Wednesday, 15 October 2014

JACKSONVILLE & TAMPA




JACKSONVILLE Skyway (People Mover)

From Atlanta I flew to Jacksonville on 10 Oct 2014, where I picked up a car to drive through Florida. I really only wanted to stay in Jacksonville for the shortest possible time to see its people mover referred to as 'Skyway'. Luckily, I had planned this stopover for a Friday, so I was actually able to ride it (as I get older I tend to mix up days and although I knew it doesn't operate on weekends, I was happy I made the correct plans...). Anyway, you don't need much time to explore it, trains run frequently every 6-7 minutes, so even a few station stops are possible to take a few photos without spending too much time. The weather was nice and extremely hot, and I got the shots I wanted. And I even didn't have to spend a penny in that city as parking at Convention Center (though not really clear as far as signs go!) and riding the Skyway is free!



Although not shown like this on the maps, the system is operated with a main line, from Rosa Parks Transit Center to Kings Avenue on the south bank, while the spur to the Convention Center was shuttling back and forth from Central during my visit. It seemed that this was normal. The overall impression was that the Skyway is fun but also a bit ridiculous. A 'train' is made of two tiny half-cars, which are not even interconnected, and if it wasn't for the video surveillance system, I would get a bit claustrophobic in them. The trains were fairly busy on a Friday early afternoon, especially between Rosa Parks and Central, people do use it for short hops, but the southbank side was rather quiet, though nicer to take pictures. But I wonder why they gave up the original VAL trains (some of them now run at Chicago O'Hare Airport), which are comparatively well-sized, and replaced them with these ridiculous monorails. Sorry, Bombardier, but not your best delivery! Yet another monorail I consider crap, after that in Las Vegas, Moscow.... The trains are pretty fast, and what I'm often missing on metro systems, the beam has some superelevation in curves, so you can clearly see and feel the train tilt, but in terms of capacity, I would say that a single car of the type running on Miami's Metromover (but with some seats, please) should be the minimum to feel comfortable in them. While the trains on the main line were in their real livery, the shuttle train on the spur was covered with an advert:




The stations are laid out for a least the double length of these trains, and they function without any platform screen doors, although only the section where the doors of the trains are located are open, the rest is protected by a balcony-style railing. Despite being ticketless, there are turnstiles to get in and out, no idea why, maybe to count passengers. I think most stations had escalators and lifts, too.




TAMPA Streetcar (Teco Line Streetcar)

I usually don't care much for heritage streetcars that only run at certain times for the delightment of tourists, but I was positively surprised by the single line in Tampa, Florida. I got there on a Saturday around noon (11 Oct 2014) and was astonished that the terminus in the downtown area had all sorts of information I so often miss with streetcars. There was a map and a full timetable, clearly legible, and a tram every 20 minutes on Saturdays, too. The stations, not just simple stops, are even equipped with ramps for wheelchair access and with a short roof, plus ticket vending machines! Despite being more of a tourist attraction, the TECO Line Streetcar is fully integrated into the city's transport system, so I got a day pass for $5.00 in the form of a magnetic stripcard to hop on and off a few times.



I was also surprised how busy the line got, not so much on the downtown end, but between the Aquarium (Tampa Tribune stop) and the outer end of the line, because that's where all visitors go. There was a market near the terminus, and the stop before that serves a busy leisure area on 7th Street with shops, bars and restaurants. So, I guess there is some traffic even in the evening. And later I found out that all stops have proper timetable information! So many American streetcar operators should come and visit Tampa to see how things should be done. The track and vehicles were in good condition. There is one interesting point where the streetcars have to cross a railway track (also used by Amtrak) perpendicularly at grade. The streetcars first have to make a brake-check stop and then another stop to check signals before actually crossing! Otherwise the single track has several passing loops, so in case of delays, the car in the opposite direction can proceed to the next loop. Unfortunately, all three cars in service that day were covered with adverts on the sides. 



What I was missing, though, was a stop directly in front of the Aquarium, instead you have to get off a few hundred metres before at Tampa Tribune (I assume this is to make people walk along a development called Channelside, or a few hundred metres afterwards, where there is also a car park.

Next stop: Miami


LINKS

Skyway (JTA)


Jacksonville at UrbanRail.Net




2 comments:

  1. Resulting from this U.S. trip, I have now published the third book in my U.S. series, namely "Subways & Light Rail in the U.S.A. - Vol. 3: Midwest & South", for more info see
    http://www.robert-schwandl.de/usa/midwest-south/

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  2. Just rode the Tampa streetcar for the first time today. I am usually not a big fan of "vintage"streetcar lines. Surprised however how popular the service is. The car was nearly full by the end of the line. I'd say at least 90 percent of the riders I saw were tourists. Ben Patience

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