39: Jacksonville *

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Peoplemover
JTA Skyway

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Connections

The Skyway connects to most of JTA’s bus routes, and since it;s free bus riders can use it to get to other parts of Downtown. There are also two park-ride-ride garages linked to Skyway stations.

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Jacksonville-St. Marys-Palatka, FL-GA
population 1,502,515 (2012)

Jacksonville was one of the cities caught up in the early 1980s federal push for Downtown peoplemovers. At the time, the peoplemover seemed like the missing link in transit: a way to move people through Downtown from bus transfer hubs and centralized parking garages. But even if that concept made sense, Jacksonville was an odd choice: a small metropolitan area with a small downtown. The idea was that new urban planning strategies would transform Downtown, placing parking in a series of peoplemover-linked garages around the perimeter and increasing employment to over 100,000 by 1990. Instead, Jacksonville has only 25,000 Downtown employees, and a 25% vacancy rate, in 2012. The skyway shuttles about on 2.5 miles of line, carrying about 3,800 trips on an average weekday. It’s a very convenient and reliable to get between the places along the track, with trains every 3 to 6 minutes from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm unobstructed by traffic. The system connects a Florida State campus, a major transit center, the convention center, office buildings, hotels, museums, dining areas, and 2,800 parking spaces. It bridges the St. John’s river, connecting the two parts of Downtown. But there simply aren’t enough places along the way to draw more ridership than a typical bus line.

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Lockin

The skyway’s trains are not the originals. Phase 1-A opened in 1989, after three years of construction, with three stations, 0.7 miles of line, and two vehicles. The track and trains were bought from MATRA, using that French company’s rubber tired VAL system, first used in Lille. But when it came time to expand the system, MATRA and Jacksonville could not agree on a contract, and in 1994 the transit agency awarded the contract to Canada’s Bombardier instead. Unfortunately, the MATRA track and systems were proprietary, so the original line was rebuilt on the original elevated structure as a monorail to expand to a total of 2.5 miles. The new system is proprietary, too – there is no standard peoplemover configuration – so the same problem could face future expansion.

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