JTA may replace Skyway with driverless buses

Cost, timeline of plan not yet available

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Transportation Authority may vote in January to replace the Skyway elevated rail system with driverless vehicles.

Brad Thoburn, JTA's vice president of planning, development and innovation, updated the JTA board on the idea Thursday and a formal recommendation about the autonomous vehicle option will be made after the first of the year.  

If approved, the current Skyway route, as well as a corridor between Riverside and the sports complex, would be served by driverless buses. In the future, the authority also hopes to expand Skyway service to other neighborhoods like Springfield, San Marco, and 5 Points. Thoburn said the plan was proposed in hopes of bringing people downtown year-round.

"We tend to think about the 10 to 12 days a year when there's a major event like a football game, but there are events going on all the time. So servicing the amphitheater, the Baseball Grounds, the Coliseum, and all the activity around there on a year-round basis requires, that transit connection will be essential," Thoburn said.

The infrastructure is expected to be less intrusive and the vehicles would be battery powered.

Thoburn said the goal is to keep the Skyway free of charge to riders. 

"We'll address the fare structure when we get a more complete system and as we go through that process, but at this point we have no plans on changing," he said.

While there's no time frame for the conversion or cost, The Florida Times-Union reported the new vehicles would likely cost less, but also have a shorter lifespan.

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