Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Would You Ride a Boat to Work? Transportation Officials Wonder If St. Johns Water Taxis Are Feasible

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Would You Ride a Boat to Work? Transportation Officials Wonder If St. Johns Water Taxis Are Feasible

Article excerpt

Byline: LARRY HANNAN

Pat Franklin likes the thought of commuting from her home in Fruit Cove to her job in downtown Jacksonville by taking a boat on the St. Johns River.

Although there are no such public transportation boats now, Jacksonville Transportation Authority and First Coast Metropolitan Planning Organization officials said the idea isn't dead yet.

A Cambridge Systematics study for the two agencies found providing waterborne transportation on the St. Johns River and the Intracoastal Waterway would cost millions to get going.

Franklin, who works as a secretary for the Florida Baptist Convention, said taking a boat downtown would better than having to deal with downtown traffic every day. The high cost of gas makes commuting difficult, and the bus schedules aren't rider-friendly, she said.

But the $200,000 Cambridge Systematics study indicates ridership on a boat would be just 400 to 750 people a day. Like many public transportation systems in the nation, it also would lose money every year.

The study is being tabled until early 2009, when a second study that is looking at ways to expand rail service is released. The two studies will be discussed at the same time to come up with the best solution for how to improve public transportation in the Jacksonville area, JTA spokeswoman Wendy Morrow said.

In the past, Jacksonville officials have rejected waterborne transportation as not being cost-feasible. Initial reaction to the Cambridge study suggests that still is the view of many regional leaders.

Planning organization member Stephen Joost said he didn't see the need to look into the issue any further after Cambridge released the report.

"We're talking about spending $40 million for 700 riders," he said. "What I'm hearing is that it's not feasible, so let's put an end to it."

But with increased gas prices and growing traffic congestion on roads, other officials appear willing to keep the idea on the table. …

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