A JTA video promoting the agency’s vision of the conversion of the Skyway monorail system into a road reserved for rubber wheeled autonomous vehicles.

7. Will the project be phased? For example, if the Bay Street Innovation Project fails to live up to expectations, is there opportunity to not spend additional funds on the restructuring of the existing Skyway infrastructure?

The U2C is proposed in 4 phases – the Bay Street Innovation Corridor is first. Autonomous Avenue, which is the conversion of Skyway track from the JRTC to Jefferson Station, would be next, followed by the full conversion of the remaining track and the neighborhood extensions. We intend to build out the entire system.

8. Is there opportunity to find “no-frills” alternatives to save on U2C implementation costs, allowing additional gas tax funds to be spent on other transportation projects with greater impact (both access, economic and job creation) to the larger community (ex. Emerald Trail, actually building a new train terminal at the JRTC/Prime Osborn, as opposed to just doing a PD&E study, etc.)?

The U2C leverages the latest emerging technologies, the ‘No-frills’ alternative is what we are currently operating and it is less agile and capable then the proposed solution.

In recent years, the JTA has identified initial funding for design work and studies for rail and other mobility solutions, helped the city secure the CRISI grant to address freight congestion and movement, and received an FTA grant to look at the potential TOD development opportunities around commuter rail stations between Downtown Jacksonville and St. Augustine. The Jobs for Jax project list proposes to fund 30% design work on that initial rail segment, and further work will require additional stakeholder involvement. We built the JRTC at LaVilla within close proximity of those historic rail lines, so in the future, those operations can easily integrate with what we’ve already built.

9. How much TOD (Transit Oriented Development) is this project anticipated to stimulate?

Research by the University of North Florida (UNF) estimates that the economic impact of the entire LOGT project is approximately $1.6 billion. The Tax Collectors office estimates that this could yield approximately $280,172,160 million in tax revenue for the City of Jacksonville over 10 years.

According to ongoing research being conducted by WSP, the U2C potential TOD yield is approximately 15 million in gross square footage:

· 11,000 residential units

· 1.4 million in commercial-retail square footage

· 1.5 million in office

A draft of that study is expected by May.

According to the UNF study, the indirect economic impact of the U2C projects included in the LOGT proposal is $174,582,123.66, while the induced economic impact is $97,914,774.42. This additional spending power as a result of the project will help support new jobs and businesses within our community. There are a number of factors that will drive economic development as a result of this investment in our community, including increased accessibility, leading to an increase in human capital, driving private investments through public investment, and business clustering or agglomeration around the system and stations. The JTA currently has TOD opportunities for joint development with Authority-owned properties like the Rosa Parks Transit Station and Johnson Street sites that tie directly into the U2C system. The JRTC at LaVilla is a TOD, and “Loft” housing properties are steps away from existing bus stops and Skyway stations.

10. Assuming we go with the small vehicles that have been evaluated to date by JTA, we’re effectively operating fixed infrastructure intended to move masses of people efficiently with something more equivalent to rideshare or last mile services within the downtown core. What is the long term viability of running rideshare on fixed Skyway track vs private sector rideshare services that can go anywhere at faster speeds and more flexibility?

The autonomous vehicles being considered by the JTA are all electric, and larger than typical passenger vehicles used by rideshare TNCs, therefore providing greater passenger capacity. The JTA’s fleet will have the ability to platoon, and will leverage an entire ecosystem of related technology to move customers more efficiently than the current Skyway trains can, or a single rideshare vehicle can. The Skyway superstructure also allows us to transport and move people above grade, without interrupting traffic in the core, and across the St. Johns River.

11. Why are we pursuing the full cost of the U2C conversion into the gas tax proposal as opposed to it only covering a 25% local share, with the state and feds covering the remaining 75% through something like New Starts?

Any assumptions about potential funding through the President’s infrastructure legislation is premature at this point. The expectation is that the later phases of the U2C will proceed as a Public-Private Partnership (P3), which will require a dedicated funding source. The LOGT provides that dedicated funding source, unlike discretionary grants that must be applied for each year and are not guaranteed. We will continue to pursue Federal funding for this and other projects as we have done in the past.

12. Assuming the gas tax passes, is Jacksonville forever tied to having to fund the draft list of projects identified to date? What would be the process needed to modify the list moving forward?

We are committed the successful implementation of the Jobs for Jax program and the joint project list with the City of Jacksonville. The JTA Board of Directors approved the project list in April. We will follow the same City Council process we did when the last LOGT extension was approved in 2014. Since 2016, the JTA has successfully worked on approximately $175 million in roadway improvement and transit enhancement projects, with the remaining six road projects either under construction now or in the final pre-construction phases. We look forward to working with the City Council as they review the proposal and the project list in the coming weeks.

Inside an autonomous vehicle at the JTA testing facility. (Ennis Davis, AICP)

JTA interview by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com. Thanks to Nat Ford and JTA staff for taking the time to meet with the Jaxson and further share their vision of the U2C project.