Author Topic: As Jacksonville Grows...  (Read 8235 times)

Metro Jacksonville

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As Jacksonville Grows...
« on: September 28, 2007, 04:00:00 AM »
As Jacksonville Grows...



As Jacksonville grows, we’re beginning to face a traffic dilemma. Roads can only be widened so much and wider roads just bring more traffic congestion and sprawl (look to Atlanta for an example of how more cars feed more traffic frustration). It’s time to start planning for the future, and that future is mass transit.

Full Article
http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/598

MWisdom

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Re: As Jacksonville Grows...
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2007, 08:52:35 AM »
While I am certainly not opposed to a light-rail system in Jacksonville and think that it would provide a viable solution to the growing transportation problem in the metro area, I also think that the costs to benefits must be carefully weighed.  Light-rail is not the inexpensive solution many people think that it is.  Let’s play Devil’s Advocate a bit…

Take the example of St. Louis, MO.  The light rail system built and put into usage there linked the airport to the downtown and the east side of the Mississippi river (granted the East St. Louis stop was put in place primarily to serve the riverboat casino docked there).  The St. Louis system used a mixture of existing and new rails both above and below ground, along the I-70 corridor to downtown, then underground through existing tunnels beneath the city along Market St. and across the river.  Currently the line extends to Belleville, IL, a suburb about 15 miles from downtown St. Louis.

Capital costs to start the St. Louis system were $464 million with $384 million of that coming from Federal sources and $116 million matched by the Bi-state Development agency mostly in the form of donated rail right-of-ways.  An article published by the Federal Reserve Bank (“Light Rail, Boon or Boondoggle?”) heavily criticizes light-rail citing that the return on investment from fares collected results in less than 30% of the line’s annual operating costs.  The difference is paid for by tax-payers to the tune of $171 million a year – to restate, this covers operating costs only and does not address annual capital costs.  In a study by Stan Winston of the Brookings Institution it is concluded that the social costs of light rail far exceed its benefits (“Brookings Scholar on Rail Transit in America”).  Despite the costs, St. Louis’s transit system is considered a success with ridership far exceeding the 12,000 riders a day predicted.

Rail is usually built on lines that serve central transportation corridors and thus, grab the “cream of the crop” ridership in areas that typically have had low mass transit ridership.  Thus ridership figures are artificially inflated when compared to other mass transit usage.  St. Louis had historically low public transportation usage before the light rail system.    The issue that remains is how to disperse riders from the rail line in the downtown area – will riders get off the train and on to a bus to get to their final destinations?

Rail proponents trumpet development along light rail lines could result in a boom to local business and commercial property markets.  As I understand it, the lines that are being proposed would travel along the existing rail lines beside Roosevelt/17 and Phillips highway.  Those areas are already developed.  Roosevelt/17, it could be argued, is already over-developed while Phillips is seeing a renaissance of sorts with the addition of the Wal-Mart, on the north end and the heavy development near Baymeadows.  Other lines to the beaches along JTB also travel areas which are, or soon will be, heavily developed.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against light rail in Jacksonville.  In actuality I think that a rail system including express commuter trains, local trolleys, and mid-distance shuttles would be an over-all benefit to the area.  What I don’t want to see is a system that serves a limited number of riders and goes no where like the current downtown Skyway.  Careful study of population distribution, potential cost versus benefit, and route planning must be completed before a proposal can be made.  For a light rail system to succeed it must have riders, provide a transportation alternative at a reasonable price, and get people where they want to go.

thelakelander

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Re: As Jacksonville Grows...
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2007, 09:13:32 AM »
While I am certainly not opposed to a light-rail system in Jacksonville and think that it would provide a viable solution to the growing transportation problem in the metro area, I also think that the costs to benefits must be carefully weighed.  Light-rail is not the inexpensive solution many people think that it is.  Let’s play Devil’s Advocate a bit…

I agree, I would like rail also, but not if it's cost prohibitive and involves potentially raising taxes.  Nevertheless, I think the key to what Steve's editorial is the fact that a solution may not have to immediately involve going to full blown light rail.

Quote
Take the example of St. Louis, MO.  The light rail system built and put into usage there linked the airport to the downtown and the east side of the Mississippi river (granted the East St. Louis stop was put in place primarily to serve the riverboat casino docked there).  The St. Louis system used a mixture of existing and new rails both above and below ground, along the I-70 corridor to downtown, then underground through existing tunnels beneath the city along Market St. and across the river.  Currently the line extends to Belleville, IL, a suburb about 15 miles from downtown St. Louis.

Capital costs to start the St. Louis system were $464 million with $384 million of that coming from Federal sources and $116 million matched by the Bi-state Development agency mostly in the form of donated rail right-of-ways.  An article published by the Federal Reserve Bank (“Light Rail, Boon or Boondoggle?”) heavily criticizes light-rail citing that the return on investment from fares collected results in less than 30% of the line’s annual operating costs.  The difference is paid for by tax-payers to the tune of $171 million a year – to restate, this covers operating costs only and does not address annual capital costs.  In a study by Stan Winston of the Brookings Institution it is concluded that the social costs of light rail far exceed its benefits (“Brookings Scholar on Rail Transit in America”).  Despite the costs, St. Louis’s transit system is considered a success with ridership far exceeding the 12,000 riders a day predicted.

As an opposite to St. Louis' light rail start up costs, Steve's article pointed out the relatively low costs for rail in some other communities ($41 million for Nashville's 32 mile system and $112 million for Austin's 32 mile system).  These systems don't involve electrifying track or laying miles of new infrastructure.  Instead both (which are forms of commuter rail) involve running passenger rail cars on existing track.  That's a completely different animal from what traditional light rail involves and costs.  The key is what type of service is best used for certain corridors.  If you can get away running passenger rail on existing tracks, than by means you should take advantage of it.

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Rail is usually built on lines that serve central transportation corridors and thus, grab the “cream of the crop” ridership in areas that typically have had low mass transit ridership.  Thus ridership figures are artificially inflated when compared to other mass transit usage.  St. Louis had historically low public transportation usage before the light rail system.    The issue that remains is how to disperse riders from the rail line in the downtown area – will riders get off the train and on to a bus to get to their final destinations?

Locally, its no coincidence that our existing rail lines and planned BRT corridors (excluding the I-95 BRT route), due just that.  This is because our community grew up around these rail lines and most of the BRT routes just parallel them.  Once again, if we can use our existing rail infrastructure in our dense areas as a "trunk lines", we may be able to save hundreds of millions by not acquiring land and building busway infrastructure that parallels them.

[/quote]Rail proponents trumpet development along light rail lines could result in a boom to local business and commercial property markets.  As I understand it, the lines that are being proposed would travel along the existing rail lines beside Roosevelt/17 and Phillips highway.  Those areas are already developed.  Roosevelt/17, it could be argued, is already over-developed while Phillips is seeing a renaissance of sorts with the addition of the Wal-Mart, on the north end and the heavy development near Baymeadows.  Other lines to the beaches along JTB also travel areas which are, or soon will be, heavily developed.[/quote]

Rail transit oriented developments typically don't create new growth, they redistribute existing growth patterns and directions.  The benefit in redeveloping around stations in corridors, such as Philips and Roosevelt is that older obsolete industrial sites can become positive economic engines in areas where sufficient infrastructure already exists instead of decay and blight, which is what sections of Philips, near Emerson resemble now.  Also, by redistributing growth to areas with sufficient infrastructure already in place, it gives the community a chance to finally control the never ending sprawl that only creates more traffic congestion and heartache in the suburbs.

As for the S-Line, through the Northside, it gives us the chance to revive the densest and most pedestrian friendly areas of town.  If properly coordinated with the City's planning department, this gives us the opportunity to address many other problems in our community, such as affordable housing, connectivity, crime, economic stagnation, etc.

Quote
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against light rail in Jacksonville.  In actuality I think that a rail system including express commuter trains, local trolleys, and mid-distance shuttles would be an over-all benefit to the area.  What I don’t want to see is a system that serves a limited number of riders and goes no where like the current downtown Skyway.  Careful study of population distribution, potential cost versus benefit, and route planning must be completed before a proposal can be made.  For a light rail system to succeed it must have riders, provide a transportation alternative at a reasonable price, and get people where they want to go.


I agree 100%
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thelakelander

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Re: As Jacksonville Grows...
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2007, 09:21:48 AM »
This should help clear up the issue about Jax's density.  Here's a population density map from the 2000 census with the S-Line (northside), FEC (southside) and CSX A (westside) existing rail lines overlayed in green.  Note how are densest pockets of population string these things.  You could not ask for better routes for a potential "trunk line" system (outside of sufficient service to the Arlington/Regency area).



This image also gives you an idea of where potential express bus/BRT improvements should be made, feeding riders from areas not located near these potential trunk rail lines.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2007, 09:24:33 AM by thelakelander »
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thelakelander

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Re: As Jacksonville Grows...
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2007, 09:28:22 AM »
Btw, you'll also see in that map above, the downtown core, which was once the densest section of the city, has now become a low density hole in the Northside.  Even portions of sprawling Mandarin and the Regency areas have a higher population density/mile (and we wonder why Fire House Subs closes its doors).  The benefit of rail in the core, is we would then have the opportunity to really fill the hole in the middle of the Northside doughnut.
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Lunican

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Re: As Jacksonville Grows...
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2007, 09:55:44 AM »
Quote
An article published by the Federal Reserve Bank (“Light Rail, Boon or Boondoggle?”) heavily criticizes light-rail citing that the return on investment from fares collected results in less than 30% of the line’s annual operating costs.  The difference is paid for by tax-payers to the tune of $171 million a year – to restate, this covers operating costs only and does not address annual capital costs. 

The problem with this line of thinking is that the "return on investment" does not come from the farebox. It comes from the benefits of having a viable mass transit system and the huge savings from building less roads, not to mention the environmental and development aspects. What exactly is the return on investment for a road? That 30% from the farebox is 30% more than roads will do.

Quote
In a study by Stan Winston of the Brookings Institution it is concluded that the social costs of light rail far exceed its benefits (“Brookings Scholar on Rail Transit in America”).  Despite the costs, St. Louis’s transit system is considered a success with ridership far exceeding the 12,000 riders a day predicted.

Which has a higher social cost: Road construction or a rail system? It's actually pretty ridiculous to use "social costs" to oppose light rail when the social cost of the alternative is many times worse.

MWisdom

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Re: As Jacksonville Grows...
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2007, 10:04:44 AM »
Great info, and thoughtful rebuttal.  Like I said earlier, I am not opposed, I just want to be sure that it is done the right way.  Mass transit is an extremely polarizing topic and will likely bring numerous opinions and arguments.  It is extremely important that the most salient points from each be carefully scrutinized and acted upon.

There can be little argument that trunk lines along the major corridors in your illustration would benefit the highest population centers of the Jacksonville area.  However, these lines do not address the problem of rapidly increasing density in the beaches area particularly East Arlington and Ponte Vedra/Nocatee.  Moving riders from their homes to the trunk lines is a problem, too.  Current Park and Ride lots are underused and most of the riders the trunk lines hope to attract will likely resist being bussed to a rail station.  Thus, ridership by people who live outside of comfortable walking distance to a rail station will be low.  This alone will prove to be a major detractor for the system as a large amount of potential riders will fall into this category.  When you consider current “hot spot” development areas like Oakleaf, Nocatee, Julington Creek, and even Middleburg you see that a large portion of the population will be significantly underserved.

A response to the resistance to riding busses can be addressed by building feeder lines from the more remote population centers.  Local trolley or mid-distance shuttle lines, however, do not have the ready-made rail lines and right-of-ways the trunk lines have.  Thereby putting these lines in will prove to be extremely expensive to construct in time, money and frustration to drivers trying to navigate streets being torn up to lay rail.  

So, we are back to the problem of feasibility.  I think that the plan of creating high-speed bus lines if ridiculous, but I also feel rail would be an extremely expensive alternative in the long-run.



thelakelander

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Re: As Jacksonville Grows...
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2007, 10:16:35 AM »
Great info, and thoughtful rebuttal.  Like I said earlier, I am not opposed, I just want to be sure that it is done the right way.  Mass transit is an extremely polarizing topic and will likely bring numerous opinions and arguments.  It is extremely important that the most salient points from each be carefully scrutinized and acted upon.

There can be little argument that trunk lines along the major corridors in your illustration would benefit the highest population centers of the Jacksonville area.  However, these lines do not address the problem of rapidly increasing density in the beaches area particularly East Arlington and Ponte Vedra/Nocatee.  Moving riders from their homes to the trunk lines is a problem, too.  Current Park and Ride lots are underused and most of the riders the trunk lines hope to attract will likely resist being bussed to a rail station.  Thus, ridership by people who live outside of comfortable walking distance to a rail station will be low.  This alone will prove to be a major detractor for the system as a large amount of potential riders will fall into this category.  When you consider current “hot spot” development areas like Oakleaf, Nocatee, Julington Creek, and even Middleburg you see that a large portion of the population will be significantly underserved.

You have to start somewhere.  Right now, those lines provide direct service to most of the metro's current transit dependent community and those who will walk to stops, as opposed to drive.  Regarding the beaches and Ponte Vedra, the easiest thing would be to take a stab out of Minneapolis' playbook and run some form of BRT down JTB or Beach (not in the form of dedicated busway, but perhaps an HOV/carpool lane that includes buses.

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A response to the resistance to riding busses can be addressed by building feeder lines from the more remote population centers.  Local trolley or mid-distance shuttle lines, however, do not have the ready-made rail lines and right-of-ways the trunk lines have.  Thereby putting these lines in will prove to be extremely expensive to construct in time, money and frustration to drivers trying to navigate streets being torn up to lay rail.  

So, we are back to the problem of feasibility.  I think that the plan of creating high-speed bus lines if ridiculous, but I also feel rail would be an extremely expensive alternative in the long-run.

Rail as extremely expensive to what?  At some point something has to be done and the solutions are either some form of rail, bus, a mix of the two or more roads.  When all are laid out on the table, roads will always end up being the most expensive alternative.
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Ocklawaha

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Re: As Jacksonville Grows...
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2007, 11:01:50 AM »
Quote
There can be little argument that trunk lines along the major corridors in your illustration would benefit the highest population centers of the Jacksonville area.  However, these lines do not address the problem of rapidly increasing density in the beaches area particularly East Arlington and Ponte Vedra/Nocatee.  Moving riders from their homes to the trunk lines is a problem, too.  Current Park and Ride lots are underused and most of the riders the trunk lines hope to attract will likely resist being bussed to a rail station.  Thus, ridership by people who live outside of comfortable walking distance to a rail station will be low.  This alone will prove to be a major detractor for the system as a large amount of potential riders will fall into this category.  When you consider current “hot spot” development areas like Oakleaf, Nocatee, Julington Creek, and even Middleburg you see that a large portion of the population will be significantly underserved.

It is true that Light Rail could not serve every "hot spot" in the metropolitan area. Neither will the BRT system. Any starter system will have to include some trunk line portions. As rail can be built for $3 - $4 Million a mile WITH electrical (traditional light rail) it is far cheaper then highway lanes to build. We are not St. Louis, there will be no Mississippi River Bridge, or Subway construction in Jacksonville. This is not an imagined pie-in-the-sky price, this came from engineers, consultants and contractors, in Jacksonville, YESTERDAY!  These facts alone make St. Louis, Buffalo and other special case construction LRT systems a very bad model for us to compare with. For a more honest mirror in electric rail look to Charlotte, Albuquerque, and Portland Streetcar or Memphis, Ft. Smith, Kenosha or McKinney Avenue Dallas Heritage projects. How the LRT system serves Oakleaf, Nocatee, Julington Creek or Middleburg has almost as many answers as destinations. Some through future expansion, some through joint Duval - Clay - St. Johns - Nassau County planning and construction, others with a network of feeder buses that hub out of local transit centers located along the rail line itself. Where do the local buses come from? They are taken from routes the rail would replace, and from routes that could be curtailed short of downtown because of rail. Thus rail improves the entire bus system and adds a layer to the critical mix of mass transit.  

Quote
A response to the resistance to riding buses can be addressed by building feeder lines from the more remote population centers.  Local trolley or mid-distance shuttle lines, however, do not have the ready-made rail lines and right-of-ways the trunk lines have.  Thereby putting these lines in will prove to be extremely expensive to construct in time, money and frustration to drivers trying to navigate streets being torn up to lay rail

Rail to the more remote population centers is what it is. The same is true for the highway system. Many buses reach the rural or suburban areas by running zig-zags all over the neighborhood to seek out riders and congregation points. This is simply what buses do best. It would be crazy to try and duplicate this with rail. On the other  hand it would be crazy to try and duplicate the speed, comfort, and capacity of rail with a bus. Especially when the rail is already there.

Great Questions.


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Steve

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Re: As Jacksonville Grows...
« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2007, 11:18:12 AM »
However, these lines do not address the problem of rapidly increasing density in the beaches area particularly East Arlington and Ponte Vedra/Nocatee.

Keep two things in mind.

1. Part of the point of this letter was to ring to light JTA's $750 million potential boondoggle.  The furthest they go to the east is Regency Square, hardly reaching these areas.

2. This does serve Nocatee.  Despite what they want to say, Nocatee is not really in Ponte Vedra (the entire development is west of the intracostal, and it's west border is US 1, which the rail lines hit)

Also, nowhere in this does it mention opposition to the concept of BRT.  BRT makes sense in many circumstances, and can be a cheap way to offer mass transit.  The problem comes when it cost double and triple that of rail.

Thereby putting these lines in will prove to be extremely expensive to construct in time, money and frustration to drivers trying to navigate streets being torn up to lay rail.

The mode of transportation is usually not the big cost.  It is the land to acquire to lay your transportation infrastructure.  JTA has made soem odd decisions on their routes to say the least.  For example, the decision on their southwest line at the Roosevent-Blanding Split to use Blanding (where there are buildings up to the property line in many cases down to Wilson) as opposed to Roosevelt (which has the Rail corridor, and much more of a suburban layout along the side of the road.  That to me is mindboggling.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2007, 11:21:25 AM by Steve »

Ocklawaha

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Re: As Jacksonville Grows...
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2007, 11:38:51 AM »
Quote
Thereby putting these lines in will prove to be extremely expensive to construct in time, money and frustration to drivers trying to navigate streets being torn up to lay rail.

I love this quote, the streets torn up to lay rail is classic highway speak. First, who says the LRT has to be in a street? It's a railroad. It can be along side the street, in the median, on it's own railroad right of way, elevated or subway or..??? Even if it were built in the street, it demonstrates the publics lack of contact with light rail over the last 50 years. Street trackage is usually built in 3 to 4 block segments. The torn up street is really a 10' wide x 24" inch deep cut made in the pavement. Often closing off one parking lane and routing the traffic around the construction with little disruption. The segments are built out in 3 - 4 week increments, so no one suffers long from any needed construction. The whole process is fast and fairly painless.  

Ocklawaha

thelakelander

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Re: As Jacksonville Grows...
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2007, 01:07:34 PM »
You mean its quicker than the time it will take to expand JTB or Beach Blvd from 4 to 6 lanes?
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Ocklawaha

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Re: As Jacksonville Grows...
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2007, 01:41:28 PM »



Albuquerque is moving at the rate of nearly one block per week, pretty darn fast. They are going right down the middle with a parkway concept on much of it. So yes, faster then JTB... and JTB... and JTB... and...

Ocklawaha
« Last Edit: September 28, 2007, 01:43:35 PM by Ocklawaha »

thelakelander

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Re: As Jacksonville Grows...
« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2007, 01:54:29 PM »
Albuquerque just got commuter rail last year and now they're getting light rail too?  For some reason many of these cities out west appear to be pretty progressive in embracing alternative forms of mass transit.
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thelakelander

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Re: As Jacksonville Grows...
« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2007, 02:00:00 PM »
from the TU forums.....

Quote
Re: Low-cost rail for Jacksonville is far more realistic than realized
Posted by: getreal
Posted on: 9/28/07 - 12:01 p.m.

This group keeps pushing rail but they never talk about one minor little detail that makes rail impractical in Jax. That little detail is what many consider our greatest asset, the St Johns River. There is only one, count 'em one rail crossing on the river, and that needs to be shared with the freight lines and Amtrac.

http://cgi.jacksonville.com/cgi-bin/msgboard/boards/news/view.cgi?section=28931

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