Creating a better urban core and inner Northside

Changes that can be implemented to improve Jacksonville's transit

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Did you know that the urban core area of Jacksonville has lost roughly 50 percent of its population since 1950?  Built to sustain a high density residential population base, this area has the most potential for rejuvenation that can expand our city's long-term economic base.

Furthermore, many of the urban core neighborhoods have a symbiotic relationship with downtown and all will benefit from enhancements in the area.

Unfortunately, with Jacksonville's budget, discussion at the public level focuses more on what public services and employees to cut and what Northside schools to close than how can we best invest and improve our urban core neighborhoods.

Luckily, there is a way for us to immediately move forward with the improvement of these communities without taking additional funds from the taxpayer or robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The answer is for Jacksonville's city council to let the self-imposed mobility fee moratorium sunset this year, allowing the 2030 Mobility Plan to be fully implemented.

What is the Mobility Plan and fee

The Mobility Plan and fee is a replacement for the City of Jacksonville's former transportation concurrency system. It is a plan that provides a framework to integrate land development with mobility (pedestrians, bicycles, transit, and roads) by providing the private sector with financial motivation to embrace smart growth principles, like gridded streets, in their project's design and site selection.

It lays out a mobility fee for new construction throughout the city. The purpose of that fee is to generate funding needed to enhance public infrastructure negatively impacted by additional vehicle trips from new construction.

Developments further from the city core that put more wear and tear on the city's streets and infrastructure will result in higher project mobility fees.

The 2030 Mobility Plan and fee is structured to stimulate economic opportunity in areas with public infrastructure. While much of the public revitalization focus in the urban core has been focused on Springfield, the mobility fee's credit adjustment system helps drive redevelopment to additional neighborhoods that have just as much character.  The land-use component of the plan encourages higher density development along transit corridors and areas of the Northside and urban core.

What it can do for Jacksonville's Northside and urban core

In recent years, the City of Jacksonville Planning and Development Department (COJ-PDD) and community created urban core and Northwest Jacksonville vision plans for the area that were also adopted by City Council.  Those community driven vision plans' guiding principles included:

  • Guiding Principle 1: Capitalize on the urban core's uniqueness
  • Guiding Principle 2: Promote mixed-use/mixed-income redevelopment and in?ll
  • Guiding Principle 3: Provide a variety of transportation choices
  • Guiding Principle 4: Provide for economic growth
  • Guiding Principle 5: Expand, protect and enhance open space

S-Line Commuter Rail: This popular version of fixed mass transit would be funded partially by the 2030 Mobility Plan's mobility fee. When completed, downtown Jacksonville, the urban core, and the Northside would be connected to the Jacksonville International Airport and River City Marketplace area by reliable mass transit. For comparison's sake, Charlotte has witnessed over $2 billion in economic development around its new LNYX light rail line and Tampa's TECO Streetcar has generated over $1 billion in the formerly long economically challenged Channel District. Soon to be under construction, Milwaukee' streetcar is expected to create over 20,000 inner city jobs over a 20 year horizon. Image by sashimikid at

Aging obsolete industrial areas like the Springfield and Myrtle Avenue warehouse districts are potential transit oriented development districts that the City of Jacksonville owned S-Line corridor presently goes through.

If Jacksonville wants light and commuter rail style transit services, ending the mobility fee moratorium is the most sound option for our community to generate the capital to fund its construction from the economic development and job creation these projects stimulate. 

The Urban Core and Northwest Jacksonville vision plans were born of community effort. However to achieve that vision, they have to be incrementally implemented. Unfortunately, the City of Jacksonville's budget continues to bleed red and we spend more time finding ways to cut already poor public services than investing in these established communities.

Nevertheless, while we ponder closing libraries and reducing maintenance of public parks and right-of-way, Northside neighborhoods economic struggles continue to grow, causing steady decline.

What the Mobility Plan and fee can do for Jacksonville's urban core is generate the funding for efficient mass transit connectivity and improve the bicycle and pedestrian network throughout the community. This is infrastructure that not only puts residents back to work but also the type that has stimulated redevelopment in the country's most progressive cities over the last 20 years.

The mobility fee's credit adjustment component provides a financial incentive for private sector market rate reinvestment throughout the Northside and urban core.  For this section of the city, the 2030 Mobility Plan and fee is the only fiscally sustainable option available to the City of Jacksonville to implement the community's guiding principles over the next two decades.

However, as long as the city's self imposed moratorium remains in place, all that awaits what could become an economic powerhouse is prolonged economic stagnation, failed promises from public servants and severe under-utilization

Mobility Plan projects in the Northside/urban core

Already blessed with a connected gridded street network, the majority of mobility plan projects for the urban core are transit, bicycle, and pedestrian based. In other words, the only missing elements are what make urban communities multimodal-friendly. Many of these projects are low-cost in nature and can stimulate change in a short period of time.

How to make it happen

To move forward, the mobility fee moratorium must be allowed to sunset this fall as opposed to being extended indefinitely into the future. The easiest way to build support for sunsetting the moratorium is to let your local council representative know that you are a resident who cares for the future of your neighborhood and that you are in favor of allowing the moratorium to end.

For information on the 2030 Mobility Plan and Mobility Fee, CLICK HERE.

Article by Ennis Davis

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