The Jaxson

Community => Transportation, Mass Transit & Infrastructure => Topic started by: marcuscnelson on April 14, 2021, 02:39:32 PM

Title: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: marcuscnelson on April 14, 2021, 02:39:32 PM
Didn't see a separate thread for this, so I thought I'd make one.

JTA Considering Commuter Rail Between Jacksonville And St. Johns County

https://news.wjct.org/post/jta-considering-commuter-rail-between-jacksonville-and-st-johns-county

Quote
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is considering building a commuter rail between St. Johns and Duval Counties.

During a St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce event last week, Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) CEO Nat Ford said he was in talks with St. Augustine leaders and others about creating a commuter rail, as was reported in The St. Augustine Record (https://www.staugustine.com/story/news/traffic/2021/03/30/st-johns-county-could-see-commuter-rail-deal-traffic-growth/7013200002/).
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: marcuscnelson on April 14, 2021, 02:55:33 PM
For context, here (https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/23708131/first-coast-commuter-rail-feasibility-study-jacksonville-) is the study from 2009 on commuter rail.

One thing that confuses me upfront is that JTA received $877k last year (https://www.masstransitmag.com/management/press-release/21202767/federal-transit-administration-fta-fta-awards-62-million-in-tod-planning-grants) to plan TOD at four stations along what seems to be the Southeast Corridor. Where did that money go?

Quote
Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) in Florida will receive $877,068 in funding to plan for TOD at four stations in the initial phase of the proposed 38.4-mile First Coast commuter rail project in Northeast Florida.

Also, apparently six years ago, there was supposed to be another study (https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2015/05/20/st-augustine-drivers-might-be-getting-a-cure-for.html) on commuter rail. What happened to that?

Quote
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is studying the viability of a commuter rail system on the Southeast corridor, between Downtown and St. Augustine.

The study, which will be completed this time next year, looks at potential ridership, the cost to build and operate the systems and where the stations would be. The study being conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff costs $525,000
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on April 14, 2021, 03:00:25 PM
There's nothing in the gas tax list about commuter rail. There is some money for a PD&E Study to relocate the passenger rail station back downtown. It would be good to see additional money set aside to actually move the passenger rail station back downtown. In other words, let's do more than create 35% design plans.

As for commuter rail, we've been here before. I'm a rail fan but I don't think it makes sense to pursue on the FEC before addressing any potential intercity partnering opportunities with Brightline (same for Amtrak with the CSX A line). You piggyback off improvements made by intercity rail, not move on things before. That's how you get a 13.5 mile commuter rail line less than 1/2 the cost for Miami-Dade taxpayers than what Jax taxpayers are being asked to pay to convert the Skyway into the U2C:

Quote
It will cost an estimated $345 million to build the necessary rail infrastructure, stations, park-and-ride facilities, maintenance depots and trains, according to a Feb. 18 memo from Aileen Bouclé, director of the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization.

Once built, operations and maintenance are expected to cost $16 million a year.

Miami-Dade will ask for half the construction cost from the Federal Transit Administration’s capital investment grant program.

Quote
The plan, Ms. Bouclé wrote, also includes an expectation that the Florida Department of Transportation will contribute a quarter of the project cost. Miami-Dade intends to cover the remainder using funds generated by a local half-percent sales tax known as the half-penny, which county voters approved in 2002 to improve and expand transportation.

Half-penny funds will also cover the cost of the three-acre Aventura station, setting the county’s estimated contribution toward the project’s total construction at $162.25 million.

Quote
Plans shown to investors included five stations between MiamiCentral and Aventura stations, including Wynwood, Design District, El Portal, North Miami and FIU Biscayne Bay Campus.

https://www.miamitodaynews.com/2021/03/23/after-345-million-buildout-brightline-to-run-new-intercity-rail/?fbclid=IwAR3BPmaRRvzc6CB7XYeZ087EioaNjPXmo_atEAQjKlersg2adyg84frIPZY




Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: bl8jaxnative on April 15, 2021, 01:15:03 PM

I'm not following that last claim.

a) [iirc] Skyway is proposed to cost $400million

b) Miami is spending ~$400M + perpetual operating costs
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on April 15, 2021, 01:37:05 PM
Miami-Dade is seeking funding assistance from FDOT and the FTA. Their local share of the $345 million project is $162.25 million. Jax taxpayers are being asked to fund 100% of the $379 million Skyway conversion project with the gas tax. Why not attempt to secure FDOT and FTA funding assistance?
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: Lostwave on April 16, 2021, 08:58:24 AM
I would bet that FDOT doesn't want to pay for clown cars.  If it was light rail or a monorail or something, they would.  But golf carts, no.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: marcuscnelson on April 16, 2021, 01:23:02 PM
Miami-Dade is seeking funding assistance from FDOT and the FTA. Their local share of the $345 million project is $162.25 million. Jax taxpayers are being asked to fund 100% of the $379 million Skyway conversion project with the gas tax. Why not attempt to secure FDOT and FTA funding assistance?

Sounds like you got your answer to that:

Quote
The expectation is that the later phases of the U2C will proceed as a Public-Private Partnership (P3), which will require a dedicated funding source. The LOGT provides that dedicated funding source, unlike discretionary grants that must be applied for each year and are not guaranteed.

I would bet that FDOT doesn't want to pay for clown cars.  If it was light rail or a monorail or something, they would.  But golf carts, no.

It's a cold day in hell when the FDOT is being more responsible about public transportation than you.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: bl8jaxnative on April 20, 2021, 04:03:02 PM
Miami-Dade is seeking funding assistance from FDOT and the FTA. Their local share of the $345 million project is $162.25 million. Jax taxpayers are being asked to fund 100% of the $379 million Skyway conversion project with the gas tax. Why not attempt to secure FDOT and FTA funding assistance?

Ah, okay.  So it's what the local govt would be looking at for cost, not total cost of project.  Thank you.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on April 20, 2021, 04:42:36 PM
^Yes, just looking at the local percentage and recommending that the LOGT only cover a local percentage for this U2C thing, and not the total cost as currently being proposed by JTA.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: marcuscnelson on July 25, 2021, 07:15:37 AM
Morning, folks. Surprisingly big update.

JTA's board is voting this week on approving a contract for Transit Oriented Development planning around both the First Coast Flyer's Green Line stations… and commuter rail.

I got a hold of the bid documents for it, and within that, I found something incredibly interesting.

https://gis.jtafla.com/portal/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=9813461a3590462892bcd0cc13d26161

This is apparently a largely complete plan for commuter rail along the FEC corridor. It's very different from the last plan, back in 2009. Down from thirteen stations to just four, at the JRTC, Avenues Walk, Race Track Road, and King Street in St. Augustine. This time they've decided on a specific location for a vehicle maintenance facility, in St. Johns County along the big FEC branch instead of in "proximity to the downtown terminal."

It includes an operating plan:

(https://www.arcgis.com/sharing/rest/content/items/1e14682328644970bb3dcdcaf98d1e74/resources/CR%20Operating%20Plan-01__1579637290291__w1920.png)

They've downgraded from pursuing DMUs (despite the arrival of companies like Stadler and changes to FRA standards) to seven trainsets of a locomotive + two coaches akin to SunRail. The expected capital cost is $395 million, a substantial increase from the $172 million pricetag in 2009. Expected operating costs went from $14 million to $25 million.

Here are maps of the station plans (which I notice are from 2017), featuring longer platforms at the two termini:

(https://gis.jtafla.com/portal/sharing/rest/content/items/9813461a3590462892bcd0cc13d26161/resources/JTA%20Station%20Concepts_04-01-20_Page_1__1585865813519__w1920.jpg)

(https://gis.jtafla.com/portal/sharing/rest/content/items/9813461a3590462892bcd0cc13d26161/resources/JTA%20Station%20Concepts_04-01-20_Page_2__1585866435928__w1920.jpg)

(https://gis.jtafla.com/portal/sharing/rest/content/items/9813461a3590462892bcd0cc13d26161/resources/JTA%20Station%20Concepts_04-01-20_Page_3__1585866560720__w1920.jpg)

(https://gis.jtafla.com/portal/sharing/rest/content/items/9813461a3590462892bcd0cc13d26161/resources/JTA%20Station%20Concepts_04-01-20_Page_4__1585866221339__w1920.jpg)
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: jcjohnpaint on July 25, 2021, 08:59:16 AM
Wow! Thanks for sharing
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on July 25, 2021, 09:29:32 AM
What's the projected ridership? I imagine those trainsets would be halfway empty at 30 minute headways. If they are down to 4 stations, definitely best to see how Brightline and/or Amtrak funding plays out over the next year or so. Potential sites in two  (Jax and St. Augustine) locations would likely be included and locals could probably lobby for a third.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on July 25, 2021, 10:14:45 AM
Btw, Gatlin has different plans for the Racetrack Road site. A shopping center and apartment complex. Construction starts this summer so the rail station is DOA:

(https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/sites/default/files/342579_standard.jpeg)

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.jaxdailyrecord.com/article/gatlin-buys-former-st-johns-dog-track-plans-dollar250-million-grand-cypress%3famp
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: marcuscnelson on July 25, 2021, 06:24:00 PM
What's the projected ridership? I imagine those trainsets would be halfway empty at 30 minute headways. If they are down to 4 stations, definitely best to see how Brightline and/or Amtrak funding plays out over the next year or so. Potential sites in two  (Jax and St. Augustine) locations would likely be included and locals could probably lobby for a third.

It's not clear if they've gotten ridership projections yet, it looks like they might be asking the contract recipient for the TOD study to determine that as part of it. Essentially building the ridership around the stations.

The word I've gotten is that it is still planned to make this happen within the decade. My understanding is that they're trying to basically copy the Tri-Rail strategy, in which FDOT builds it as traffic mitigation for the $1 billion I-95 rebuild & widening that's expected to take over a decade. They say as much in the RFP:

Quote
The proposed project would establish a 38.4-mile commuter rail corridor on Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway rail line from Downtown Jacksonville to St. Augustine in St. Johns County. The project is proposed as a maintenance of traffic (MOT)/mitigation strategy for several major projects expected to take place on I-95 in Southern Duval County and Northern St. Johns County.

To me, the design of the stations in Downtown and St. Augustine imply that they're where intercity trains would stop, since the inline stations are sized for just a single commuter train. And the newer report mentions that

Quote
Virgin Brightline owns the passenger rail rights to the corridor, representing considerable interest in bringing passenger rail to Northeast Florida.

Re: Gatlin, the rail plan is older, but looking at both your map and the Property Appraiser, if they can extend Big Cypress Drive through where that retention pond is and build the station a little further south, I don't see why it wouldn't fit within the remainder of the parcel that multifamily complex is planned for.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: jaxjags on July 25, 2021, 07:23:20 PM
Yes-FDOT has been quiet lately on I95 both N and S of 295. They have moved to I10. I like this approach. Similar to I 77 south of Charlotte. Light rail versus an expensive Interstate upgrade.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on July 25, 2021, 08:06:45 PM

Re: Gatlin, the rail plan is older, but looking at both your map and the Property Appraiser, if they can extend Big Cypress Drive through where that retention pond is and build the station a little further south, I don't see why it wouldn't fit within the remainder of the parcel that multifamily complex is planned for.

Gatlin is supposed to break ground on the apartment complex this summer. JTA 's commuter rail dream is still 15 to 20 years out at best. The developer's skin the game is now. Unless JTA is prepared to buy the parcel from them now, it will be developed and flipped a few times before any type of passenger rail runs on the FEC.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: WAJAS on July 25, 2021, 09:25:06 PM
Smart move decreasing the stops. It likely decreases the travel time by almost 10 minutes and decreases duplication with the Flyers.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on July 25, 2021, 09:36:28 PM
^Also decreases the need for the project at all, depending on what happens with intercity rail along the corridor.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: WAJAS on July 25, 2021, 09:59:20 PM
^Also decreases the need for the project at all, depending on what happens with intercity rail along the corridor.

That's a pretty good point. The intercity service would likely not be more frequent than hourly service, so a filler commuter rail that leaves every hour in between the intercity service during rush hour could be useful. I don't think the need for half-hour frequency would be there at first though.

I'm imagining something like what Caltrans does with Amtrak where your commuter rail ticket works on the intercity trains as well as long as you board and alight at the right stations.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on July 25, 2021, 10:35:15 PM
My fear regarding feasibility revolves around the following concerns:

1. There's no density either downtown or around any of these 4 stations to generate sufficient ridership to justify 30 minute peak and 60 minute non peak headways.

2. Sunrail has a lot more density, runs 30 minute peak and 60 minute non peak service and only generates around 5,000 riders a day (basically what the 2.5 mile Skyway was doing a few years ago). Metro Orlando is also significantly larger than Jax-St. Johns County-St. Augustine. Whatever traffic can be generated on the FEC will be much lower than what's been generated on Sunrail in Metro Orlando now.

3. $400 million for 4 stations, two or three of which could be included in a Brightline or Amtrak plan, reeks of duplicate services. One can easy make the argument that this would be just as wasteful local spending a similar amount on the U2C. It pains me to say that, since I'm a huge fan of rail, but I'm also trying to keep it real. For this particular corridor, we'd be better off piggybacking an intercity service (let them pay for the necessary track capacity needs) and throw in local money for an extra stop between DT Jax and St. Augustine.

4. Prior to the pandemic, Brightline operated 16 northbound and 16 southbound trains per day in South Florida. It will be difficult for a local commuter rail system to match anything similar to that if such a service materialized elsewhere. Since this commuter rail dream is so far out and includes so many variables that can make or break its feasibility, it would make sense locally to first address a corridor where duplicate services aren't possible and where a stronger, reliable transit link is also needed.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: marcuscnelson on July 25, 2021, 11:02:19 PM
Gatlin is supposed to break ground on the apartment complex this summer. JTA 's commuter rail dream is still 15 to 20 years out at best. The developer's skin the game is now. Unless JTA is prepared to buy the parcel from them now, it will be developed and flipped a few times before any type of passenger rail runs on the FEC.

I get that Gatlin is going to build, I'm saying that there's still room for the station even with the apartment going there.

As far as the overall concept, this all suggests to me that there's been a more calculated plan all along. This is why they asked for so little money in the gas tax. The idea is that JTA only needs to spend enough to get it shovel-ready and through most of the FRA-related hurdles. So the $800k they got from the feds to pay for this TOD study, plus the few million in the LOGT to plan out the JRTC terminal. I know from people I've talked to that they're working on getting the mixed-use project built on the St. Augustine end at W King.

So the plan is that once they've laid the groundwork over the next 3-5 years, FDOT takes over and integrates it as the traffic mitigation on the I-95 rebuild. It might still be a decade before you can board a train, but I don't think it'll be much longer than that. I'm shocked to learn that they actually really seem to be trying.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on July 26, 2021, 12:09:20 AM
I get that Gatlin is going to build, I'm saying that there's still room for the station even with the apartment going there.

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

Quote
As far as the overall concept, this all suggests to me that there's been a more calculated plan all along. This is why they asked for so little money in the gas tax. The idea is that JTA only needs to spend enough to get it shovel-ready and through most of the FRA-related hurdles. So the $800k they got from the feds to pay for this TOD study, plus the few million in the LOGT to plan out the JRTC terminal. I know from people I've talked to that they're working on getting the mixed-use project built on the St. Augustine end at W King.

Unless they are willing to pay 100% of the construction costs and pay the railroad to be able to operate on those tracks, they'll have to follow the process for whatever type of federal or state funding assistance they'll need. Still pretty early in the game right now. Once they start and finish the PD&E study, where more detailed engineering and environmental analysis will be required, more information will be available concerning the project's feasibility.

Quote
So the plan is that once they've laid the groundwork over the next 3-5 years, FDOT takes over and integrates it as the traffic mitigation on the I-95 rebuild. It might still be a decade before you can board a train, but I don't think it'll be much longer than that. I'm shocked to learn that they actually really seem to be trying.

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

Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: ricker on July 26, 2021, 12:43:10 AM
Much like Lofts in LaVilla, amd the SanMarco Publix, parking can be tucked under. The multifamily component isn't phase 1, correct?
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on July 26, 2021, 06:46:13 AM
From the article:

Quote
The four-story “courtyard wrap-style” development will have a pool, clubhouse and gym. The building will be connected with indoor, climate-controlled hallways.

The multifamily developments will be built by Summit Contracting Group and designed by Group 4 Design. EnVision Design Engineering is the civil engineer.

The developer isn't waiting for something that may or may not happen 15 to 20 years down the road, that would likely be a big money loser for them. The timeliness are dramatically different but they already have financial skin in the game.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: jaxlongtimer on July 26, 2021, 02:42:14 PM
The issues discussed above with the Race Track station typify Jacksonville's lack of long range planning.  By the time someone actually wants to do something, options are restricted or no longer available and/or it cost a fortune to retrieve a previously lost option.

Just a few years ago (see Better Jacksonville Plan), JTA/FDOT could have bought much more accessible properties of larger size (to allow for long term growth as the stations aren't that big compared to what I have seen elsewhere once this concept "matures") for much less dollars.  No need to build right away if the need isn't there yet, but at least you have begun to build into a master plan and assure its feasibility for relatively small dollars compared to its full build out.  If the land never gets used, they can always sell it, likely for a nice profit, so not much downside.

This is also why I think the City is making a big mistake to allow riverfront development Downtown.  Once the land is developed, we will be forever precluded from meeting the needs of a larger city in the future.  It makes no sense to not plan these big public works projects 10, 20 or even many more years in advance, especially when you are in a high growth area like we are.  You can bet the interstate highways were mapped out in such a manner.  As Lake points out, it takes up to 10 years just to engineer and fund what is finally agreed to.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on July 26, 2021, 05:28:36 PM
^Unfortunately, JTA was provided $100 million in BJP money to do just that for a future rapid transit system. That opportunity was blown and now two decades later, we're still talking about concepts. Luckily they did acquire a few properties and build out a couple of sites that will work in the long term. Two that come to mind are the CR 220 park n ride lot adjacent to the CSX A line in Fleming Island and the transit station site at Avenues Walk, which is shown in the commuter rail concepts Marcus posted. On the other hand, anything drawn on someone else's property is nothing more than a conceptual dream.

Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: marcuscnelson on July 27, 2021, 03:31:56 PM
JTA's board unanimously approved the TOD study contract.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: bl8jaxnative on July 31, 2021, 02:40:31 PM
Downtown Jacksonville didn't have the job base to support a heavy rail commuter line.

Take away 1/2 the works - which is what hybrid does - and it's gone in the opposite direction for such a thing
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: ralpho37 on August 02, 2021, 10:13:03 AM
Jax would be smart to include a secondary route in this study: Downtown - Murray Hill - NAS - Orange Park
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on August 02, 2021, 01:25:41 PM
^This route likely makes more sense. Clay has traffic gridlock that the I-95 corridor will never have and there's no viable roadway based solution out there to resolve them north of Fleming Island. On the other hand, FEC appears to be much easier to work with than CSX. That's about the only reason why I can see the push to get something on the FEC up before the CSX A line.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: Tacachale on August 02, 2021, 02:38:19 PM
^This route likely makes more sense. Clay has traffic gridlock that the I-95 corridor will never have and there's no viable roadway based solution out there to resolve them north of Fleming Island. On the other hand, FEC appears to be much easier to work with than CSX. That's about the only reason why I can see the push to get something on the FEC up before the CSX A line.

Anecdotally, I have a friend who works for FEC after years at CSX. He says it's like night and day between the companies when it comes to these kinds of relationships.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: marcuscnelson on August 02, 2021, 03:10:18 PM
I get that Gatlin is going to build, I'm saying that there's still room for the station even with the apartment going there.

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

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

(https://media.discordapp.net/attachments/833877455118794772/871815634688806932/Racetrack_Commuter_Concept.png?width=1074&height=583)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One thing I'm also worried about is the eventual cost. I know Lake's pointed out the utility in waiting for Brightline, but assuming that doesn't happen, JTA really needs to go all-in and have in-house rail development. They already know they want to spend the next twenty years building out a rail network, so bring the people in now instead of spending millions on consultants. We've already watched the price more than double in a decade, at this rate the actual built line will be a billion dollars, before you start looking at all the CSX lines to deal with.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on August 02, 2021, 09:39:55 PM
Racetrack may not work as proposed but perhaps the area around the CR 210 overpass can be an alternative possibility?

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

(https://ggwash.org/images/posts/201601-272310.jpg)


Elsewhere:
(https://c8.alamy.com/comp/CB8N4A/a-choice-which-is-the-best-way-trains-and-people-have-to-make-choices-CB8N4A.jpg)
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on August 03, 2021, 08:51:21 AM
^Pipe dream. NE Florida's low population density doesn't support that option (DC Metro is heavy rail) and it would be a couple billion verses the $400 million project (I-95 basically parallels FEC, so existing rail would be preferred for commuter rail) being discussed now.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: marcuscnelson on August 15, 2021, 02:30:15 AM
Racetrack may not work as proposed but perhaps the area around the CR 210 overpass can be an alternative possibility?

Last I checked, that was currently planned for an industrial park (https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/article/scannell-properties-proposes-st-johns-county-industrial-park).

(https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/sites/default/files/styles/sliders_and_planned_story_image_870x580/public/332541_standard.jpeg?itok=ATbotrox)
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on August 15, 2021, 12:36:05 PM
I was thinking of a portion of the triangular track shaped by FEC, Old 210 and the 210 overpass. Right near the utilities facility. Anything planned there?
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on August 15, 2021, 12:40:36 PM
That industrial development may work as well if JTA believes in the project enough to buy a parcel from the developer, sooner rather then later.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: marcuscnelson on August 15, 2021, 08:27:10 PM
I was thinking of a portion of the triangular track shaped by FEC, Old 210 and the 210 overpass. Right near the utilities facility. Anything planned there?

Oh, that. On the master development plan that's all "light industrial/office/flex space" space (https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/article/light-industrial-park-planned-in-twin-creeks), including a school bus depot (which the school district has already bought land for) and some workforce housing.

(https://images1.loopnet.com/i2/YJp9dcEBCjjCesY2WoS_IWGRmUy6pBvk2BGf-R3FDA4/116/County-Road-210-Beacon-Lake-Parkway-St-Johns-FL-Building-Photo-1-LargeHighDefinition.jpg)

So it's possible they haven't secured tenants for the remaining flex space, and if JTA wanted to/could afford to, they could buy it for a more mixed-use development. It wouldn't be all that conveniently located compared to the rest of the development, or to Nocatee and Durbin where they might have hoped for the additional ridership from, but they could.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: jaxlongtimer on August 15, 2021, 09:59:56 PM
It wouldn't be all that conveniently located compared to the rest of the development, or to Nocatee and Durbin where they might have hoped for the additional ridership from, but they could.

Looking at the aerials, it would appear that 210 easily flows into Nocatee's 4 lane Valley Ridge Blvd. that cuts through the heart of Nocatee.  It also appears that with what appears to be sizable FDOT retention ponds on the east side of US 1 at 210, an interchange between 210 and US 1 could be built a la the one between US 1 and Nocatee Parkway.  If this was done, those on Race Track would have easy access to a station off 210 by traversing south on US 1.  I am actually a bit surprised the interchange isn't already there and wonder if it is in a master FDOT plan somewhere.  Anyone know?
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: Charles Hunter on August 15, 2021, 10:09:58 PM
If I remember correctly, FDOT has (had?) plans for a second phase at the new overpass connecting the two parts of 210. They would add ramps so US 1 traffic to/from the west wouldn't have to get caught at the RR crossing.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: thelakelander on August 19, 2021, 09:30:56 PM

That industrial development may work as well if JTA believes in the project enough to buy a parcel from the developer, sooner rather then later.
Received a response from JTA about this commuter rail plan for a future Jaxson article. At this point, this isn't a serious proposal. At this time the JTA is discussing the concept with stake holders to see if there is an interest to have formal discussions on the idea.
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: Charles Hunter on August 19, 2021, 11:14:11 PM
Received a response from JTA about this commuter rail plan for a future Jaxson article. At this point, this isn't a serious proposal. At this time the JTA is discussing the concept with stake holders to see if there is an interest to have formal discussions on the idea.

So, JTA is having discussions to decide if they will have discussions?   ::)
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: jaxlongtimer on September 20, 2021, 06:03:07 PM
Here is the latest out today on JTA, commuter rail and TOD:
Quote
Someday, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority would like to see commuter rail running between downtown Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2021/09/20/jta-tod-study.html?utm_source=st&utm_medium=en&utm_campaign=ae&utm_content=ja&ana=e_ja_ae&j=25091811&senddate=2021-09-20
Title: Re: Commuter Rail's Return?
Post by: marcuscnelson on September 20, 2021, 10:24:51 PM
So… basically no progress. I thought they'd signed the contract for the study weeks ago.

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

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

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

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

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