Author Topic: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement  (Read 13531 times)

marcuscnelson

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #75 on: September 20, 2023, 01:38:07 PM »
This mixes and forces the Skyway into something it isn't. We should be exploring a ton of transit options and modes, but it doesn't necessarily mean that we have to force the Skyway to play a role it was never intended to be designed for.

There are only three cities (four if we count Morgantown, WV) that have urban people movers. We're the only one that can't figure out how to maintain, operate it and coordinate it with supportive land use policies and downtown development patterns. Yet, the others have already given us the path of how to proceed. We're just continuing to ignore it.

Detroit is a decent example. They didn't tear down the people mover or extend it to New Center to connect with Amtrak. Instead they used a complimentary modern streetcar line to serve that role. Miami didn't destroy the metromover. Instead, they've invested in several other technologies that play their particular role in the region and all of them converge with metromover at Government Center station in downtown. They also got pretty aggressive with form-based code and TOD 20 years ago. As a result, Metromover has become a well used part of their overall transit center.

I'm of the belief that we need to first reevaluate our own inconsistent decision making before having discussions of tearing down infrastructure assets and paying money back because we can't get our own act together.

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In 2015 it might have made enough sense to say that we should Keep, Modernize, & Expand, but is that still true 8 years later? Would it still be true by the time we actually got around to putting new trains up there? If we go on to try and build a light rail or light metro or whatever else, how many times are we going to keep coming up against the question of how it's supposed to work with the concept of a downtown circulator as already laid out?

Detroit and Miami both give us the path to proceed and follow. Have we ever asked ourselves why they haven't blown up their systems for LRT, streetcar, heavy rail, AVs, etc.?

You bring up an interesting point with Detroit, but the important distinction is the physical state of their system compared to the Skyway. If the time comes for Detroit to reevaluate that system's usefulness at its end of life, are they really going to recapitalize it to the tune of tens of millions? Or, assuming by then that their federal obligation has concluded, will they instead consider the prospect of ultimately replacing it with something more suited to the city's needs at that point (perhaps something bidirectional)?

To see perhaps a possible vision of the future, I look east, to Toronto in Canada. Scarborough's Line 3, opened a few years before the Skyway, used the same technology as Detroit (and Vancouver), and stretched just 4 miles from the Line 2 subway through several suburban neighborhoods. It actually had more than three times the Skyway's ridership just months before its shutdown. Line 3's history parallels the Skyway, in that its choice of APM technology over standard light rail was firmly pushed by higher level mandates and grant money.

But by 2019, as that system was reaching its end of life, the government ultimately decided that instead of spending millions to replace the trains and overhaul its guideway to support expansion as they originally planned, they would instead shut down Line 3 and replace it with an extension of the Line 2 subway through that area, with a bus service filling the gap once it emerged that the APM system would fail before the subway was complete. It just so happened that a derailment back in July was substantial enough and close enough to the planned shutdown that they simply chose not to reopen the line. So now they have that bus bridge, but the under-construction plan is to ultimately replace that service with higher capacity transit that goes much further. So at least in North America, there's another city that seems to have not figured out how to run an urban people mover, and has instead made a larger investment in broader regional transit.

Thanks for the insight everyone. I tend to agree with Lake on the idea that the existing Skyway system really doesn't need a crazy expansion to it to make it exponentially more functional as a downtown people mover.. of course this requires upzoning but I believe that the upzoning could be justified with a DT transit option moving forward. The only other extension I would add Lake is maybe to the stadium area. I feel like that could function better than the current bus shuttle method they have now. People would pay higher fares for Jags games, concerts, and Jumbo Shirmp/Ice Men games. Logistics wise this might be impossible though.

I agree that something needs to go to the stadium. The Skyway could be an option. However, getting to the stadium may not mean going down Bay Street at grade. I think we have to be open to looking into other alignments that also work best for the downtown businesses that can't afford to lose on-street parking.

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To clarify though Marcus, I think the skyway needs to be brought to Brooklyn, and San Marco proper to make it much more practical. I live right by a station, and it really doesn't offer any advantages as-is and I have tried to use it when it makes sense to. I don't think the existing skyway should ever connect to a greater system outside of downtown. I have always thought to myself that we need an expanded skyway to tie into regional transit stations. (Beach Line & St. Augustine Line for example). It seems impossible (for many reasons) to have all the regional rail lines feed into Osborne in the medium-term as much as I want to see it happen.

San Marco and Brooklyn are the two most logical expansions. Brooklyn is a no brainer that should have been done a decade ago. You really need it to get over the tracks in San Marco. That's the most cost effective grade separated solution we can do to better connect that neighborhood with downtown. We've known this for +20 years now. Nothing in this town (i.e. the location of the river and FEC railroad tracks) is changing that won't require bridges to get around these barriers. So the Skyway is an asset, no matter what people think about its image. Those two segments are so short that they won't cost anywhere close to what JTA is going to attempt taxpayers to pay for the U2C.

If we are ultimately choosing Option 1, then maybe we should be deciding whether it makes enough sense to simply do what was originally considered and construct an elevated Skyway line down Bay Street to the stadium. You'd lose a few parking spaces or maybe one vehicle lane if constructed like Hogan, but you could build at least more capacity than anything at-grade would be. Or maybe figure out how to build a parking lot or garage somewhere close (because we somehow don't have enough of those) as a compromise.

I don't think I've been trying to suggest that the Skyway itself should be what goes to the beach or St. Augustine, although Lake is right that a great many people have been mislead that it could, or have ignored previous insistences that it can't (I know I've seen at least one older article about JTA trying to stress that the Skyway is a circulator and not a transit line). And putting away the effects of the Skyway's limitations on public support for transit development, any fixed transit system to the further east or southwest (not close to the river like the CSX line is) is not going to be able to rely on an existing rail corridor for a DMU service, and therein lines the challenge, especially when we already know from the First Coast Flyer that BRT is too slow and perhaps unassuming for the size of this city.
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thelakelander

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #76 on: September 20, 2023, 01:50:03 PM »
The smaller San Marco and Brooklyn extensions should've happened years ago, I agree. I mainly was talking about getting to the stadium as the major extension. In that case, any plan would hopefully include future plans to connect to Arlington via the Mathews (decades away, I know) and the Skyway is obviously not the best mode for a route like that.

Yes, which is why I think it's bad to focus so much on the Skyway and forcing it to be something it isn't intended to be.

At some point, the Mathews will need to be replaced and that will be an opportunity to get a new river crossing for transit. Something like BRT or LRT will make a lot more sense there, then anything related to the Skyway. This suggests that if we were to look at a regional system, we may need to coordinate that corridor into a potential alignment instead of force feeding the Skyway down Bay.

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I think when looking at a more regional plan, the easiest corridor to start with is the S-Line. City-owned ROW through a neglected part of town with tons of areas for redevelopment potential. No major outside parties to deal with. Could potentially be the cheapest option as well.

Having dedicated ROW for most of that corridor is a definite plus. The neigborhoods are also dense and transit dependent. Major challenges would be ripping up the S-Line trail, systemic local bias about the Northside neigborhoods and the corridor being in an area where the development patterns aren't being served. It could a situation where it becomes a part of a larger starter line.

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Convincing CSX to sell the A-Line or waiting for FEC to allow JTA to use their tracks is going to slow down the process.

There are some different options here. The CSX A, south of Palatka was recently purchased by Amtrak. Maybe it's time to make CSX an offer they can't refuse for the remaining Jax to Palatka segment and still allow them track access rights to ship freight to the mill, coal plant and other industries around Palatka.  That may be the easiest way to get some DMU-type service between DT and Clay. Now you're not only hitting places like Riverside and Murray Hill. You're also aligning with growth patterns and providing an alternative to traffic congestion on Blanding and US 17. While a purchase may cost a lot, much of the infrastructure is already in place, so it could easily end up costing less than building something from scratch.

Another route is working with intercity rail expansion where Amtrak or Brightline expansion could also be designing to allow for commuter rail-like services at a fraction of the amount of local money needed for a JTA ran commuter rail service. Brightline/Amtrak are options for the FEC. Amtrak would be the intercity option for the CSX A.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2023, 01:58:12 PM by thelakelander »
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Jax_Developer

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #77 on: September 20, 2023, 04:00:20 PM »
Ah my misunderstanding Marcus. I'm glad we all agree on something more concrete! The U2C bugs me lol.

thelakelander

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #78 on: September 20, 2023, 08:14:08 PM »
You bring up an interesting point with Detroit, but the important distinction is the physical state of their system compared to the Skyway. If the time comes for Detroit to reevaluate that system's usefulness at its end of life, are they really going to recapitalize it to the tune of tens of millions? Or, assuming by then that their federal obligation has concluded, will they instead consider the prospect of ultimately replacing it with something more suited to the city's needs at that point (perhaps something bidirectional)?

The Skyway's rolling stock may need to be replaced, as any system's would after 30 years in operation, but the system's infrastructure isn't falling down. The river crossing opened in 1998 and the Southbank leg opened in 2000. From that perspective, it's not at the end of its life. We just need to decide on what the new rolling stock will be. I really do believe we'd be fools to knock down its infrastructure. With that said, the infrastructure isn't going to be suitable for some of the other technologies that many want to see. Even so, that's okay, it's still an asset we have to work with.

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To see perhaps a possible vision of the future, I look east, to Toronto in Canada. Scarborough's Line 3, opened a few years before the Skyway, used the same technology as Detroit (and Vancouver), and stretched just 4 miles from the Line 2 subway through several suburban neighborhoods. It actually had more than three times the Skyway's ridership just months before its shutdown. Line 3's history parallels the Skyway, in that its choice of APM technology over standard light rail was firmly pushed by higher level mandates and grant money.

But by 2019, as that system was reaching its end of life, the government ultimately decided that instead of spending millions to replace the trains and overhaul its guideway to support expansion as they originally planned, they would instead shut down Line 3 and replace it with an extension of the Line 2 subway through that area, with a bus service filling the gap once it emerged that the APM system would fail before the subway was complete. It just so happened that a derailment back in July was substantial enough and close enough to the planned shutdown that they simply chose not to reopen the line. So now they have that bus bridge, but the under-construction plan is to ultimately replace that service with higher capacity transit that goes much further. So at least in North America, there's another city that seems to have not figured out how to run an urban people mover, and has instead made a larger investment in broader regional transit.

If we already had a subway, LRT or something else, and the system didn't have to cross the St. Johns River, the conversation would possibly be different. If we had higher capacity rolling stock and dedicated lanes/or ROW (basically a more controlled environment for the system), even AVs may not be so bad. The type of technology isn't our major challenge. Everything from JTA leadership over the years to COJ struggling with DT revitalization and transit supportive land uses are.  If we don't fix that element, I'm very fearful that every other mode will struggle just the same. It's one of the reasons that I'm not a fan of JTA doing commuter rail at this point. They haven't demonstrated that they can run any type of rail system.
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jaxlongtimer

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #79 on: September 21, 2023, 10:10:53 PM »
Ennis, great job during your appearance on First Coast Connect today to talk about this subject.  As usual, you were very diplomatic and gracious in making your points.  I am not sure I wouldn't be a lot more blunt  8).  Hope this is a first effort in stepping up presenting the concerns about this project and JTA on the Jaxson to a wider community and the decision makers.

For those who missed his masterful presentation, catch Ennis here:  https://news.wjct.org/show/first-coast-connect/2023-09-21/first-coast-connect-autonomous-vehicles-fscj-artist-series

thelakelander

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #80 on: September 21, 2023, 10:14:48 PM »
Thanks! I could have been a lot more critical. I tried to use the time to talk logic, regardless of technology. So I stuck with cost, what the Skyway/U2C is and what it isn't, and the challenges that must be overcome with operating AVs in a human environment (i.e. capacity, vehicle speeds and need for dedicated lanes/ROW).
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RatTownRyan

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #81 on: September 22, 2023, 11:21:27 AM »
In your opinion what would be an ideal route for a trolley or light rail line? From RAM to the stadium down Riverside Ave and Bay St.? Or a loop down Bay St to the stadium then back along Duval St.? Or is there something else that makes sense? I feel like refurbishing the sky way and having a second loop would be wonderful.

thelakelander

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #82 on: September 22, 2023, 12:56:15 PM »
IMO, the routes are the same as we thought they were, back in the early 2000s when we were fighting JTA's original BRT plan, which was a lot more comparable to LRT than the current Skyway/U2C talk. We ended up with the First Coast Flyer and it's clear that this version of BRT-lite was everything we said it would be......which is regular bus service in a major city and not a replacement for LRT or a stimulator of TOD (despite the overselling by JTA back in the day).

To be honest, I don't know if building LRT from scratch makes sense with our low population density. You do LRT to connect DT with the Airport, Orange Park, Town Center, Beaches, etc., not just to hit a few neighborhoods immediately adjacent to downtown.

If we're talking streetcar, then scrap the U2C AV rolling stock and put a light weight streetcar or tram on the Skyway infrastructure for the starter segment and then extend at grade into Springfield (extend north through FSCJ's campus), Brooklyn (Riverside Av/Forest/Park to Five Points) and San Marco (elevate over FEC and drop to grade near Southern Grounds and Atlantic Blvd). The U2C Bay Street corridor thing screws up seamless connectivity to the stadium down Bay, so another alignment make make more sense there. Either way, we'd make this investment for quality of life sake and stimulating TOD to enhance our tax rolls and revitalize urban districts.

If we're talking something with reach to a larger population,  the CSX A as a starter DMU line makes most sense. Yeah, you'd have to pay CSX A butt load of money (heck, it may be the same as the U2C the way AV estimates keep increasing), but you'd end up with something that could be operated like LRT and be supplemented intercity rail. That corridor would easily serve urban districts like Riverside, Murray Hill, etc., key employment destinations like NAS Jax and growing bedroom communities like Orange Park, Fleming Island and Palatka.

Intercity rail works better than other options on the FEC to me. The beaches and town center are so far away, that's a long term expansion project one some starter lines are up and running. If something ever does go to the beaches, the JTB corridor makes most sense. Going north, the S-Line is the easiest way to do it.
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jcjohnpaint

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #83 on: September 22, 2023, 08:57:58 PM »
Great interview, Lake!

jaxlongtimer

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #84 on: September 28, 2023, 06:39:17 PM »
JTA hires new "VP of Major Projects to Fail ";D:

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Taking over as vice president for automation and innovation is Kiet Dinh, who will head up everything involving the Ultimate Urban Circulator, while overseeing the Skyway and its maintenance.

He most recently worked as the project delivery manager with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.

https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2023/09/28/jta-names-three-to-leadership-roles.html?utm_source=st&utm_medium=en&utm_campaign=me&utm_content=JA&ana=e_JA_me&j=32858092&senddate=2023-09-28&empos=p2

Charles Hunter

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #85 on: September 28, 2023, 06:52:07 PM »
Interesting. The new PIO should have experience explaining to the public why expensive techy stuff isn't working as promised, and why more money will make it "all better" -
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Filling an empty communications role is Anthony Junco, who will be the authority’s new public information officer. He is familiar with Jacksonville already, having served as the public affairs officer for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship Squadron 2.

Charles Hunter

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #86 on: September 28, 2023, 06:53:54 PM »
Saw this in my FB feed today
https://techxplore.com/news/2023-09-planet-warmer-gondola-maker-urban.html

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Austrian company Doppelmayr is well known for making gondolas for ski resorts, but its workshop is increasingly building cable cars for congested cities as climate change has opened up new markets.

A growing number of urban areas are adopting the cleaner, space-saving mode of transport: Doppelmayr's cable cars now glide over London, Mexico City and La Paz.

marcuscnelson

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #87 on: October 04, 2023, 10:28:09 PM »
Some updates:

JTA re-uploaded their video defending the U2C program, adding the following slides. Congratulations to Jax_Developer for making what is looking like an increasingly likely guess as to the vehicle choice, given the legal constraints JTA is under:













As the slides flash, Bill Milnes can be heard saying the following:

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JTA continues to work with federal officials on a resolution to the autonomous vehicle Buy America issue for its U2C project. The Authority also has a Plan B and Plan C option if a timely agreement cannot be reached to meet the USDOT mandated launch date for the project’s revenue service.

Also today, JTA held its second Autonomous Mobility webinar episode. This time with autonomous accessibility advocate Ron Brooks (who also spoke at the National Autonomous Vehicle Day event), Texas Southern University official Gwendolyn C. Goodwin, and Mayo Clinic executive Neal Morgan. I started watching a bit late so I'm not sure what was said for the whole video, but there's at least a portion of Brooks insisting that detractors need to be more constructive.

And yesterday, JTA received some coverage in Mass Transit Mag on the U2C and the authority's work with FSCJ.
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

Tacachale

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #88 on: October 04, 2023, 11:52:38 PM »
^Those "autonomous" vehicles look like they have driver's seats.
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thelakelander

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Re: Time to cut bait on JTA's driverless Skyway replacement
« Reply #89 on: October 05, 2023, 05:51:50 AM »
So $500 million for vans? Why are we doing this again? A $60 million experiment down Bay Street is one thing. Blowing another $440 million to put vans on the Skyway is complete foolishness. What's next? Renderings of vans being driven by human drivers on the Skyway? Btw, how do you get those things up there at Bay & Hogan again?
« Last Edit: October 05, 2023, 05:54:52 AM by thelakelander »
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