More Faux Trolleys = More Faux Ridership at JTA
Somehow, Jacksonville is under the illusion that a "Trolley" is anything shaped like a shoe box and runs on streets, be they rubber tires, or pogo sticks, as long as they have no real suspension system, are fare free, and have hard wooden seats. Guess none of the JTA guys ever rode in the real leather seats of the old Interurbans I grew up with, or the Velvet seats of others? Nope, cane or wicker were once in vogue too, but even they had some give to the nether regions. The formula for success seems to be something like this:
1. We think our Citizens are not transit savvy and clueless, so they'll never know the difference.
2. Cheap "reptile farms" have fake trolleys and they are "REAL" tourist attractions, so why can't Jacksonville climb to reptile farm status?
3. Not having to pay for much longer lasting Electric buses, Skyway extensions or classic shuttle buses really saves us money. Buy the Yugo, and tell the citizenry it's a Rolls Royce. Don't tell them about it's short service life.
4. Never mind the vehicle, now we'll spend like drunken sailors to build route infrastructure, shelters, stations, landscape, and all the fittings, for what really amounts to a semi-dedicated route with a "Shoe box on a potato chip truck frame."
The Florida Times-Union wrote that: JTA spokesman Mike Miller said similar plans are taking shape for trolleys in Springfield and San Marco. The trolley would not disrupt the regular bus service, but would boost public transportation options during the day. Miller said buses running along Riverside Avenue make stops roughly every half-hour compared with the eight minutes between the proposed trolley stops. JTA has eight trolleys in its fleet, but plans are to add three more next year. Miller said the 30-foot-long vehicles, which already have a downtown presence, are more mobile than standard buses and seat 25 to 28 passengers. "People like it," Miller said. "It's retro-looking. People think of it like the old street cars."
So are FAUX TROLLEYS really "Trolley Cars?" Strictly speaking, No. The American Public Transportation Association has the following to say about the potential of us creating a tourism or commuter mecca from our fakes. Today many cities use rubber tired vehicles which are decorated to look somewhat like trolleys, but these vehicles are not real trolleys nor streetcars and are not the subject of this website. Some people may feel they can obtain the benefits of a heritage trolley line by using these inexpensive faux trolleys, but the economic, developmental, and visitor attracting benefits are not generated by these bus trolleys. Authentic rail based systems are required to achieve the benefits.
But guess what JTA? I don't agree with the APTA either! I think there is an avenue that hasn't been explored here or elsewhere that might have a very positive impact on shuttle transit. It just might even develop a little tourism following and maybe some Hollywood magic. Why not explore the world of the vintage bus or the Faux Vintage bus. The Mayors aide recently asked me, what's the difference? Why would someone want to ride a Faux vintage bus but not a faux vintage trolley? Simple really. A faux trolley isn't a rail vehicle, no amount of "dolly dressing," on the shoe box is going to make it a trolley. To any of the some 4-5 Million dedicated railroad buff's in the World, (EVERY ONE of them a potential Jacksonville visitor) our faux trolleys would make them lose their lunch. As I've said before, seeing a sign along the super-slab somewhere in Kingsland, Georgia, to "SEE the JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS up close and in person... get your photo taken with the team" all at Billy-Bob's Chevron Station. Being a dedicated fan, you head down the exit to spot the cardboard cut-outs of the whole team across the front of the gas station. Hardly the Jaguars you wished for isn't it?
Now turn it around. "RIDE THE ROSA PARKS BUS!", "Ride the vintage buses", "See the historic buses of Jacksonville..." Yes, I said Rosa Parks, there is a completely reconstructed duplicate of the original, with added AC and automatic transmission, painted and looking for all the world like that historic vehicle, available with support for $10,000 dollars. Hum? The Faux trolleys are more like $250,000 each! Now take it up a notch, did you know the same companies that supply the Theme Parks with all those cool historic transportation vehicles will do the same for us? Did you know we can buy, OFF THE SHELF, authentic 1920's vintage buses built to our order. Why are they so different? Well, no matter how you cut the date, the duplication, modeling, or rebuilding, it is still a bus... A vintage bus. NOTHING FAKE about that. I've done an informal poll downtown, and found that almost everyone I meet had MUCH rather ride in a classic 1920's bus or auto, rather then a fake shoebox trolley on rubber tires...
What other American City or World City for that matter, could boast a Buck Rogers Monorail overhead, Excellent Transit Buses on the ground and REAL 1920's and 1950's vintage shuttle buses in the downtown? If our Rail study and some of our BRT hits the road, add in a Streetcar and we would be the "WORLDS TRANSIT DISNEYLAND". To the great masses of people that might not seem like much, but I can tell you there are millions of us. Not you? Tell me you avoided all transit options down on "Main Street USA" when YOU visited the mouse... "Yeah, I thought so." Come on in JTA, I'd love to get this moving. Why don't we lead the pack for a change? "One Token for the Jacksonville Omnibus please..." I'm waiting in line already.