As part of its plan to replace the Jacksonville Skyway with a system of autonomous vehicles called the “Ultimate Urban Circulator” or “U2C,” JTA has launched a survey asking Jaxsons which destinations they want to see connected. The survey only includes items along five predetermined routes. Unfortunately, these routes are all in trendy neighborhoods and proposed developments around downtown, missing a chance to serve - and help revitalize - nearby pedestrian friendly African-American neighborhoods that are transit dependent and denser in population.
As our partners ModernCities.com argued in 2018, there’s much to question in JTA’s Skyway plans, including likely capacity limitations, the lack of embracing dedicated right-of-way, too little attention given to sparking economic development, and the unwieldy “U2C” name. One of the biggest problems, however, has been JTA’s failure to include neighborhoods where residents already rely on transit. While the plan has evolved somewhat since last year, it still fails to reach outside of a few already trendy urban areas where transit would be dominated by choice riders - relatively well-off people with cars who may sometimes choose transit but do not rely on it.
The North Corridor is designed to not provide survey users the opportunity to suggest service to dense, transit dependent neighborhoods west of I-95.
JTA has made some noticeable tweaks to its plan. Notably, the current plan has apparently removed a bridge between the Stadium District and the Southbank, which as we argued last year was unfeasible. Still, transit-dependent neighborhoods adjacent to Downtown are left out of the current plans. The survey includes spots along five pre-selected corridors that JTA has chosen. Three of the corridors, the “West Corridor” covering Brooklyn and Riverside, and the “South/Medical” and “Southbank Corridors,” both penetrating the Southbank and San Marco, reach fairly affluent urban hotspots. The “North Corridor” covers a more mixed neighborhood, Springfield, although this area is also growing quickly and gentrifying. The fifth corridor, the “East Corridor” reaching to the Stadium District, covers an area with almost no residents today.
As such, the survey is majorly flawed, as the choices are limited to the point that expansion would happen along the same set of predetermined corridors, regardless of what is chosen. To be effective, it needs to be broader so as not to exclude possibly penetrating transit-dependent neighborhoods that could benefit most from an expansion of the Skyway, that were never seriously considered as potential destinations during the early days of the U2C proposal. And of course, JTA needs to be more proactive in seeking inclusive and equitable feedback residents of those areas - a tech-savvy online survey is unlikely to do the job.
Fortunately, with minor adjustments JTA could bring the Skyway to some of the working class, historically black neighborhoods just blocks away from the proposed route. Eastside and Durkeeville are two dense, walkable, and proportionally transit-dependent neighborhoods that would benefit greatly from this level of investment. Below is a list of neighborhoods that the Skyway could easily serve, adapted from our 2018 editorial: