For Full Story: Jacksonville Business Journal

Article By: Will Robinson


The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is among 20 agencies in the country to receive a portion of $16.6 million in federal funds to plan transit-oriented development, a strategy of development that relies on new or expanded transit systems to fuel economic growth.

The JTA will receive slightly more than $1 million to plan TOD along the Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C), the autonomous vehicle successor to the Skyway which will stretch 10 miles through downtown and surrounding districts.

The funds are part of the Federal Transit Administration’s Pilot Program for TOD Planning, which funds planning aimed at increasing ridership, multimodal connectivity and mixed-use development near transit stations. Jacksonville was the fifth highest award winner out of the 20 agencies to receive funding.

JTA CEO Nat Ford has called for the U2C to connect the “barbell” of downtown, anchored on one end by the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center and on the other by TIAA Bank Field. The U2C will use the Skyway’s 2.5-mile elevated infrastructure and extend onto surface roads via off-ramps.

Earlier this month, JTA and other city agencies won a $25 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to deploy an autonomous vehicle fleet along Bay Street – and to tear down the Hart Bridge ramps into downtown, implement an innovation corridor, install solar roads and sidewalks and more.

The Bay Street corridor and “Autonomous Avenue,” the stretch of the Skyway track between the JRTC and Jefferson Station, would be JTA’s largest forays into AV deployment. The authority is so far on its third AV lease and has deployed its AVs on an isolated road between Intuition Ale House and Daily’s Place Amphitheater and at some special events.

But for the Bay Street corridor, and eventually the U2C, to be successful, ridership must be bolstered by downtown residents, a long-running problem for Jacksonville’s downtown transit. That’s where TOD comes in.

JTA along with the Downtown Investment Authority and the City of Jacksonville commissioned a study in 2016 to determine what to do with city and JTA-owned assets and real estate surrounding the JRTC and Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center. JTA plans to either sell or lease to provide long-term revenue and to support its downtown transit systems, Ford previously told the Business Journal.

In addition to six parcels in LaVilla, JTA will eventually vacate its Rosa Parks station near the Florida State College at Jacksonville campus and has maintenance stations around the Skyway that it can abandon when the Ultimate Urban Circulator, an autonomous vehicle network, takes over the elevated infrastructure. Long-term leases of these properties can help fund JTA projects, like the Bay Street Innovation Corridor, and give JTA a say in what is developed along its transit system. Residential development, for example, would help densify downtown, making transit a more popular transportation option.