10 September, 2008


So we have these massive 30 and 40 passenger diesel buses, growling up and down the roadways of Jacksonville, the backbone of a future inter modal and inter county Transit network. The planners are already hard a work putting pens to paper and hitting the keyboards to crunch the numbers. There are still unanswered questions. If Baldwin ends up on commuter rail, what about Fargo? If Yulee is a terminus, then what about Callahan? Some interesting thoughts on making the whole metro transit inclusive comes from a small city and a big think-tank in Central Oregon.

Flexible Transit? Big lessons from little Bend, Oregon
by Sreya Sarkar Monday,

In September 2006, after six years of deliberation and planning and with much fanfare, Bend began its fixed-route bus service, Bend Area Transit (BAT). Seven bus lines within the Bend city limits charge adults and youth $1 and seniors 50 cents to ride. The city also continued to offer the general public the previously existing dial-a-ride bus service with door-to-door transit.The population explosion in the Deschutes County communities seemed to demand this new fixed-route service. Yet, after just a year of service, when Bend residents were asked in a regional survey if they would like to see BAT expand its services, they offered a mixed response: They would like to see it expand but would not like to pay more taxes to maintain it.

Over the past year, a committee of public and private leaders representing the three Central Oregon Counties (Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook) have worked to create a regional framework to address a more efficient, effective and equitable use of alternative transportation services. The committee, called the Central Oregon Mobility Consortium, has been formally established under the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC) and has generated private funding to conduct the region’s first comprehensive survey of alternative transportation services.The survey results clearly show that overwhelming support exists for transit services based on real market demand. The transit model promoted by the Mobility Consortium is very different from that followed by traditional public transit agencies which typically provide one or two distinct services. The Consortium feels that the traditional fixed-route public transit model may fit the needs of some big cities, but definitely not those of the scattered and low population density communities of Central Oregon.The Consortium’s plan, therefore, is to pool together the region’s public and private transportation resources (including municipal buses, school buses, shuttles, vans and even taxicabs) and match the modes of transportation with customers’ needs. Critical to this approach of providing flexible services and allowing customers to choose the type of service that best suits them in terms of price, convenience and time is the development and operation of a “one stop” information, reservation and dispatch center. This idea is unique in that it brings in the private sector to share the risk in developing and delivering services.Cascade Policy Institute recently asked David Foote, the consultant for the Mobility Consortium, if the Consortium has a specific plan for the low-income population in Central Oregon. His response was that there is no separate plan for the low-income population because the Consortium does not believe in segregating low-, middle- and high-income populations. He said services would suit the needs of different populations, including the low-income, the physically challenged and the elderly.However, the Consortium feels that traditional public transit is “subsidy” based. Therefore, very little incentive exists for the transit agency to be customer-focused. In many cases this results in low-income or transit dependent riders subsidizing more affluent riders. When asked about the feasibility of using privately operated automobiles (or jitneys) that could serve as flexible quasi-public transportation for low-income populations in Central Oregon, Foote thought it is an idea that needs to be “investigated.” He is of the opinion that if jitneys offer inexpensive and flexible transportation service to people who need it, there is no reason why they should not be considered as a viable transportation option.There are legal bans (or at least heavy regulations) stifling jitney services in most American cities. When and where the traditional fixed-route public transit model does not work, such legal bans should be lifted. There are a number of ways jitney-like services can be reasonably regulated without forcing jitney businesses to cease to exist altogether. A good way would be starting a system of user charges for jitney operators, including a requirement for financial responsibility for all vehicles instead of a high operating bond which unduly penalizes jitneys.Since Central Oregon has a skeletal and expensive public transit service that only serves people within the Bend city limit, a more comprehensive regional transportation system is urgently needed. It could include private jitney services, as well as special shuttle services for the physically challenged. The Mobility Consortium realizes that federal and state regulations sometimes create undue barriers to the better utilization of resources. The result is increased costs for providing public transportation services and low-ridership. That is the reason why it is willing to fight the legal battle against such regulations. Its main aim is to provide Central Oregonians with transportation choices and let them determine the service that best meets their requirements, based on the value of the service.Public transit is ultimately for the use and convenience of the public and not of the transit providers. The fact that Central Oregonians are convinced that the market can take care of public demands better than the traditional public transit agency is a starting point for considering including more private enterprises in the field of public transit.Sreya Sarkar is Director of the Wheels to Wealth Project at Cascade Policy Institute, a think tank based in Portland, Oregon.


Savannah, Georgia, is showing the way for Jacksonville and plans to open as early as November.
The Streetcar in the Center of our original Jacksonville Traction Emblem spent it's last years working the transit lines in Savannah. One of the lucky few to survive the fate of chicken coops, sheds and "Florida rooms".

River Streetcar: November at earliest

Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 12:30 am

The rails along River Street won't be put to good use for another few months.
The highly anticipated River Streetcar is presently in Altoona, Pa., for electrical and mechanical gear to be put in place.

It's expected to be delivered to Savannah in six to eight weeks, said Sean Brandon, the city's mobility and parking director.

After it undergoes testing, it could be operational as early as November.

"It's been a journey," Brandon said at a streetcar information session Friday. "This is ... one of the most difficult projects we've had to undertake."

The streetcar is from the 1930s and has been completely refurbished as a modern, hybrid vehicle.

"It's a Prius on steroids," said Gary Landrio, assistant vice president of Tran Systems, a transportation consulting company in Warren, Pa.

"(The River Streetcar) is one of the most cutting-edge things from a green standpoint that's being done anywhere in North America," he said. "There's no vehicle like this."

When the streetcar is operational, it will run from noon to 8 p.m. to allow for extra space on River Street for business deliveries in the mornings.

It will hold 50 to 80 people, and round-trip fares will be 50 cents. The free dot shuttle will connect to a streetcar stop at City Hall.

Disability access
Part of the delay in the streetcar's completion stemmed from the addition of two wheelchair lifts.

The technology for the lifts needed to be hidden in order for the streetcar to still look like it's from 1935 - which took up a lot of time, Landrio said.

A significant amount of people with disabilities visit Savannah, according to Brandon. The streetcars will be fully ADA accessible.

"Now somebody with mobility challenges can ride the length of River Street and can get on and off to visit what they want to," Brandon said.

Cynthia Egan, owner of Arts & Crafts Emporium on River Street, is pleased the streetcar will be able to accommodate wheelchairs.

"I think it will bring a lot more tourists that normally couldn't come down here," she said. "It really fills a void."

Moving the rails
The streetcar will use the existing rails along River Street.

But there's a possibility the rails might need to be moved along the stretch from Spanky's restaurant to the Olde Harbour Inn, Brandon said.

The rails shift in that spot, and moving them two to two-and-a-half feet north may make it easier for motor vehicle traffic to move along River Street at the same time as the streetcar.

While a decision won't be made on moving the rails until the streetcar is tested, the city plans to move forward with the assumption that the work will need to be done.

"The goal is to get this in as soon as possible," Brandon said.

The general consensus is that it would be best to move the rails in December (excluding the week of Christmas), January or February to cause the least amount of disruption to businesses.

If everything else works out on schedule for the streetcar, it would operate from the west end of the route up to the construction area.

More delays possible
Another possible hurdle on the way to the streetcar becoming fully operational is the Federal Transit Administration.

The city submitted a safety plan to the administration in July and received a 40-page response Thursday.

The FTA works with a local office in Atlanta, which works with the state Department of Transportation, according to Brandon.

He said they don't have much experience with passenger rail, except for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

"I hope they don't try to treat us like MARTA," he said, adding that the safety standards should be different and should take into consideration the routes and speeds of the vehicles.

The FTA would need to approve the safety plan before the streetcar could run in Savannah.

The streetcar may eventually have a counterpart on River Street.

Another has been purchased by the city, but it won't be refurbished until the first car and the rails are complete and fully operational.
BLOGGER QUESTION: So Jacksonville, the city that would have been FIRST with a heritage streetcar system. But for Jake Godbold and unfounded fears that it would chase away the UMTA gift of a "free Skyway". Are we now going to drag ourselves last in line?

Could Jacksonville Contessa?

Another contestant in the coming struggle for a equipment supplier of new Commuter Rail in Jacksonville will likely be the fantastic and futuristic Contessa Trains. As our Commuter Rail system would be as long or longer then South Florida's, these trains are ideally suited for short or medium distance luxury and comfort. Bombardier Transportation has received an order from the Danish State Railways (DSB) for the delivery of 10 three-car Contessa trains, valued at approximately $118 million, with a foreseeable option of 30 additional trains.

The trains, which can reach a maximum speed of 111 mph, are capable of crossing the bridge between Denmark and Sweden, despite the different rail infrastructures used in both countries. A sophisticated dual system integrated into the vehicles enables the trains to automatically shift signaling and power systems when crossing the border. Other features of the inter-regional train include a middle-car design with low floors, and entrances giving access to disabled passengers and passengers carrying heavy luggage.

Another feature besides speed is found in safety, being railroad compliant and already in service by Amtrak in test corridors. The large black square around the ends is all a part of the high tech sell of these trains. They have the ability to split and rejoin while running at high speed! So a train coming into a junction does not have to waste time switching in the traditional sense. Now it is doubtful that ANY US railroad or the FRA would ever permit such operation in our country, the fact remains that a train that enters Jacksonville Terminal, could stop, unload - load, split up and leave for two destinations as two trains without anyone having to go outside or between cars.

If we decided to order the commuter configuration of these trains for our own system, they could be assembled in this country, perhaps in this city. The propulsion options are endless, with both diesel and electric options. Thus they can rightly be called either DMU's or EMU's depending on the power ordered. The trains will be leased by the National Rail Authority, which will make them available for DSBFirst, when the company takes over the Öresund services as of 11 January 2009.
The vehicles in this order and propulsion equipment will be designed by Bombardier in Sweden, with the propulsion equipment being manufactured at Bombardier’s production site in Västerås. The cars will be produced in Germany at Bombardier’s Hennigsdorf and Görlitz production sites, while the bogies will be produced in Siegen.


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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