29 December, 2007

St. Augustine leads Intermodal Way

Photo: Skybus Airlines at St. Augustine Airport
Will the Nations Oldest City Lead the Way?

Those familiar with St. Augustine's Airport location north of the ancient city, realize there is scant room to expand. Now that it has gone commercial with the Skybus Airlines, which came and went, being the first of what might become a community of carriers. St. Augustine is trying to figure out how to expand and build a terminal worthy of America's FIRST tourist destination. In the background is the State of Florida and Amtrak's long efforts to move one of the Florida trains back onto the Florida East Coast Railway between Jacksonville and Miami. Those tracks are just across the big 4-lane spread of US Highway 1, between downtown Jacksonville and St. Augustine. Toss in the long delays in full system funding for Amtrak, (something every administration has refused to do since the company was started in 1971) suddenly looking like they may finally get those long needed dollars. To this add the efforts of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) and plans for a BRT bus system to the County line, and the statement, "We'd like to do rail, someday..."
Suddenly the little old City down the road had a vision right out of a good Sci-Fi "Space" movie with NASA at the center of the plot. They went to work on a plan to span the giant road with a multi-modal terminal of their own, one that would serve as Airport Terminal, Amtrak Station, JTA buses, Commuter Rail and anything else that can roll, fly or float... Yes, there is a river right behind the property. I thought you might like a look at a tiny piece of what the St. Augustine Airport Authority is saying about their plans.

Multi-Modal transportation Facility - the physical limitations surrounding the development of the airport precludes easy expansion of landside facilities support of unprecedented growth. Community and Airport planners have advocated the development of a multi-use transportation facility to address demand. The proposed 50,000 sq. ft. facility would accommodate aviation, rail and all surface vehicle demands in a facility that would eliminate the costly duplication of infrastructure otherwise required for each transportation mode. Estimated total cost is projected to approach $20 million. The lead community agency (the Airport Authority) is pursuing State grants to start the facility. The likelihood of a federal funding requirement is significant if the innovative approach to regional transportation is to be realized.

My hat is off to St. Augustine for showing the way to big sister Jacksonville, and the rest of Florida. But then, being first is not new here, they have been doing it since that first European Flag came ashore.

It really isn't the matter that Skybus chose a time of high flying fuel prices to start up an airline. What got the industrys attention is that little airport that filled nearly every seat on every flight. With Skybus gone, you can bet someone else is already watching.

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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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