06 July, 2008

LIGHT RAIL - COMMUTER RAIL DEBATE RAGES IN EAST COAST'S 3RD LARGEST CITY


Amtrak at Jacksonville. Don't even mention that Amtrak could play a part in the debate, you'll be told to sit down and stay on the subject. The subject? Yes, the JTA way or "Trailways".


DOES JTA LACKS THE VISION OR THE $&!@#^* FOR RAIL
Originally created 060208
Train study to look at use of private tracks

JTA wants to know the feasibility as it considers adding light rail.
By LARRY HANNAN, The Times-Union

Bill Lewis knows the practical reasons for bringing a commuter rail system to Northeast Florida. He just prefers to focus on the fanciful. "A train would be wonderful because it's a romantic way of traveling," the 65-year-old Jacksonville resident said. "A bus just isn't the same."

Lewis does have practical reasons for hoping a passenger rail system is built in Jacksonville, though. Gas prices of $4 a gallon and traffic congestion make rail much more attractive, he said.

The question is whether the premise will be supported by the findings of a $400,000 study being done for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. The feasibility study by Gannett Fleming Inc. of Pennsylvania is expected to be completed early in 2009.

This study will look at where rail service could go by using some existing rail lines owned by private companies, CSX and Florida East Coast Railway. In addition to Jacksonville, service would go to St. Augustine, Green Cove Springs and Yulee.

JTA does not want to build new tracks and the study will look at using the existing rail lines, said James Boyle, regional transportation planner for JTA.

Still to be determined is how much such service would cost and what type of trains would be used.

While no decisions will be made until the study is completed, JTA officials have said they believe commuter rail is coming to Jacksonville.

JTA Chairman Cleve Warren said it's important to have all the details. He believes commuter trains are coming, but cautions it might not be in the immediate future.

Long-term, JTA needs to look at expanding bus routes and starting water and rail transportation to deal with growth, Warren said.

With the price of gas going up, the idea of commuter rail service is exciting to people in the Jacksonville area, Boyle said. People seem more open to the idea than they have in the past, he said.

Reader reaction would suggest just that. Jacksonville.com readers were asked Wednesday to e-mail comments about whether they thought commuter rail was a good idea. More than 90 people posted comments online and 30-40 people e-mailed the paper. Most expressed support for commuter rail.

Arlington resident Eric Johnson, 46, who works on University Boulevard, said light rail with parking is needed around exits to Interstate 95 and Interstate 10 near Jacksonville.

A rail system also should go to major shopping areas around town and congested parts of Interstate 295, Johnson said.

Mandarin resident Susan Jackson, 37, said if commuter rail came to Philips Highway and Butler Boulevard more people from Southside and Mandarin would use it to go downtown.

Orange Park resident Mike Forde, 52, said commuter trains would be great if used correctly. But he doesn't think there is a rail system now in place that would make commuter trains feasible.

No one will use commuter trains just because they exist. They will have to offer a balance of convenience and cost effectiveness greater than what is now available, he said.

Let's look between the lines here:

"JTA does not want to build new tracks and the study will look at using the existing rail lines, said James Boyle, regional transportation planner for JTA."

Now James seems to be a bright and fine young planner, however, let's get real here. How do you pull off rail without building some track? It IS possible to run commuter trains on freight railroad tracks, it is done all over the USA and world.

Even Light Rail CAN share tracks as long as there is a clear time for each mode to access the tracks so they don't mix. But James, how do we access the line to Northside, Airport and Yulee without rebuilding the old "S" line through Springfield?

How do we get on the busy FEC to St. Augustine without some extra passing tracks? And how does one come into the old Union Terminal when we have torn out EVERY SINGLE PASSENGER track? How indeed?

"The question is whether the premise will be supported by the findings of a $400,000 study being done for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority."

The first $75,000 dollars was blown just teaching these out-of-towners where "Beach Blvd goes"... This left us with a study of some $325,000 dollars. Very serious money to you and I, but did you know the recent work to study wood rot on the Southbank Riverwalk cost us just under $1 Million? How does a thing like that work? Does some guy pocket that check and then walk down the Riverwalk kicking boards and marking his clipboard..."Uh yeah, dat one looks rotten...ooh and dis one too!" Come on Jacksonville is JTA serious or are we being played for bus riding peasants again?

"JTA Chairman Cleve Warren said it's important to have all the details. He believes commuter trains are coming, but cautions it might not be in the immediate future."

"Long-term, JTA needs to look at expanding bus routes and starting water and rail transportation to deal with growth, Warren said."

READ IT! These guys are still thinking rail in the year 2525. Note the order of Warren's statement, Bus Routes... then Water (which has already been shown to be unfeasible on a large scale)... then rail. His words speak volumes. This whole study could be a crafted item to get the Light Rail and Commuter Rail Community to SHUT UP. JTA claims it needs friends, it wants OUR support. They want us to speak up and be heard, as long as we say what they want us to say... FAT CHANCE FROM THIS BLOG. But hey, if you disagree, post it.

How did that movie go? "STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES?"

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