The future of the skyway has become one of the most contentious talking points during this year's mayoral race. Here are five affordable solutions that have the ability to increase ridership while reducing the amount of subsidies needed for ongoing operations.
The construction of 9B's first 4-mile phase will cost taxpayers a whopping $82.4 million. It also won't return anything at the "fare box" but no one is crying boondoggle over this one.
Like public parks, safety, and libraries, the Skyway costs money to operate. While not as bad as money burning Interstate 95, State Road 9B, the Mathews Bridge, or our subsidization of downtown parking, it cost $5 million to operate annually. Fares and parking revenue generated only $345,452 in 2010.
A Skyway Moratorium?
Taxpayers are currently subsidizing parking garages such as the courthouse garage (pictured above) to the tune of $12 million a year. However, the skyway has become a larger talking point.
Quote: Stop wasting taxpayer money on the Skyway
Sometimes, we have to admit when something is not working. The Automated Skyway Express (ASE) is a train to nowhere, and it's taking the taxpayers for a ride. The ASE costs the people of Jacksonville $5 - $8 million a year, with taxpayers kicking in $9 for every $1 fare. As mayor, I will lead the charge to place a moratorium on Skyway operations and stop the waste!
Quote: Two candidates for Jacksonville mayor have indicated they'll look into shutting down the Skyway if elected.
There's one problem: The mayor doesn't have the authority to do it.
Mike Hogan and Rick Mullaney have advocated getting rid of the Skyway, or at least shutting it down, in recent campaign appearances. But the 2.5-mile downtown people-mover, long derided for not going anywhere, is controlled by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, not by City Hall.
Despite its name, JTA is a state agency that doesn't have to do what the city says. Money to operate the Skyway comes primarily from sales and gas tax revenue, federal funding and a small amount of fare money.
"It is true," said JTA Executive Director Michael Blaylock, "that the city has nothing to do with the Skyway."
Why a moratorium is shortsighted at best
The last thing a half empty downtown needs is an abandoned 2.5 mile elevated mass transit system hanging over its head.
While targeting the skyway makes for a good sound bite to those who don't look into the issue in detail, such a move would cause more problems than it would solve.
- Downtown is struggling as it is. The revitalization process becomes significantly more difficult with a 2.5 mile abandoned mass transit system with boarded up stations blighting everything around them.
- Shutting the system down would require the city to repay the U.S. Department of Transportation $90 million. Talk about a budget buster?
- Shutting the system down would put Jacksonville in a horrible position to get federal assistance for future federal projects. Imagine Jacksonville's future economic potential when gas hits $5.00 a gallon and we still don't have viable alternative mobility options in our 800-square mile city?