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First Coast

JTA Celebrates National Award, Planned Transportation Improvements

Sarah DeNicolais

A modernized Skyway monorail system, improved river ferry and more pedestrian-friendly streets are among the plans in the works at the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.

JTA CEO Nat Ford celebrated the plans Wednesday at the JTA State of the Authority luncheon, where he announced JTA is the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award from the American Public Transportation Association. JTA received the award in the mid-size category, given to systems providing more than 4 million but fewer than 20 million annual passenger trips.

The APTA recognizes public transportation systems that demonstrate “achievement in efficiency and effectiveness in the last three years.” Ford says JTA’s ridership and on-time performance has increased since 2014, while collisions have decreased by 15 percent.

JTA is an independent agency of the State of Florida governed by a seven-member board of directors.

Looking ahead, Ford says he’s excited for the planned Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center, where buses, Skyway trams, and cars will come together at one station in LaVilla, just west of downtown.

“It will truly be a hub of activity, a hub of transportation, of availability in our community,” Ford said. “For the JTA, I think it was an opportunity to bring together all of the transportation modes within our community so that our customers and our citizens see seamless transportation opportunities.”

The project is scheduled to begin in January of 2017.

After taking ownership of the St. Johns River Ferry this year and receiving $6 million in federal funding, JTA has begun repairs and restoration of the boat that moves people and cars from one side of the river to the other at Mayport.

JTA is also looking into ways to modernize and expand the downtown Skyway after 80 percent of respondents to a recent survey were in favor of keeping it. Ford and the Skyway Advisory Committee plan to have a path for the future of the Skyway mapped out by December.

Also, the First Coast Flyer premium bus services has been operating for about six months. According to Ford, 2,200 riders use it daily, and a Southeast line will launch this December.

“The ridership is going through the roof,” Ford said. “We’re fortunate and benefiting from a 94 percent on-time performance.”

At the same time, JTA has five-year plans to complete 13 roadway projects and 14 mobility corridors under the JTAMobilityWorks banner, which is funded through the local option gas tax. The first of the projects, at the intersection of Old St. Augustine and Greenland roads, was completed in April. Construction has begun on the second, on Girvin Road.