The Jacksonville Transportation Authority held a virtual “State of the JTA” address Wednesday morning, speaking about future projects and summing up 2019.
JTA CEO Nathaniel Ford announced the return of the express select service on July 6 for Nassau County, with a direct line from the Yulee area to Downtown Jacksonville.
The express select service will also open services for far West Jacksonville and Baker County residents along with St. Johns County on the same day. Baker County customers can catch the express service at the Baldwin Park-N-Ride, while St. Johns customers will be picked up outside the St. Augustine Government Complex.
“This premium commuter shuttle is unlike anything that JTA has ever offered, with executive seating, complimentary Wi-Fi and a smooth ride,” Ford said.
Speaking about future projects, Ford said development is continuing for projects on Alta Drive, Parramore Road, San Pablo Road and McDuff Avenue. In July, a groundbreaking will start the development for a roundabout outside of Jacksonville University. In 2021, the Collins Road expansion will be completed.
The new LED lighting on the Acosta Bridge will permanently be illuminated ahead of the Fourth of July weekend.
Ford is on the Jacksonville 2020 Host Committee for August’s Republican National Convention. However, he didn’t address any JTA preparations for the convention in his address.
“As with any other major event, we are working with the city in a coordinated effort to understand what will be required of the JTA in order to make this event a success from a transportation standpoint in Jacksonville,” said David Cawton, JTA’s communications director in an email to WJCT News following the conference.
Ford said having a strong 2019 was crucial considering the “uncertain” future surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 financial impact it will have.
“Since this pandemic began, we have been analyzing our financials, the reduced revenue projections and preparing our budget for next fiscal year based on those figures,” said Cawton via email. “We have already implemented cost saving measures in this fiscal year with hiring freezes, furloughs for directors and above, elimination of merit pay increases and other cost cutting measures to mitigate the financial loss we have seen over the last several months.”
JTA has received more than $200 million in discretionary grant funding, according to Ford. The authority has used the money to make upgrades to bus routes, the St. Johns River Ferry, and other developments.
Ford also said roughly 32% of JTA’s project funds go toward working with disadvantaged businesses on projects and procurement opportunities.
To address diversity and inclusivity at JTA, Ford talked about making more than 60% of the authority’s bus stops ADA compliant.
“In 2019, we converted another 250 stops,” Ford said. “And this year, we've already upgraded 180 stops on our way to another 250.”
Out of 11 million trips provided by JTA in 2019, 9.8 million came from fixed bus routes and First Coast Flyer routes.
Ford said 2019 was a successful year, as revenue was $1.2 million above the budget, while expenses were $3.2 million under expectations.
“That's in spite of responding to Hurricane Dorian and making major investments in safety and security,” Ford said.