Last week I attended an event, Infrastructure: Beyond the Pavement, put on by the North Florida Urban Land Institute moderated by Daniel Davis, President & CEO of Jax Chamber. Present were representatives from local government, contracting companies, technology companies, Jacksonville Transportation Authority, and North Florida Transportation Planning Organization. Development of downtown, transportation, and technology were among the topics discussed.
The goal of the event was to bring together government and the private sector to collaborate in moving Jacksonville into the “smart growth” era merging technology and infrastructure. The Skyway, the new Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center, and autonomous vehicles were cited as the foundation for creating optimal mobility. Jeff Sheffield, Executive Director of North Florida Transportation Planning Organization explained that Jacksonville is a test bed for the technology industry. Councilwoman Lori Boyer spoke of the importance to create an environment highlighting the river using technology to enhance the experience much like that of the city of Austin, Texas.
It all sounded so good and how could anyone not support such development.
And I so wanted to.
Nathaniel Ford, CEO of Jacksonville Transportation Authority cited federal grants as one source to move forward. Drew Messer, President of Vineyard Partners, stated that the private sector needs to pay their share moving forward.
As a taxpayer all I heard was more DEBT. Our nation is almost $22 trillion in debt and our interest payment last month was $32 billion, yes billion. So, of course it makes sense to go to Washington to garner more funds for JTA.
JTA is one of approximately 950 transit agencies across the nation that report to the National Transit Database each month.
In 2016 JTA had an operating LOSS of $104.7 million.
Duval taxpayers paid $68.6 million of that bill.
Those using JTA covered $12.8 million.
The public transportation industry is financially unsustainable.
Taxpayers across the nation cover more than 60% of the costs of public transportation.
Despite the yearly operating losses, JTA is expanding exponentially. More vehicles, larger facilities, and more routes. The liability column on the balance sheet is growing and no one seems to care.
So, there I sat watching individuals hoping to capitalize on the project wondering if any of them ever consider who will pay for it. When will we, taxpayers, unite and say enough is enough?
Former Presidents addressed this national travesty many times and we are still climbing the debt ladder higher and higher – no matter the warnings of these wise men:
“Let every man, every corporation, and especially let every village, town, and city, every county and State, get out of debt and keep out of debt. It is the debtor that is ruined by hard times.” — Rutherford B. Hayes (1822–1893) Nineteenth President of the United Sates
“We don’t have a trillion-
These were smart men and wise words have been ignored by Congress and city halls across the country. Their wisdom has fallen silent in the treasury and debt is being served in cities across the nation. Sadly, no one wants to push away from the table.
Does anyone care? Should we care?