08 November, 2008

ODE to BRT - Our Savior

JTA - "The Dream", FILE PHOTO

Ode to BRT, the story of what will happen if the largest City in the South gets to murder it's railroad plan for a system of BRT buses. Why the previous story posted without it's title is any ones guess but read on down, and you'll find the poem of the BRT system - our be all - in all - save all - bus network.

We are NOT against BRT - just don't try and build a bus into a train and don't expect a train to be a bus. It just won't happen - won't work.

So please enjoy this light-hearted look ahead into some future nightmare in Jacksonville.






ODE TO THE JACKSONVILLE BRT PLAN

"There's a Hooker being cozy with a Jacksonville cop."

"Stepping off this dirty bus first time I understood..."


Imagine if we scrap our rail plans for the "super bus" BRT system. The newspaper is already running "hit" pieces on rail failures, lack of profit and imagined expenses. The CD player just ran the old piece "Greyhound" by the Late Great Harry Chapin, (who by the way was killed on a freeway when his car was crushed by a large over the road vehicle). So with apology's to Harry, here's my take on BRT as the sole system in the 3RD largest City in the East.
"I find a seat
And we move out in the lights."


"Everybody's looking half alive."
It's midnight at the bus stop
And I drag myself in line.
Travellin' light, I got to go
But the bus won't be on time.
Everybody's looking half alive.
Later on the bus arrives.

Got my prepaid ticket
I find a seat
And we move out in the lights.
Come on Driver, where's the heat?
It's cold this Jacksonville night.
I keep telling to myself that I don't care.
It's now tomorrow, I'll soon be there.

Using this BRT, It's a dog of a way to get around.
Riding around on BRT.
It's a dog gone easy way to get you down.
Tired of watching this City go by
So I look across the aisle.
The window's frosted, I can't see
But the girl returns my smile.
She reminds me of someone waiting at my home.
So I doze. So it goes.

I'm wrinkled on my seat at the transfer stop.
There's a Hooker being cozy with a Jacksonville cop.
My coffee's tasting tired.
My eyes roll over dead.
They should have built the rail, and got the gas out of our heads.
Oh, to be at home in bed.

You got me driving.
I'm on your JTA bus and you're driving.
But there's nothing new about JTA.
Nothing new about feeling grey.
Nothing new about putting off
Or putting myself on.

Looking for tomorrow is the way the commuter survives
I should have realized by now that all my life's a ride.
It's time to find some happy times and make myself some friends
I know there ain't no rainbows waiting when this journey ends.

Stepping off this dirty bus first time I understood
There's got to be an alternative that's good
That's a thought for keeping if I could.
There's got to be an alternative that's good.



Commuter Rail Will Require Big Bucks - "Dumb and Dumber".

The Coffee is only about 1.5 miles from the newspaper tower in Jacksonville, a city where the old saying takes on new meaning

The Local Media should opens it's windows and "Smell the Coffee!"
The classic Rail Diesel Car, re manufactured at a cost of Penny's on the dollar to the DMU is still available in great numbers and custom re-made in our image.

Typical Re-manufactured RDC cars carry the flag for many agency's, nearly twice the mileage of the DMU units. Just imagine this could be SHAND'S station.

Billions of dollars of development have followed commuter rail and streetcars in every city that has invested in these systems. Why does the newspaper think we are unique? Why do they project failure? Can you spell P-A-R-R-O-T, if not, it's time to learn the highway lobby's crazy argument.

Our newspaper has failed us in this newest article. Completely missing are the hundreds of automobiles that would be removed from area highways. Missing are the fast connections to all sides of the City via a rail trunk line. Missing are the dozens of buses that could be redeployed to other neighborhoods within the city to close the headway's from 40 minutes to 20. The story is devoid of references to the cost of our highway system and to the fantastic profit we earned from the Arlington Expressway, Roosevelt or JTB last year. If your wondering "What profit?" you are correct, ZERO! Nothing but endless taxation and road building.

It should be remembered that though our City was the Queen of the Rails, for everything South of Washington D.C. - our people today don't remember it. Indeed some of the Amtrak rail expansion models show as many lines of trains serving Jacksonville as Chicago, St. Louis or Dallas. But this article is about commuter rail, and while that is true, the same track that carries an expanded Amtrak Florida network will serve to carry the Jacksonville Commuter Rail trains. Amtrak plans to bring corridor frequency to Florida with our intercity trains, but it is yet to be seen which project Amtrak, or Jax Commuter Rail, will piggyback on the other and thus get the most from this investment.

The news piece is the same old tired angle, The train will cost every citizen $21 dollars per ticket. Well how about letting us know the true costs of air service at Jacksonville? How about highways?

The Department of Transportation, which subsidizes scheduled air service to rural communities far from major airline hubs.These routes are the back roads of skies, serving unknown hamlets like Show Low, Arizona, Thief River Falls, Minnesota, and Greenbrier, West Virginia. They are generally poorly traveled, costing American taxpayers millions every year to subsidize. (Environmentalists would point out that the extra flights pump tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.) The New York Times reported in October 2006 that some destinations, such as Brooking's, South Dakota, or Kingman, Nevada, serve less than ten passengers daily. Since EAS requires subsidized airlines to fly at least two daily round trips to each destination, that means that there can be as many crew members as passengers on the least-trafficked flights. The entire program cost over $110 million last year—$148 for every round trip outside Alaska, whose EAS subsidies are documented on a separate balance sheet. For example, at Manitowoc, Wisconsin when an average passenger boards a flight, the fare is $89, but the subsidy is $515! Closer to home, the recent Atlanta Airport expansion - one airport project - is NINE TIMES Amtrak's current appropriation for the entire nation. Just how twisted is this logic? If the airlines had to pay for the cost of the at traffic control system, as Amtrak now pays for the upkeep of the Northeast Corridor, they would soon be out of business. In 1989, it cost the federal government $3 billion to operate the system vs. the combined net profit of $1 billion for the airline industry. -Source: "Supertains: Solutions to America's Transportation Gridlock, Joe Vranich

$ 13,000,000,000
Boston
"Big Dig" freeway 20-year expansion project

$ 6,000,000,000
I-95
Wilson bridge project

$ 3,200,000
Alabama
Two-mile highway widening cost.


$ 3,000,000
Alabama
Cost to provide passenger train service to Montgomery, Mobile, Birmingham


For the same amount of money, the state of Alabama could fund a 200-mile passenger train route that would serve many more citizens than widening an EXISTING two-mile roadway. Such passenger train would serve Birmingham, Montgomery, Greenville and Mobile - half of the state!

Why not just build profitable highways and include bus systems? User fees only account for about 60% of highway spending by all levels of government. The rest comes from non-users and in 1990, non-highway users subsidized roads at the rate of $18 billion per year. -Source: Highway Statistics 1990, Tables HF-10 and SMT, Federal Highway Administration

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-Originally created 11080

Costly rail service for Jacksonville would lose money
Click-2-Listen

Advocates say millions could be found to build the commuter service.
By LARRY HANNAN, The Times-Union


A proposed commuter rail system in the Jacksonville area will cost $543 million to build and $40 million a year to run, and won't make money, according to a yet-to-be completed study by a Jacksonville Transportation Authority consultant.

It is not clear yet where, when or if the money will be found to build the system.
The JTA asked the consultant, Gannett Fleming Inc. of Pennsylvania a year ago to look into using the existing rail lines owned by CSX and Florida East Coast Railway to create a three-pronged commuter rail system that would help get cars off the road. It would be part of the transportation authority's long-range effort for commuter rail flow into the downtown area, where buses or the Skyway (Jacksonville monorail) would take people to their final destination.
A northbound line on CSX tracks would go to Yulee; a southwest line on CSX tracks to Green Cove Springs; and a southeast line on Florida East Coast tracks to St. Augustine.
The construction cost does not include a new transportation center at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, the starting point for all three commuter rail lines.
The study calculated how much it would cost to run the system, but not how much people would pay to ride it. That will be up to JTA to decide, said Thomas Hickey, national transit planning manager of Gannett Fleming. The company released the numbers midway through its $400,000 study due next year.
Hickey estimated that by 2015 there would be 2,974 trips a day for the southwest route, and it would cost $13.44 per passenger for the railway to break even in yearly operating costs. The southeast route would have 4,814 trips a day with a cost of $9.58 per passenger, and the north route would have 2,045 trips a day at $21.50 per trip.
But the JTA wouldn't charge that much.
James Boyle, the authority's regional transportation planner, said it wouldn't ask passengers to pay a fare that would allow the system to make money. As a result, he said, JTA would not expect to make a profit - or even break even. Most public transportation systems in the United State lose money, he said, and are operated because they benefit the public.
However, he said JTA didn't want the system to be sunk by cost, either.
The construction money would have to come from federal, state and local government sources, Boyle said, and that's feasible because the state and federal governments want more commuter rail systems built.
Congress also needs to pass a new transportation funding bill in 2009 because the current bill is expiring. Advocates are pushing for more rail funding in that bill.
JTA also might seek support from the private sector via sponsorships or public-private partnerships, Boyle said.
Denise Bunnewith of the First Coast Transportation Planning Organization said it is unlikely that the entire commuter rail line will be built at once because the cost is prohibitive. But, she said, it's important that the area move forward and build at least part of the system soon, because rail is an essential part of the region's long-term transportation plan.
Hickey said the study assumes a train can hit the southeast and southwest stations every 30 minutes during peak times and once an hour during off-peak times. The north route will have a train arrive every 15 minutes during peak times and every half hour during off-peak times. The north route would receive more runs because it is a more populated area, and there would be more train stops on this route.
For the north route, the study identified potential stations in locations, such as Shand's Jacksonville, Main Street in the Springfield warehouse district, U.S. 1 near Kings Road, Moncrief Road, and 64th Street near Main Street. With other potential stops, JTA has identified the basic areas but doesn't yet know the exact locations.
The completed study will be presented to the JTA board. If the board wants to move forward, Boyle said a more detailed analysis would be needed, at a cost of about $3 million. That study would take at least 18 months and involve community meetings and discussions with the rail companies, he said.
In the meantime, gas prices likely will rise again. So will traffic congestion. And that, Boyle said, will make the area more open to commuter rail.

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Between 1971 and 1994, capital spending for Amtrak has never exceeded $220 million in any year...about the cost of a mile or two of urban freeway. On that, Amtrak is supposed to make the investments to become profitable. -Source: The Amtrak Story, by Frank Wilner

Between 1958 and 1971, the year of Amtrak's creation, the federal government spent more than $50 billion on highways and at the same time, the government subsidy to intercity bus operators grew to $50 million annually. -Source: USDOT, "Study of Federal aid to Transportation" and R.L. Banks and Associates, "Is Subsidy Unique to Amtrak?" When the Reagan Administration claimed that each rail passenger required a $35 subsidy, Amtrak President Graham Claytor countered that air passengers were subsidized at $42 each, including $9 for the air traffic control system. -Source: US News and World Report

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Now the Times-Union wants to lay all these same stupid numbers on Commuter Rail.

So as the late president Ronald Reagan would have said to our own Times-Union and the missing Commuter Rail profit, "There they go again..." Times-Union? Wake the hell up and smell the coffee...-Maxwell House and General Foods Speciality Coffee's are a product of Jacksonville.



TAKE A FREE TOUR OF THE JACKSONVILLE SKYWAY

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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