18 January, 2008


Day's of the Future Past... As Past Becomes Present Again!


The Florida Department of Transportation has announced the latest edition of the JACKSONVILLE TRANSPORTATION CENTER. A huge complex centered around the historic 1919, Jacksonville Terminal.

This huge station, is the largest railroad station in the USA, south of Washington, DC.. It was even the busiest train terminal in the World for a short time during the Great Florida Boom of the 1920's. When Amtrak took over the private passenger trains in 1971, it was still a busy place, at least until the day AFTER Amtrak took charge, and wiped out 3/4 of all trains remaining in the USA. By 1974, the last passenger train departed. Amtrak cried that Union Terminal was too big for their needs, they had new Airline managers who "KNEW how to attract passengers". So they built a tiny depot, nicknamed an Amshack, far out in the Northwest side of town, almost under a highway, and between two junk yards. Welcome to Jacksonville. It has always been my opinion that the new Amtrak Managers didn't want anyone to complain about the noise from all the trains landing, and that is REALLY why they moved out. They also cited the short back in move, to the old station as a waste of time, and money... funny, nobody complains when my aircraft is backed away from the gate. Further, they boxed themselves in at the new location on ONE railroad out of a maze of possible future train routes in Florida. BINGO, soon the State had the Sunset Limited running to Jacksonville, and guess what? Yes, it had to pull right into the old Terminal, then back 3 miles out to the new station, then pull forward to leave.

Well today the story has reached full circle, today we are coming back to downtown. Amtrak is serious, Greyhound is serious and JTA is very serious about the move and the new center. My complaint is they turned the old Terminal into a convention center and now they want a depot there that won't mess with conventions. This has caused us to move the bus and other functions of the Transportation Center all over LaVilla. Meanwhile the City is looking for a new home for the very small convention center, someplace where it could grow.

Before they destroy the rest of the moonscape that has become of LaVilla, let's hope they move that convention center and use the space for a smart Union Terminal. One that once again becomes the temple of transport that it was designed to be. In it's hey day, it was one fun place to be. Not just a station but a destination, with shops, arcades, snacks and restaurants... With proper planning, it can become that colorful World leader again.

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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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