24 December, 2008


The Republican Mayor of Jacksonville, John Peyton, has recently announced his own stimulus package. The details are horrifying. We have $100 million dollars in a special account for Mass Transit Improvements, plus a dedicated half cent tax that goes directly to the Jacksonville Transit Authority (JTA).

To make matters worse, just as President Elect Obama comes along and asks for "ready to go plans for Transit", our own JTA has just finished stage one and two of Streetcar, Commuter Rail, and BRT studies. They also have a plan to reopen the downtown train station as a transportation center, and city money was already earmarked for that project as well.

Along comes mayor Peyton, the Concrete and Oil magnet, with a plan to raid all mass transit funds for new highways around the port. Further the funds for Transportation Center have vanished into a smoke screen of "3,000 new construction jobs".

Yeah, right Mr. Mayor, and after the roads open? Then what?

There will be no land run on Highway Adjacent Development that the Port Of Gold wouldn't create on it's own. With rail being the weak spot of our port (for the most part locked into one railroad company), and that same mainline has been identified as the backbone of commuter rail. Everyone See's a win-win situation for a sweeping purchase-lease back agreement and upgrade.

Over in City Council, the idea is being floated around to tear down the $200 million dollar monorail and replace it with streetcars! This idea is just short of crazy as the two systems could compliment each other and the City would gain from a multi-modal approach. But there's no funding to do any of those projects, no matter how good or crazy.

If the Council rubber stamps the mayors suicidal transit plan, Jacksonville might just as well roll it's name back to Cowford. It's been a long, long time since Jacksonville had a true multi-modal mass transit system, and it was taken down by National City Lines and their oil, asphalt and rubber tire friends. Today it's concrete and oil that enriches the Peyton family's pockets and he seems content to pull us back to 1932.

'Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the town,
Not a person was moving
No bus could be found.

The transit dreamers,
Were snug in their beds,
While visions of streetcars
Danced through their heads.

Our stations are empty
They sleep through the night.
No headrests and pillows
So restful and white.

The Skyway had been
of their very own choosing,
So tempting and good
There was just no refusing.

The evening they'd spent
Seemed wrong for this Season.
Since Peyton killed Transit
Without purpose or reason.

On Commuter Rail,
So spacious and bright,
All might have sang,
Christmas carols that night.

"'Tis a most happy Christmas,
"They’d sing with delight,"
'Travel at its best --
What a wonderful night."

And when it came time
That Christmas was there,
We had nothing to show,
And few who would care.

As to Town Center they sped
On through the storm,
A city without transit,
And Freeways the norm.

No thanks for our train,
So streamlined and fine,
No streetcars, no buses,
Just Peyton sublime!

"This is," we had said,
"The one way to go --
The Double Track Route
For comfort, we know."

Then without heeding the call,
As he turned out our lights,
"It's a Peyton Christmas...
For all a GOOD night."

Merry Christmas Jacksonville


Governor Bill Richardson Announces Debut of Rail Runner Express in Santa Fe

SANTA FE – Governor Bill Richardson today announced that after nearly a year-and-a-half of construction the New Mexico Rail Runner Express is ready to ride into Santa Fe. On Monday, December 15, 2008 the Governor will be joined by state, local and tribal officials, and several members of the public for the first inaugural train ride from Albuquerque into Santa Fe.

“This is a historic event that will bring long-term economic benefits to New Mexico and change the way we travel along the Middle Rio Grande Corridor,” Governor Richardson said. “During these tough economic times, the Rail Runner Express will provide thousands of commuters a much-needed savings while offering them a safe, viable and efficient transportation alternative.”

“The Rail Runner Express will change the face of transportation in New Mexico,” said State Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught. “With initial estimates of nearly 4,500 commuters riding the train between Albuquerque and Santa Fe on a daily basis, this will not only take a lot of stress off our roads, but will also enhance safety.”

“Bringing the train to Santa Fe represents the historic culmination of five years of hard work, and a significant investment in the future of New Mexico,” says Lawrence Rael, Executive Director for the Mid-Region Council of Governments. “As a regional organization, the Council of Governments has been proud to work with the Department of Transportation to make this project a reality. This is about our children having an alternative transportation system to work, play and travel in the region for generations to come.”

This amazing project has been done in record time. Traffic between Santa Fe and Albuquerque on I-25 is very heavy. The sight of these trains racing past in the median will be their own best advertising. Congratulations to the forward thinking Governor, Mayors, NMDOT and people of New Mexico.
Isn't it a shame that here in the Southeast we continue to have freeway robber-barons that have never seen a highway they didn't love? Atlanta's recent and completely antiquated editorial calls for more highways and less nostalgia. Meanwhile in Jacksonville, even with gas at $1.60 per gallon, transit ridership is holding firm on JTA buses and monorail at over 1 million a month! These numbers are 25 year records, yet mayor Peyton is trying to sink the entire mass transit system by stealing the funds for pet road projects.
The battle cry is always, "We just don't have the density," (though we're more densely populated then Charlotte). This is hogwash, the Rail-Runner in New Mexico passes through several miles were I defy our mayor or anyone else to find a single living thing. Maybe it's just a ghost from our own past, this time WE are ALL THE SLAVES to our own STUPID ACTS. JT


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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