10 March, 2013




 19 FLEW OVER THE 

CUCKOO'S NEST






The City of Jacksonville received top honors from the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) for its 2030 Mobility Plan. The APA’s Executive Committee will present the city with the Award of Excellence in the Best Practices category at an awards ceremony in Palm Beach.

The 2030 Mobility Plan is an innovative response to the 2009 revisions to Florida’s Growth Management laws. It is a long-range plan that links land use and transportation, establishing a tiered mobility fee system. The Plan establishes acceptable levels of service for transportation on city roadways, sidewalks, railways and bike paths. 

The plan actually reduces the cost of new development compared to the old system, and it guides development toward infill projects where little or no fee would be assessed. 

The plan is about a fair "concurrency" system, and integrating transportation and land use development for fiscally sustainable growth patterns.  The mobility fee serves as the funding source to implement these concepts.  With Jacksonville's revenue sources shrinking every year, the mobility fee provides the city with a fair path to invest in itself, stimulating job creation, quality of life enhancements, and economic growth in the process.


HOW DOES IT WORK?

First the cost of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) was calculated which we'll call item 'A'. Step two was time consuming, but it ascertained the typical VMT within each of mobility district, item 'B'. Finally the projected daily vehicle trips generated by the new development project 'C' are calculated, the equation looks like this:







 INSANITY: Doing the same thing 
over and over again and expecting 
different results.  


Jacksonville is one of the nation's leaders in market rate multifamily construction, infill continues in Riverside and more development pops up around St. Johns Town Center and River City Marketplace every day. But these market rate economic positives are not enough for some, especially when the public could be hoodwinked into paying for developer created sprawl. 

The North Florida Builders Association has 'worked with' city councilman Richard Clark to have the citizens of the city pay for all infrastructure improvements effectively subsidizing developers from the public purse.  Despite community opposition, Councilman Richard Clark has filed a bill in favor of the City of Jacksonville implementing a 3-year tax increase in the form of a mobility fee moratorium. 

Lobbyists have been hired, and false claims and accusations are flying hot and heavy. One councilman claiming during the first moratorium we only lost $3 Million dollars that could have gone to improvements, but he added you can't do anything with $3 million. What he didn't say is those waivers have now past the $5 million dollar mark, and will likely top out somewhere around $27 million dollars. Ah, but what can be done with just $27 million?

They have claimed the Mobility Fee is just to fund a couple of bike trails, and that the entire fee would be consumed by just 3 projects. None of which is true. 



The builders have produced this graphic to 'prove' their impoverished condition to the city council

OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST 

WE GO

What they didn't say to our 19 member city council is that a full 40% of the projects the builders association has identified as 'endangered' by the fee wouldn't need to pay a dime, but it appears our politicians are drinking the cool aid. It also appears that the fear tactics may have fooled Television NEWS 4 by this slight of hand. The builders are asking us for a 30 million dollar a year tax increase, and that increase is only going to grow. 



Ennis Davis (co-author of the Mobility Plan) recently said "A full blown moratorium that basically subsidizes nationwide expansions of 7-11, Waffle House, and Family Dollar. Our overall annual city budget hovers around $2 billion.  How on earth can it make sense in anyone's view that a company which enjoyed $77 billion in sales globally last year can't open in Jacksonville because we require them to cover their negative impact." Jacksonville isn't so big or so important that we will suddenly attracts hundreds of new businesses because of a token discount on our dirt, but you can bet if we looked more like Palm Beach and less like Philips Highway we'd have the luxury of picking and choosing.  



Absolutely any national company desiring to locate in Jacksonville has already got a line item in their expansion plans to cover any 'impact fees'. 


A HUGE HIDDEN TAX INCREASE 

CLOKED AS A FEE

MORATORIUM 'FOR' DEVELOPMENT

Imagine the moratorium passes for 3 more years, and imagine during that amount of time we get no more or no less waivers of the mobility fee then the total amount of waivers during the first year 'trial moratorium.'  This is how it cooks down:

Value of waivers issued for the past one-year moratorium - $27,000,000 one year.

Total value of waivers to be issued for 3 more years (assuming no changes +/- in our rate of growth) - $27,000,000 x 3 years = 
$81,000,000 million dollars.

Add all four moratorium years together and you get - $108,000,000 million dollars. 

Take $108,000,000 and divide by the current city population - 822,000 

ANSWER - $131.38.  This represents an infrastructure tax to every man, woman and child in the city of $131.38, or $2,102.08 for a family of 4, for four years, which means we get a four year tax increase of $525.52 per year for our average family just to provide needed infrastructure. 



SPECIAL THANKS TO:
metrojacksonville.com
Mr. Ennis Davis
Mr. Bill Killingsworth

19 Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest




01 November, 2011

AUTOMOBILES -V- THE ECONOMY


More money for constructing new roads sounds good superficially, since road expansion is necessary to keep up with the growing population, and no one likes driving in increasingly congested traffic. But it is not as simple as that. We're talking about brand new 4 lane highways right through the middle of virgin pine forest lands. So will federal (TIGER) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, grants spent on new road construction in Jacksonville make a difference?  They will, but you aren't going to like it. Think transportation and mass transits role in the growth of our city, think of it as a choice. A recent study in the Tischler Report was published on metrojacksonville.com, found that Florida taxpayers pay $1.39-2.45 for every tax dollar paid by a new development. However new development within our urbanized areas actually costs less because the infrastructure is already in place.
Land designated as “residential” is legally entitled to roads, schools, drinking water, sewer, police, fire, playgrounds, and all the other infrastructure components that make a community. 
The taxes (and impact fees) paid on the new development do not cover the costs for providing it with basic infrastructure and services. The difference is paid by the rest of the community. Because new development does not pay its way, most local governments in Florida are financially upside down.

Existing neighborhoods subsidize new residential development
It is possible to build a conventional railroad on existing right of ways for $4,000,000 per mile (accor  ding to Archer Western). According to Florida Department of Transportation a three lane urban arterial road with two travel lanes, and a center turn lane will cost $3,774,078.45 per mile, excluding drainage, water, sewer, electric and other services which must follow it. A 3 lane highway for the purposes of this study because that is the capacity of a single track railroad. FDOT goes on to post this highway project disclaimer:
Costs of intersections/interchanges/structures over 20 feet, preliminary engineering, right of way, and construction engineering inspection are not included. The cost per centerline mile figures are based on statewide average's. They are not to be used for Work Program estimating because they are not job specific.  
I am not against suburban or rural development as long as Impact fees and taxes on the home or business owners covers 100% of the cost of the sprawl, plus a contribution toward future maintenance. In other words sustainable.

While the previous argument has little to do with the cost of mass transit, it does make the point that we've been going in the wrong direction, with what amounts to a developer ponzi scheme. Eventually as development reaches further into the countryside the expenses become too much to bear and the whole economy collapses, note the current economic conditions. Red hot sprawling development outran our ability to sustain it and the key expense in new development is the automobile. If we learn to internalize our new developments and build on what is already in place we will be able to continuously improve our financial conditions. And to build internally, within the urbanized areas we are talking about mass transit.

30 October, 2011

SUNSET LIMITED, A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The eastern leg of the Sunset limited was fatally flawed in three ways. Some of the stations and their locations were terrible. Making a 90 degree turn from east-west to north-south at Jacksonville was an expensive waste of Amtrak's resources. Scheduling and frequency was deplorable for virtually all of the 'new' cities along it's route.

I'll use the example of a department store. Imagine we built a 100,000 square foot store, with locations in each of the towns served by the eastern Sunset Limited. Next we make a decision based on a handful of nocturnal customers to open our store 3 days a week from midnight until 5 am. How long do you think we'd last?

Running a daily, daylight train over this former Gulf Wind Route from New Orleans to Jacksonville would serve this market much better then the overnight schedule ever did. Amtrak proved it could run a coast to coast train, but the actual numbers making the trip beyond New Orleans in either direction was minuscule. A daylight train could serve as a second New Orleans - New York train through it's connections in Jacksonville.

Extending the Palmetto train into Florida south of Jacksonville would offer connections to lower Florida,. Jacksonville is now planning a downtown train station with a large enough rail side to handle of the switching plus commuter rail.

12 June, 2011

GOOD REASONS TO KILL FLORIDA HIGH SPEED RAIL

Symbolic of the crash of Florida's High Speed Rail project, as predicted in this blog, the photo is of the recent Chinese HSR crash. First HSR wreck ever unless we get to count Florida.


Just came across another professionals article on High Speed Rail, and why he, like John Mica and myself agrees that the Florida HSR plan was a train wreck waiting to happen. The funniest part of all of this is the same old group of players who brought down America's vast electric railroad, interurban and streetcar line network is at it again. This just stresses the fact that the first HSR rail line MUST be a smashing success. It was that success or failure that had me communicate to the governor to kill it.

Quote
How to salvage Obama’s high-speed rail ‘disaster’
Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt calls the rail plan — target of a coordinated attack by the Right — “a complete catastrophe,” and tells where the nation should focus.

Author:
Philip Langdon

With segments of the rail plan now cancelled in Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin, and with some federal funding revoked by Congressional Republicans this month, Babbitt thinks we must approach rail planning much more strategically than the Obama administration did.

Of the president’s stated aim — provision of high-speed rail service to 80 percent of the American population in 25 years — Babbitt declared, “It’s fantasy.”

In his view, the Obama plan suffers from these critical flaws:

• Routes were poorly chosen. The Orlando-to-Tampa line — 84 miles mostly in an Interstate highway corridor — would have run from one city that’s “not a model of transit” to another city with the same transit deficiency. Said Babbitt: “Frankly, it’s not surprising that the governor of Florida [when offered 90 percent of the funds to construct the line] turned it down.”

• Goals were defined vaguely. They were not hammered out through extensive discussion and political brokering — activities essential, in Babbitt’s judgment, to the program’s success.

• “The president didn’t help his visionary statement by holding up the transcontinental railroad as a model.” One-hundred-forty million acres were distributed to railroads through that post-Civil War enterprise, which led to the Crédit Mobilier scandal — “one of the largest government-sponsored fraudulent ventures of all time.”

NOTE: In the Federal Application there is a question, "why build this project?" One of the several reasons given was: "because its fun." The route was bad, the station locations worse, ridership numbers ridiculous and it would take that train longer to travel from Tampa to Miami then a regular Amtrak train at 90 mph on a more direct route. Makes you wonder if any of those planners ever drove Alligator Alley? Does anyone besides me smell a mouse in all of this?


Quote
Resistance from the Right

Ambitious rail plans have been subjected to a fierce campaign of disparagement in recent months. The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the Reason Foundation have worked particularly hard to defeat the Obama rail plan, Todorovich told the gathering of about 30 journalists from around the country.

For companies that profit from the highway system and automobile-reliant means of transportation, the libertarian or conservative foundations have proven to be useful torch-bearers. SourceWatch, part of the Center for Media and Democracy, reports that Ford Motor, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell Oil, and the Western States Petroleum Association have been among the donors to the Reason Foundation. David H. Koch of Koch Industries, once described by the Center for Public Integrity as "the biggest oil company you have never heard of," is a Reason trustee.

SourceWatch says Chevron, ExxonMobil, and the auto-maker Honda have been among Heritage’s contributors, though corporate donations to Heritage are small when compared than those made by individuals and foundations. Over the years, Heritages backers in the foundation world have included the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and three Scaife foundations.

Cato, founded by Edward H. Crane and Charles Koch, has over the years received donations from corporate supporters including the American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil, General Motors, Honda North America, Toyota, Volkswagen of America, and Wal-Mart Stores, according to SourceWatch.


NOTE: Jacksonville's streetcar system (AND 45 OTHERS) was sold out by Motor Transit which was a subsidiary of National City Lines which was a subsidiary of: Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California (now Chevron Corporation), Phillips Petroleum (now part of ConocoPhillips), General Motors, Mack Trucks.


Quote
Nonetheless, Todorovich thinks rail projects can gain considerable support from the populace and some of it from Republicans who hold elective office. After the new governor of Florida, Rick Scott, rejected $2.4 billion in federal funds for the Orlando-Tampa rail route, 24 states, including 11 with Republican governors, applied for portions of the money that Florida gave up.


Quote
In the case of interstate highways, “Babbitt maintained, the only way we got clarity was through federal legislation,” and that’s the only way to nail down a high-speed program for the Eastern seaboard


NOTE: Remember the Federal plan to extend the Northeast Corridor to FLORIDA. So in the broader meaning of this is SOUTHEAST HIGH SPEED RAIL, and Jacksonville will benefit first.


Quote
Like Babbitt and like Rep. John Mica, the Florida Republican who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Todorovich thinks “we ought to invest first in the places with the greatest ridership ... the greatest chance of success.”

That strategy favors the Northeast Corridor, which has been the subject of three recent studies — a Northeast Corridor Infrastructure Master Plan prepared in May 2010 by representatives of 12 states, Amtrak, and other entities; a separate Amtrak design report; and a University of Pennsylvania study that was presented to no less than Vice President Joseph Biden.

Quote
On the bright side, she noted that Rep. Mica has been bringing members of his committee — some of whom represent rural areas — to urban locales to improve their understanding of passenger rail networks and the places they serve. Babbitt’s proposal for a Northeast-focused federal rail act is “a great idea,” she said, adding that it “would have to be matched by federal funding.”

To obtain the maximum benefits from better rail service, “there needs to be a concerted strategy around stations,” Todorovich said. “It works best in center cities.”


NOTE: Which is why Orlando's location would have failed. In this country rail travel tends to be regional and is usually a choice between a drive or a train. So most of your passenger base must come from the area around the stations, and that includes travelers who are staying temporarily in the area. If a family wants to go from Orlando to Tampa it's a choice of driving or train, flying plays no real part in the decision process and if the train is troublesome to get to they'll drive. Orlando already has the PERFECT HSR station and it's found on Church Street.


Quote
Nonetheless, Todorovich thinks rail projects can gain considerable support from the populace and some of it from Republicans who hold elective office. After the new governor of Florida, Rick Scott, rejected $2.4 billion in federal funds for the Orlando-Tampa rail route, 24 states, including 11 with Republican governors, applied for portions of the money that Florida gave up.



NOTE: The saddest part of this story is the FACT that a direct railroad line has existed between Tampa Union Station and Miami which if rebuilt to 90 mph standards would beat the socks off of a bullet train between the same two cities. Florida was in the wrong place, with the wrong train and that cost us the ball game.

So SORRY for Orlando-Tampa-Miami, but its time for us to reopen Jacksonville Terminal and get ready for it, because buddy, it's headed our way. Florida's most powerful politicians seem to understand that if you are going to sell ice cubes to Eskimos, you'll have to do it one cube at a time.


All quotes in this post are from: http://newurbannetwork.com/article/how-salvage-obama%E2%80%99s-high-speed-rail-%E2%80%98disaster%E2%80%99-14561


14 January, 2010

WHY FLORIDA HIGH SPEED RAIL WILL FAIL - PART II


BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

PENN CENTRAL
Will Florida's High Speed Rail efforts crash THIS hard? Let's just say if they don't make some radical adjustments and trash the assumption that Orlando has to be the hub of a massive "hub and spokes railroad," then THIS IS where it is heading.

FLORIDA HSR phase 1 part 1
It's easy to spot the Northeast climb of the HSR route as it pulls away from Tampa, that's a heck of a way to get pointed Southeast.

Even if the entire project for Florida High Speed Rail, gets the blessing of the Federal Department of Transportation, and 100% financing, it is headed for a crash that might well bring down the whole industry.

Reason number 5 is not anyone's opinion about riders or ridership, it is however a story written in geography and no one short of The All Mighty could fix it. In one scenario (alternative "A") the train will run from Tampa, Northeast to Orlando, then with about a 10 degree turn, continue East to Melbourne (Space Coast Beaches). From Melbourne the new railroad turns 90 degrees South, and would likely hug some combination of the I-95 or Florida East Coast right-of-way, all the way through Fort Pierce - West Palm Beach - Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. Certainly no other route in the history of Florida, has ever served so many people in such a short stage length. Population is good, high speed is good, new railroads are good, so why does this one stand out as a bad plan?

To get to the answer one needs only to study the alternative routes from Orlando Southward to Miami. The Second Alternative "B" would turn South at the Orlando International Airport and roughly follow the historic Florida East Coast Railways Kissimmee River Valley line along or near the Florida Turnpike Alignment all the way to West Palm Beach - Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. This is the shortest of the current planned routes from Tampa to Miami via Orlando, but it sacrifices virtually every village, town and city on the East Coast of the State, North of West Palm Beach, to accomplish it's goal, and still maintains what is for all practical purposes a 100 degree turn, a "Fatal Corner" in the middle of the railroad system.

Alternative "C" would be the slowest schedule from Orlando to Miami, but the cheapest build, following the CSX Railroad. Running from St. Petersburg - Tampa - Auburndale - Orlando International Airport, as well as a line from Alburndale southeast to Lake Wales - Sebring - West Palm Beach - Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami. It would eliminate the need for Tampa/St. Petersburg trains to pass through Disney World - Orange County Convention Center and Orlando international Airport, before heading to the lower East Coast and Miami. So ironically the slowest option for Orlando, would be the fastest option for the Tampa Bay communities, but the hard place seems to be missing all of the Beach Communities North of West Palm Beach.

Florida ICE train 2008 map
So Far the only map that makes ANY sense, is this largely ignored 2008, ICE Train Plan

FLORIDA HSR MAP
4 rail lines into Orlando and they still miss the direct connection with Jacksonville, not to mention the line of the center of the State running virtually from Miami to LAKE CITY, guess it's comforting to know Tallahassee has a sense of humor.

It's a crazy curse to plan under but the bottom line for Florida is, by ignoring the historic travel patterns and trying to make Orlando into a railroad cross roads that it never was, has put us in a unique position. We can either build the fastest route and skip most of the cities, or, we can build through most of the cities and lose the fast train.

Due to the Fatal Corner, a high speed train that rips along at 120 mph, is still going to consume all of 4:00 hours between St. Petersburg and Miami, and 2:30 hours between Orlando and Miami alone. Since this is travel time the dwell time in the stations would have to be added in to any schedule. Leaving St. Petersburg by train, stations would be initially located in Tampa, Lakeland, Disney World, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando International Airport, Melbourne, Ft. Pierce, West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami. Dwell times of just 2 minutes per station average would add another 20 minutes to the through schedule. A schedule of 4 hours and 20 minutes between end points via the fastest train in America can be easily trumped by a 1968 Volkswagen Micro-Bus full or hippies at 4:00 hours even, on I-75. This is easy math, because the hippies in that micro-bus won't be traveling 120 miles Northeast to go Southeast of Tampa/St. Petersburg.

Bus Southeastern Stages
The Bus, Greyhound, La Cubana or Southeastern starts looking better and better as Florida's number one "Alternative."

Add in a fare of around $70 dollars for an end to end ticket, plus car rental, taxi or bus fare at the other end, and keeping with the Micro-Bus starts to look better and better. The time/dollar economics doesn't get any better with a simple Tampa/St. Petersubrg - Orlando trip either, because for $30 bucks, one is still going to have to get to Orlando from "Orlando!" By the time that taxi rolls to a stop in Winter Park, Maitland or Sanford, that lone Amtrak train will be half way to Jacksonville, making the entire system, either route option A, B, or C.

The last public transportation alternative seems a mockery of the states so-called "showcase HSR system." Bottom line? $25 dollars and a Greyhound ticket will get you there faster, and Greyhound has Wi-Fi!

Stay tuned as we move on to part 3 of this series, and look at Florida's surface travel patterns, historic railroad routes and gateways, as well as Southeast High Speed Rail. Only in Part III of "WHY FLORIDA HIGH SPEED RAIL WILL FAIL."








TAKE A FREE TOUR OF THE JACKSONVILLE SKYWAY

The arguments rage to this date, "Should have never been built," "waste of taxpayer money," "Doesn't go anywhere," "Nobody rides it..." etc. Bottom line is we have it, and it is finally showing signs of life. Simple extensions to the Stadium, San Marco, and the area of Blue Cross in North Riverside would turn this little train around. Addition of Park and Ride garages and multimodal transit terminals at the end points would bring on the crowds. The video must have been shot on a Sunday Morning, as downtown is certainly as packed with life as any other major City on weekdays. Jacksonville is a city of Bikes, joggers, walkers, buses and cars, one almost wonders how the photographer managed to find this quiet moment.

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