09 September, 2008


Jaxport lost two of it's Blount Island Terminal Container Cranes, during the heavy weather from the tropical storms. It is believed that wind sheer took down the cranes which twisted as they fell. These massive cranes tower 200' feet above the docks and are another indication of the power of the weather. Jacksonville and Florida in general need to do a better job of alerting our citizens and business community of the dangers of extreme weather. A system of Tornado sirens would greatly compliment our excellent emergency management services. For your blogger it is a deja vu, having worked with Red Cross in the infamous May 3 tornado swarm in Oklahoma a few years ago. When I tell people in Florida that I saw huge, compact auto size tombstones, solid marble, tossed across a highway like foam toys, they just give me a polite smile. "Sure you did Bob...sure you did..." If Nothing else comes of this but an awareness that it CAN HAPPEN HERE, then we are better for the experience. Let's hope JAXPORT gets the replacements up and running as we roar toward World Port Status.


From "The Overhead Wire"

Monday, September 8, 2008
Opposition Pundits on Parade

Ron Utt of the Heritage Foundation is worried. So are all the other anti-transit pundits out there. The newly minted interest in transit is encroaching on their road loving ways. A recent AP article on rising transit ridership captures Utt's opinion, proving that balanced transportation and oil independence means nothing to the conservative crowd.

Ron Utt, of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said transit is "inconsequential in terms of reducing congestion or greenhouse gases" and that people who want to use transit should simply pay more. Citing the example of a Washington-area commuter rail, Utt said: "If more people want to use that and more people have to stand, I don't know why that should place a financial burden on people in Iowa."
Sure Ron, that's why almost a million people per day take Metro in DC. I have a really great idea, how about people pay the true cost of gasoline or roads or airlines. Let's also make people pay directly for air traffic controllers and the highway patrol. And why should I pay for a rural road in Iowa? All transportation is subsidized, let's stop the favoritism towards one mode and pretending that cars pay for themselves.

Typewriter Typewriter Typewriter!

Then there is our favorite cipher, Randal O'Toole. His most recent call is to cancel the Denver Fastracks program claiming it's bad for the environment and social engineering. You know, the usual junk.

Environmentally, light rail is a disaster for the region. For every passenger mile carried, light rail consumes four times as much land as Denver-area freeways. It also uses more energy and emits more greenhouse gases, per passenger mile, than the average SUV.
I don't know where he gets this one. But as Mr. Setty at PublicTransit.us reminds us, transit actually reduces passenger miles overall. Randal's twisted logic lumps in the construction of the line when he never talks about the construction losses of highways and the vehicles that drive on them. What about the construction of all those parking garages?

O'Toole, many academics and other anti-transit activists understandably do not wish to discuss the wider, systematic impacts of transit on transportation patterns and land use. One key study estimates that for every passenger mile on transit, slightly more than two urban vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is suppressed or foregone. This study documents the connection between transit and lower vehicle usage that has also been documented in dozens of other studies. This effect is particularly significant when less than 40% of U.S. residents have easy access to transit at the present time.
But what annoys me the most is that stupid no one rides transit argument. Well no one has the option to take it! New York City has transit, people take it. Washington DC has a rather good subway system, people take it. But when the green argument for him fails, he can always fall back on social engineering. You know, the kind that took place from 1950 to the present when cities built roads only and subsidies were funneled to development related to roads.

The other support for FasTracks comes from those who want to socially engineer Colorado lifestyles. They use light rail as an excuse to build tax-subsidized high-density housing projects on properties taken from their owners by eminent domain near planned rail stations. Yet few Americans aspire to live in such dense housing, and such compact development makes little sense in a state that is 97 percent rural open space.
Hmm. No one in Colorado wants open space, just build on it. I'm sure John Denver wouldn't mind. And no one wants to live in high-density housing projects, that's why TOD commands such a low price premium with buyers. No one ever wanted to live in LoDo right? What about all those road, pipe subsidies.

Cars Cars Cars. Sprawl Sprawl Sprawl. Sounds like Drill Drill Drill.


Another POTATO-CHIP-TRUCK-THINKS-ITS-A-TROLLEY bites the dust, this time in Sarasota! Why? Did the Museum Do It? This open streetcar sat for years in a Sarasota Museum before it's journey to find a home and go back into service. Did the memory of this display help? Could Jacksonville build such a display? Was it the success with TECO Transit Oriented Development? Whatever it was that lit the fire under Sarasota, they are now in position to leap ahead of us.

City of Sarasota Believes
Streetcars May be the

By Dale WhiteSarasota Herald-TribuneWhile Sarasota County considers express buses, the city of Sarasota is thinking about downtown streetcars.

"We're a long way out on planning this," city transportation Susan L. Montgomery stressed.

Even so, the city has taken some preliminary steps.

Developers of The Proscenium -- a proposed hotel, retail, office and condo project at U.S. 41 and Boulevard of the Arts -- are willing to commit $8.2 million to startup costs. That may qualify as matching dollars for a federal grant. If both sources come through, the city may have enough money to build the system and operate it for at least five years.

A few years ago, Sarasota County Area Transit tried a downtown trolley service, on a loop using Main Street and Ringling Boulevard, but it failed. It was essentially a bus (potato chip truck AKA: PCT-Trolley) designed to look like an old-fashioned trolley.

The streetcars would actually run on a rail and have more appeal, Montgomery said.

Yet providing a route for a streetcar could be challenging. Main Street, for example, would most likely lose much of its street parking. "That's a major issue in this town," Montgomery said.


Amazing news keeps coming out of California. Remember a few years back when the world was saying the LAST STAND of the automobile would be in the "Golden State". The Los Angeles freeway system that attempted to replace a 1,200 mile electric interurban railway and failed. The growing frustration with smog, and endless pavement expansion, the greenhouse created by the sea breeze and the mountains that held a thick grey soup over the cities, burned the eyes and into the minds of the citizens. Rail advocates kept preaching the gospel of bring back the trains, mostly to deaf ears. On the positive side, California hadn't yet, removed any of its mainline railroad track (as Florida has) nor had they completely abandoned their largest passenger terminal Los Angeles, (as Jacksonville has).

But the situation would be confrontational from the start, even if California tried rail it would be with a minimal approach, no station infrastructure and used, begged or borrowed equipment. After all who in their right mind would think the only cities on the globe more sprawled then Jacksonville - Orlando - Tampa - Miami - Sarasota, would willingly abandon 12 and 16 lane freeways for a train ride.

Enter the Loma Preita Earthquake, which typical of most temblors crashed down everything above the ground level. The giant multi-level interchanges of the worlds finest freeway system lay in dusty heaps, countless bodies crushed beneath them. There was only one bright spot in this otherwise dismal history. The deep subterranean railroad tunnels under the San Gabriel Mountains were not touched. Suddenly thousands, if not millions of people desperate to keep working and living, were forced to take to the rail tunnels in quickly gathered equipment from around the Americas. It was to be a short lived experiment, only something strange started to happen. The worlds most auto-centric society rebelled when the political powers suggested removal of the trains and a return to "normal". Nobody it seemed wanted normal to ever come back again.

Now far be it from me to wish a similar natural disaster on my home state of Florida. Rather I would hope someone in Tallahassee or Jacksonville or one of the other major metropolitan areas would look at what has happened not just in Los Angeles but throughout California. In fact, here is the latest on their railway success story:

By Gene Skoropowski, Managing Director, Capitol Corridor JPB
California Intercity Passenger Rail ridership and revenue records continue to be “smashed” by these August statistics. Major ridership growth continues all across California, with the Pacific Surfliners growing at +9.5%, the Capitol Corridor at +21.2% and the San Joaquins at +27.5%. These three California intercity rail services carried 568,132 passengers in August, and the Pacific Surfliner (313,570) route has carried more passengers than Amtrak’s premier Northeast Corridor “Acela Express” (250,440) for the fourth consecutive month.

The Capitol Corridor was again rated by the riders across the country as Amtrak’s #1 route for customer satisfaction for the 7th consecutive month, and Capitol Corridor sustained its “best on-time performance” (at 91.6% on-time) of all but 2 intercity corridors offering multiple frequency services.

Capitol Corridor (August 2008):
158,309 passengers +21.2% vs. 2007 this is a new August record, and second-highest month ever and the Capitol Corridor is still the third busiest route in the country, by a wide margin.Passengers for 11 months YTD: 1,548,783 (11 months YTD: +16.1%)(total riders for the latest 12 months: 1,664,871, +15.7% above prior 12months)
$2,272,935 revenue +27.9% vs. 2007 (11 months YTD: +21.6%)
The farebox recovery revenue-to-cost ratio for July is 62.5% , andthe year-to-date revenue-to-cost ratio holding at 54.3%.

On-time performance for July: 91.6% (a record high for service reliability)The year-to-date on-time performance delivered to the customers after 11 months is 85.3%, among the best in the country. Only the Keystone Corridor and the Hiawatha Corridor have better on-time stats. The premier Acela Express service on the Northeast Corridor is 83.8% on-time for the same 11 month period, while Northeast Regional service is at 75.5%.

The Capitol Corridor (Sacramento - Oakland - San Jose with connections to San Francisco)
A Florida equal to this corridor, while missing the capitol maintains the distances and shape, and would run from Tampa - Miami / Orlando - Miami / Orlando - Tampa, the Florida triangle.

August on-time reliability numbers are exceptionally good, and most encouraging. Again, like last month, not since we went from 6 trains each way to 9 trains each way (back in 2000-01) have we seen ridership growth like we have seen in July and August. Union Pacific Railroad continues to deliver for us. UPRR performance in August was again 95%, and UPRR performance year to date is between 94% and 95%, the best of any Amtrak-operated intercity passenger rail service in the country, whether Amtrak-dispatched or freight railroad dispatched.__________________________________________________

Pacific Surfliners (August 2008): (From Santa Barbara - Los Angeles - San Diego)
One might say this route is roughly the California equal of the Florida East Coast Ry, From Jacksonville to Miami.

313,570 passengers +9.5% vs. 2007, still the second busiest route in the nation, by a wide marginPassengers for 11 months YTD: 2,683,362 (11 months YTD: +7.5%)As noted above, the Pacific Surfliners carried more monthly passengers than the Acela Express on the Northeast Corridor, for the 4th consecutive month
$6,173,776 revenue +14.8% vs. 2007 (11 months YTD: +9.8%)
On-time performance for August: 69.3%YTD on-time: 75.9%__________________________________________________

San Joaquins (August 2008): (From Oakland / Sacramento - Fresno - Bakersfield)
This is a long corridor through a farm belt that started with a tiny 2 car train. If Florida had such a service it would closely resemble our Jacksonville - Tallahassee - Pensacola line.

96,253 passengers +27.5% vs. 2007, keeping its slot as fifth busiest in the nation for the second consecutive month (outpacing New York State’s Empire Corridor Service)Passengers for 11 months YTD: 873,767 (11 months YTD: +18.2%)
$3,093,399 revenue +31.1% vs. 2007 (11 months YTD: +19.6%)
On-time performance for August: 66.4%YTD on-time: 82.4%__________________________________________________________

Total California Intercity Corridor Ridership for August 2008: 568,132
Total Northeast Corridor ‘Spine’ ridership for August 2008: 877,849For August 2008, the California Corridors are 64.7% of Northeast Corridor ‘Spine’ Boston-Washington ridership
Total Northeast Corridor ridership for August 2008with branches to Springfield, MA; Albany, NY and Harrisburg, PA: 1,104,113For August 2008, the California Corridors are 51.5% of the total NortheastCorridor ridership


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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