The Skyway – “people mover” as it was then called – sounded like a great idea back in the 1970s, when leisure suits were in style.
It was going to whisk people in and out of downtown, above the traffic. Thousands of commuters would use it each day.
Best of all – the federal government would build it, so it would be “free.”
All local taxpayers would have to do is pay to operate the system.
Now, millions of dollars and 30 years after it was built, city officials propose to scrap the rarely used, antiquated, expensive system with – something even bigger and costlier.
Why did the original idea fail? A multitude of reasons.
One was the preposterous assumption that local government would limit parking downtown. That could mean politicians and city employees would have to use the system instead of having low-cost or reserved free parking next to their offices. Downtown parking has increased dramatically instead.
Another was the route. It ran from the train station to downtown, where City Hall is now but was not then. City Hall moved to the Skyway.
Train station? The Skyway plan began about the time the nation’s passenger railroads were abandoned by private companies and taken over by the government, a sure sign of decline.
There was talk of a system that would reach the airport and deep into nearby suburbs, but the cost made even government big-spenders blanch.
Ridership has been, at best, 30 percent of the forecast.
So we have the 2020 version of the 1920 El in New York.
One user on Yelp said ruefully, “I think it is actually more of a colossal embarrassment to the city than anything else.”
Now the vehicles the Skyway uses are no longer made and maintenance costs are rising so the Jacksonville Transportation Authority has devised a new plan: to use little driverless buses to zip around on the Skyway, and also to enter and exit at various points. JTA also would like to greatly extend the route.
Cost? Pick a figure. Double it.
City government got into the mass transit business just before it began dreaming of the Skyway, when it bought the bus company that had been privately owned for decades. It paid a premium price, of course.
The major problem is that mass transit success is dependent on population density. Jacksonville is not Hong Kong or Tokyo and likely never will be. Metromover in downtown Miami is considered a success. It costs a dollar per ride but, like the Skyway, riders aren’t charged anything; taxpayers pay for their ride.
One thing the planners apparently did not consider seems appealing. It also seems fitting and timely since some politicians are fixated on selling the city’s electric company.
Why not offer the city’s mass transit operations for sale? Let’s see what the private sector thinks it is worth as a long-term investment by people who are using their own money.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://eyeonjacksonville.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Lloyd-Brown.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.[/author_info] [/author]