01 June, 2008

Union Station is it Transportation Center or Social Darwinism?


Belgian Railways are hard at work with passenger expansion programs. One has to wonder how a tiny country-state in the European Union can do such things and mighty Uncle Sam and his lovely daughter Florida can't. Miami, Tampa and Orlando are also working on true one-stop centers for Transportation. Ocala's is up and running, and Miami's will share airport-rail-metro-bus all in one place, amazing foresight. We keep talking about Jacksonville Transportation Center, yet our plans are scattering it all over LaVilla. Thus it will not be a "Center" in the classic sense, more like a Transportation Neighborhood. In a still somewhat parochial city like Jacksonville, the bait or carrot, seems to be "Amtrak". We'll move Amtrak back to the old station, and send all of the JTA buses (the stick) and Monorail down there to get those unfortunate passengers out. Meanwhile, Greyhound, (the big-dog stick) will bite and send it's coaches out of downtown. Thus in one swoop, we move Amtrak from a horrible location to a better position, offer escape, and get the "smelly bus patrons" out of our path. Is this Transit Planning or "social engineering?" We wiped out a prosperous African-American business district and very historic neighborhood for this. Now we have a "moonscape" on the West side of downtown and nothing to show for it. Could it be we WANT to scatter these various passengers and NOT bring them into a true center? Could it be this won't be where right meets left, rich sits with poor, and lions and lambs all converge in peace? Why would a City with millions of ground passengers annually, want to run those dollars away from either the City Core businesses, The grand old Union Station, (which contains acres of space for malls and shops) or a centralized tourism generator? Suspect - YOU BET! Watch this Darwinism carefully to see if the powers that be keep the useless "Convention Center" in place until the rail and bus stations are up and running. Just long enough to FORCE us to scatter out the masses of "undesirables", then suddenly the whole convention show will leap out for the downtown or the stadium district. Watch this closely, as our hypocrisy seems to know no end. Apocalyptic planning on a grand scale. Someone prove me wrong please! I would hate for these foriegn guests label us the City that is Minorit├Ąt frei. It would appear that the Belgians don't have these problems. Perhaps, they just like everybody to come together, smile on their brother and love one another right now..." Antwerpen Central (pictured) and the North-South Junction projects are part of the Brussels-Amsterdam improvement program.

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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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