a normal, non-AMP link.

I'm just gobsmacked that they thought this would be a compelling argument.

Right from the start they go with this:

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Jacksonville is regarded as one of the greatest modern examples of city transformation. Jacksonville has improved year after year in pedestrian and bicycle friendliness, livability, and coastal resiliency. Experts argue that Jacksonville is the global leader in digital innovation. Students studying architecture, engineering, and city planning travel to Jacksonville to perform analysis on the city’s evolution as a premier coastal city. The city’s striking balance of innovation and entrepreneurialism compliments  the natural beauty and amazing culture full of hospitality and charm. It is hard to deny the impact smart city technology has had on Jacksonville’s renewal.  The year is 2035 and looking back, the city has been on this trajectory for 15 years.

To be fair, it's pretty much in line with how the U2C team treated their product during my visit. Like the work they were doing would basically singlehandedly transform the entire city and, like the article says, make Jacksonville "a global leader in digital innovation". The only evidence they really had for this was that apparently they'd brought in some school kids to do robotics stuff, and some collabs with FSCJ. It reminds me somewhat of how UF is currently undergoing this big initiative to get "AI supercomputers" and "integrate AI into the entire curriculum" but the difference is that they got private investors (namely the founder of NVIDIA) to pour tens of millions of dollars into it themselves, and aren't doing it at the expense of the rest of the school.

How exactly running pod cars down some streets is supposed to inspire a revolution in architecture, engineering, and city planning? Absolutely beats me.

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The plan required confidence in the waning days of the global pandemic to believe that digital transformation was within our grasp.  This plan was known as the “Jobs for Jax” plan and included the careful planning of our city’s most innovative leaders (Nathaniel Ford of JTA and Jeff Sheffield of TPO).

I consider Nat Ford a good guy with a decent record of working in transportation and besides this project, an acceptable record leading JTA, but come on. Come on.

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I believe that the upcoming decision City Council faces on Jobs for Jax enables the opportunity for Jacksonville to reimagine our future. I urge the council members to strongly consider the multiplier effect that investment in our community will have at this pivotal time.

This is, I guess, a half-truth? I agree the city should invest in itself, and that the decisions we make now can and will have effects, for better or worse, 15 years from now. But to pretend that the U2C will serve as the backbone of those effects is outright delusional. The UNF economic analysis JTA is trying to defend their project with shows that only the neighborhood extensions will maybe have a multiplier in terms of impact, and that's more because of the actual construction than anything to do with knock-on effects of the technology.

On the other hand, Mark Woods had a real discussion about the tax in terms of making a quality of life investment (beyond the Skyway, apparently):

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So beyond asking people if they support a gas tax, it’s worth asking if they want road improvements, septic tank removal, a park system that lives up to its potential, a city that doesn’t perpetually rank as one of the worst for pedestrians and bicyclists, the kind of place that makes young people want to stay and Fortune 500 companies want to arrive.

Not that this gas tax alone will do all of this. But it can move the needle on something that's hard to quantify: quality of life.

Apple recently chose to put its latest East Coast expansion — a $1 billion campus that will have 3,000 employees — not in the supposedly business-friendly climate of the Sunshine State, but in Raleigh, N.C.

Some have noted that this is despite North Carolina having higher taxes than Florida. But maybe it’s actually because North Carolina has higher taxes, or at least because it has some of the things that come with those taxes.

In Jacksonville, we seem to be quick to invest public dollars in private projects and slow to take public dollars and use them for public projects.

He also made this great point, emphasis mine:

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At one point in the meeting, Al Ferraro asked his fellow council members a question: How many of you use the Skyway?

The lack of response illustrated what we all already know. The Skyway as it exists has been a failure. A better question: Is there a mass transit system you would use? Is there one Jacksonville would use? Is it the one proposed by JTA?
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

marcuscnelson

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Side note, according to his LinkedIn, Matthew Chang left JTA in April 2019. He posted the following on his LinkedIn along with his article:

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The City of Jacksonville is on the starting line of a major city transformation. The wind is at our back and our sails are full!
Florida's economy, our housing market, and our great weather are fueling a boom that we've waited a long time for. I'm proud that our forward thinking leaders are coming up with creative and innovative ways to "move" the city forward. Exciting times in Jacksonville! Great partnerships from Florida Department of Transportation and
U.S. Department of Transportation. The future of transformational government projects is through #P3's and we are lucky to have leaders like Nat Ford to help us plan a brighter future! #infrastructure

And in case you're wondering, yes, Nat Ford did like that post.
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

marcuscnelson

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Something just occurred to me.

I'm reading "Creating the Ultimate Urban Circulator" and on page 32, I noticed this sentence on the slide about the pros and cons of AVs (typo is theirs, not mine):

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Vehciles will have to meet safety certification requirements by FDOT and FTA to be eligible for state and Federal funding.

What's the possibility that they sought full local funding in order to avoid having to procure vehicles that meet FDOT and FTA requirements? It's maybe not true since they did get funding for Bay Street (and apparently only Bay Street, since they admit they haven't sought funding for any other portion of the U2C), but could that have been a factor in their attempt to fully fund it with LOGT? It was later considered last year on page 7-3 of this document:

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Local Funding Only - Model runs 3,6,9 evaluated each of the three alternatives with the assumption that JTA would shoulder the entire financial responsibility for the project, including capital and operations and maintenance. Each of these model runs requires a significant contribution from JTA for which no funding has yet been identified.

Maybe this is nothing, but it just stood out to me considering everything going 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

thelakelander

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It definitely makes things much easier, the less you have to rely on other entities to embrace and put money behind your dreams. The LOGT is a chance for JTA to do that. Unfortunately for them, the community being asked to fund this risky R&D venture doesn't share the same vision.
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

tufsu1

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Maybe the way to make all of these folks happy would be to reduce the current tax being proposed to pay for the other worthwhile projects on the list, and then discuss raising the tax again pending the results of the Bay St. corridor experiment. You'd make the Aaron Bowman's (Bowmen?) of the world happy for reducing the taxes being proposed.

Some of these members may be thinking of running for future office - and likely signed Grover Noquist's no new taxes pledge

jaxoNOLE

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« Last Edit: May 17, 2021, 04:46:39 PM by jaxoNOLE »

marcuscnelson

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Some of these members may be thinking of running for future office - and likely signed Grover Noquist's no new taxes pledge

If I recall correctly, Rory Diamond has said that pretty much verbatim.
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

jaxoNOLE

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Last night, they allowed comments via zoom.

Good. I must have misunderstood one of the other comments.

FYI, tomorrow's Committee of the Whole meeting will once again not permit public comment via Zoom. It looks like Council and Committee meetings are going back to in-person only for comments with streaming video for spectators. Town Halls are so far continuing to permit public comment via Zoom.

It makes for really poor optics, when they're trying to resurrect credibility with the public, to have these meetings at 9:00AM on a workday and remove the opportunity for remote comments. It's also poor transparency to list the meeting on the events page, but not on the City Council Meetings page.

From https://www.coj.net/city-council/events:

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City Council Committee of the Whole Meeting: Re: Local Option Gas Tax & Septic Tanks
May 19, 2021
9:00 AM (If attending virtually, please join the meeting by 8:45 A.M.)
Physical Location: Council Chambers
City Hall
117 W. Duval Street
Jacksonville, Florida 32202
 
Meeting ID: 988 7458 2797 | Zoom Application (VIEWING ONLY)
Passcode: 740506
 
Pursuant to Council Rule 2.105, the Honorable Tommy Hazouri, President of the Jacksonville City Council hereby calls an In-Person (With Streaming Viewing Options Only) Committee of the Whole Meeting for Wednesday, May 19th, 2021, 9:00 AM, in the Council Chambers located in City Hall, First Floor, 117 W. Duval Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202. The purpose of the Noticed In-Person (With Streaming Viewing Options Only) Meeting to provide a forum to discuss Ordinance 2021-0223 (Local Option Gas Tax) and Ordinance 2021-0235 (Septic Tanks).

No mention of or access to the meeting here though: https://www.coj.net/city-council/city-council-meetings-online

jaxlongtimer

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Latest news on "autonomous" tech... Tesla wants to drop radar and lidar in favor of cameras only on lower model cars.  Their cars are still rated only Level 2.  No sign that full autonomy is anywhere close to being achieved.  Awaiting the wonder of JTA figuring this out first.

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/25/tesla-ditching-radar-for-autopilot-in-model-3-model-y.html
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Tesla is ditching radar, will rely on cameras for Autopilot in some cars

Tesla announced Tuesday that it is ditching radar in its driver-assistance features, including Autopilot....

....According to the company’s website, Autopilot currently enables a Tesla vehicle to “steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane” and FSD adds features such as automatic lane changing and summon. Summon enables a driver to call their car to come pick them up across a parking lot using the Tesla app like a remote control.

Tesla cautions in its owner’s manual and on its website that Autopilot and FSD require active supervision. But some drivers incorrectly believe that a Tesla is safe to operate hands-free, asleep at the wheel or even while sitting in the back of the car....

....Other automakers are taking a different tack when it comes to the development, rollout and marketing of automated driving systems. GM Cruise, Alphabet’s Waymo, Aurora and others are including radar and lidar alongside cameras in their systems.

While cameras capture video that can be labeled by human data analysts and interpreted by machine-learning software, radar and lidar sensors provide additional data that can give cars a more robust way to detect and avoid obstacles on the road — especially when visibility is lower, including at night or in inclement weather....

....“Tesla’s features are currently limited to this SAE Level 2. If in the future Tesla wants to achieve SAE Level 4 (automated vehicle with no human driver safety supervision — which is not the current capability), then it would prudent to use every type of sensor they can get, including cameras, radar, lidar, and possibly others.”