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Jax Daily Record Friday, Nov. 9, 200112:00 PM EST

JTA building for the future

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by Michele Newbern Gillis

Staff Writer

Jacksonville Transportation Authority executive director Derek Morse told those attending the National Association of Office and Industrial Properties luncheon Thursday at the Jacksonville Marriott the JTA will spend $800 million on transportation and $350 million on utilities, encompassing 32 projects, by 2010.

“For businesses, transportation is life or death. It is something you have to have to survive,” said Morse.

Morse said JTA’s short and long term initiatives are designed to improve the quality of life in Jacksonville by improving the mass transit systems and roadways. He also plans to improve the perception of the Skyway, which has not generated the ridership JTA thought it would.

“Whether you think it is a good idea or not, there are a lot of other cities who would give their eye teeth to have this system,” said Morse.

Some challenging projects the JTA will face in the future include increased American Disabilities Act ridership, a downtown mobility plan and a service review of bus system.

“We have the Skyway and the Trolleys,” said Morse. “We are undertaking a plan right now in downtown to try to develop a comprehensive system that will make all that work together. We want to make it where you park your car and get to where you need to go within two to three minutes,” said Morse.

The review of the bus system will help it become more resourceful.

“If we are in the business of moving people we need to put the resources where there are people to be moved. We do not need to have a bus in an area where there is no ridership,” said Morse.

He said some long term issues include balancing industrial demand and gathering the resources to address traffic congestion.

“The Better Jacksonville Plan is only the first step in relieving congestion,” said Morse.

Other issues are prioritizing system investments, including light rail and persuading people who have a choice in their mode of transportation to use mass transit.

“We have to first build the systems you can use,” said Morse. “We then have to convince those folks to use it once we build it.”

Morse said that the community needs to look at the city as a whole and realize that they have to make adjustments in phases.

“Everything is interconnected,” said Morse. “We have a plan to make all this work, but we have to do it in pieces.”

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