Downtown Wish-list: Expanding the Skyway

Whether you call it the “people mover,” the “monorail” or by its official name, the Skyway has been part of the fabric of Downtown Jacksonville for more than two decades.

In recent months, the Skyway has received a lot of attention. Ridership increased by an estimated 50 percent beginning early last year when the Jacksonville Transportation Authority eliminated Skyway fares to implement a new payment system. Seeing the Skyway popularity increase during that time, JTA decided to continue allowing Skyway passengers ride free through October 2013.

This spring, the Skyway was jammed with riders during large-scale events including One Spark and the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. During the five-day One Spark festival alone, more than 40,000 people used the Skyway.

On the heels of this success coupled with JTA’s new pro-Downtown CEO, Nat Ford, the Jacksonville Business Journal recently reported that JTA plans to extend the Skyway to the Brooklyn area of Downtown by applying for federal grant funds this month. The idea could not only assist urban commuters and visitors as well as boost local business Downtown, it could also help bridge the gap between Downtown and the nearby urban neighborhood of Riverside.

One of the more successful monorail systems is Miami’s Metromover, which carried an average of 59,700 riders weekly in April, according to its most recent Ridership Technical Report. According to a 2010 Washington Monthly article by Patrick C. Doherty and Christopher B. Leinberger:

“Households in drivable suburban neighborhoods devote on average 24 percent of their income to transportation; those in walkable neighborhoods spend about 12 percent. The difference is equal to half of what a typical household spends on health care—nationally, that amounts to $700 billion a year in total, according to Scott Bernstein of the Center for Neighborhood Technology. Put another way, dropping one car out of the typical household budget can allow that family to afford a $100,000 larger mortgage.”

Expanding existing transit infrastructure to create more connectivity to our urban neighborhoods will ultimately serve to bring more people Downtown and spur revitalization efforts. Jax2025’s 2013 report issued last month outlines transit goals for Jacksonville. Riding the Skyway is one of the key ways identified to make the community’s vision for creating a “hub of smooth transportation” a reality by 2025.