Concerns from a downtown business owner about the negative effects of establishing a bus rapid transit highway through the heart of the downtown core. At this point, does JTA really care?
Published June 20, 2007 in Transportation - MetroJacksonville.com
Mr. Mike Miller JTA
As both a north bank downtown resident and a business owner for many years, I recognize the real importance and impact to our downtown of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. I may offer a unique voice to revised routes being contemplated for the bus system at this time toward Bay, Forsyth, Adams, and possibly Monroe Streets, because I am an original resident of the historic 11 East building located on Main Street and Forsyth Streets, as well as a business owner located off of Main Street on West Adams Street. Also, I am currently preparing a new annex for my business that is located near Hemming Plaza on West Monroe Street, plus I have an outlet at the Jacksonville Landing. I personally will be directly impacted on three major streets of downtown Jacksonville regarding such transit changes.
The new downtown Starbucks (a national retailer) is located on the corner of my residence at Forsyth and Main Streets. Sunday morning I took the opportunity to sit at their sidewalk table and survey the numerous buses already running down Forsyth Street. I observed customers who recoiled while sitting at the tables when some of the buses were running at full speed, creating tremendous noise and wind-whack as they press on to meet schedule. And this is at the current schedule of transit along Forsyth Street not conducive to peaceful enjoyment of life downtown, but tolerable out of necessity. National anchors, whom we need to attract, pay heed to citizen dissatisfaction.<
As a business owner on West Adams Street, I have faced and endured numerous challenges that can be anticipated when a city is undergoing revitalization. There remain obstacles, at a minimum to mention, of empty lots with loose dirt, construction fencing into the road lanes, dilapidated older structures facing massive makeovers, and an ongoing outcry for street parking in our developing business core that is particularly critical on West Adams Street. During business hours I observe buses traveling West Adams Street causing pedestrians and customers to flinch and shrink back from the roadway, due to the tornado-like noise and unacceptable dust and dirt hurled toward our sidewalks, radiating from the existing construction projects. This negatively impacts patio dining and sidewalk café ambiance. Customers have complained to me regarding this issue, and it does not bode well for attracting people off of Laura Street and onto West Adams Street to shop. Again, this is at the current state-of-affairs, causing alarm regarding plans to enlarge these mentioned unpleasantries into potential poison, rather than an elixir, for our downtown environment.
The casual observer would be amazed to learn that most Minneapolis residents despise the continuous stream of bus traffic flowing down the center of the district. A June 2, 2006 Star Tribune article describes the transit mall as Everyones favorite place to eat and inhale exhaust fumes. A simple google search turns up many local blogs, such as Mnspeak.com (http://www.mnspeak.com/mnspeak/archive/post-1871.cfm ) and wowflutter.com (http://www.wowflutter.com/2006/11/05/is-nicollet-mall-overrated/) with posts demanding the nasty non-pedestrian buses be removed from the pedestrian mall.
I am dedicated to our north bank and I care about the people who live and work here, which is why I am preparing a business annex on West Monroe Street near Hemming Plaza, but I am becoming increasingly uneasy that my pledge outweighs some decision-makers understanding of how to create healthy revitalization on our north bank into the vibrant, first-class city named Jacksonville of the USA. Surely decision-makers have not grown so callous as to ignore the commitment entrepreneurs and citizens have made these past many years to the north bank downtown, only to indifferently increase obstacles, disregarding small business and public desire? West Adams Street is one of a handful of streets that are arteries creating lifeblood to the heart of our city and Hemming Plaza. Forsyth, Adams, and Monroe Streets are the budding residential and retail streets, and increasing bus traffic into a highway-like road will contribute to diminishing, not enhancing, progressive downtown development. We need a plan that is sensible, one with respect for both retail impact and the transportation needs of our community.
Metro Jacksonville has publicly suggested that Monroe Street be used as an alternative for BRT, not JTA. Find out the reasoning behind the selection of this street over others in the Northbank core: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/468/92/
Prior quietly made, non-inclusive decisions in Jacksonville have illustrated that solutions formed from narrow contribution can become an expensive calamity, particularly when retail considerations are not computed into the equation within the business environment, and during a period of budget cuts. Numerous small business owners claim that they were not properly informed of the BRT intended changes, and that the Sunshine Law exists not just for inviting land owners to meetings, but for the public-at-large to participate. Regardless of whether that claim is inaccurate, the perception alone demonstrates failure to communicate well with those greatly effected, and that in itself is a detriment to the BRT reputation and success.
The BRT should thoughtfully reconsider plans, possibly developing north with contemplation of Church Street, and also Union and State Streets where the current central system is locatedŠ with a concept developed intending to better tie into the existing trolley system and skyway, encouraging input from a more broadly experienced community voice, to include higher erudition. After all, we are the people BRT serve.
Shugar Shack Chocolatier
Bus Rapid Transit and Riverside
For those not familiar with the billion dollar bus rapid transit plan being aggressively promoted by JTA, planners and consultants will meet to explain their plans to RAP and the systems impact on the Riverside/Avondale community tonight.
Tonight's RAP meeting will be held at 7:30 at the RAP House
Riverside Avondale Preservation
2623 Herschel Street
Jacksonville, Florida 32204
Metro Jacksonville takes the position that the complete Westside line of bus rapid transit should be eliminated as currently planned by JTA. Instead, we believe that JTA should take advantage of the State and CSX's deal to re-route a large percentage of freight rail traffic over to Baldwin, instead of the S-Line through Riverside and Orange Park. Doing such would possibly save taxpayers hundreds of millions in start-up costs, residents heartache from busway construction and introduce a mode of mass transit that is attractive to the general public.
To learn more about this solution and to see video and photos of the Westside plan visit:
Touring the Westside: Commuter Rail Photo Tour
To learn more about the overall plan for JTA's $1 billion dollar BRT proposal:
This article can be found at: https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2007-jun-brt-contemplation