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JTA is making impressive progress

By The Florida Times-Union Editorial Board

“JTA on the move” sounds like a slogan or a cliche but in this case it’s accurate.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority recently provided a report to City Council on its activities, and it revealed progress on multiple fronts.

First, the finances. Boring only when it’s working. JTA is producing more revenue than expected and fewer expenses than expected. Now that’s a healthy bottom line.

Then on to $100 million in 13 road construction projects that JTA is handling for the city. A number of projects are being funded with gas tax funding, projects that were planned but never completed under the Better Jacksonville Plan.

Included are key road expansions that are long overdue, such as widening Kernan Boulevard and Girvin Road.

Then there is the St. Johns River Ferry at Mayport, a key connector for State Road A1A. There had been nothing but trouble with that ferry in recent years. But once JTA took over, ridership in the 2018 fiscal year passed 400,000 trips.

JTA has completed work on improvements at the docks and fender systems and has received a federal grant to further improve slipwalls and safety.

As for bus ridership, a transformation of bus routes resulted in far more efficient service and a “no drama” changes, thanks to communication with riders. Though bus ridership is down across the nation, JTA is doing better than most.

On-time performance is about 80 percent and climbing while on-time performance of the First Coast Flyer is over 90 percent.

Avenue of the future

The Regional Transportation Center under construction is expected to be a boon to that neighborhood.

An innovation corridor along Bay Street, called “The Bay,” will include driverless cars that use the Skyway and then ease down to street level for 3 miles. JTA is currently testing its third such vehicle, becoming a magnet for companies interested in this technology.

The corridor will include “smart city” technologies such as connected signals, smart lighting, pedestrian sensors, smart parking, flood warning and data exchange.

JTA’s driverless vehicles could be used in the numerous mid-sized cities that don’t have much fixed rail, said CEO Nat Ford.

It’s essential that the system be able to adjust to change, which means being able to handle all sorts of driverless vehicles as technology advances.

Beachside buggies provide free, on-demand transit with eight-seat electric carts and 14-passenger vans. It’s less expensive than a previous trolley service.

Connexion vans provide door-to-door service to people with disabilities who can’t use regular buses.

JTA, as a regional state entity, also is looking at serving adjacent counties.

Development

While the JTA is not a developer, it would be foolhardy to ignore all of the transit-oriented opportunities. For instance, once the Regional Transportation Center is running, the Rosa Parks Center at State and Union streets will be a valuable location.

JTA also is planning to dispose of surplus property and exploring partnership opportunities.

 

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