Politicians get hooked on federal money just like crackheads get hooked on dope. Jacksonville is no exception and the Skyway Express is the best example.
Some 50 years ago, the U.S. Urban Mass Transit Administration got its hands on a pile of your money and decided to dole it out in what it said would cut down on traffic congestion in cities.
Although Jacksonville had a good mayor and City Council at the time, the lure of free money was too enticing.
They applied for a grant to build a “people mover.”
Local editorial writers applauded the move. The argument was that the feds would pay the capital cost and all the taxpayers would have to do is pay to operate the system.
The system would be a modern version of the ancient elevated railways – “els” — in major cities such as New York.
Apparently, no one thought to ask why the els hadn’t solved traffic congestion in those cities.
Nonetheless, the city was awarded a grant and built the system, completing it in 1989.
Within a few years, the faults began to show.
Ridership was one-third of the projections, at best. Many excuses were made.
But the real reason was that the concept was flawed from the start.
It assumed that people would drive to the edge of downtown, park their cars, walk to a station and board the people mover, renamed the Automated Skyway Express.
No one was going to do that, especially when parking was available downtown.
Proponents complained that only 2.5 miles of track was built. But, more would have been exponentially expensive, both to build and to operate.
Tampa built a similar system, and city officials there had sense enough to tear it down.
Here, 50 years later, local officials say it would cost too much to tear it down. Instead, they plan to spend $150 million more to rehab it.
The original plan was hailed for putting all the traffic in the air, above ground. The new system will bring the traffic down to the streets, where vehicles without drivers will buzz about the city streets carrying people to their destinations – if anyone rides it.
Jacksonville libs assure us that, in the Brave New World of socialism, autos will be banned and everyone will ride bicycles everywhere – even during thunderstorms and 100-degree temperatures – and be enormously happy. Everything, including transportation, will be provided by a loving world government.
It sounds as good as the free money of the 1970s did.