Self-driving shuttles will replace the monorail system in Jacksonville, Florida

ByShannon J. Cortes

Aug 16, 2022

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The Jacksonville Transportation Authority plans to install 10 miles of automated shuttle servicein part by reassign a 33 Years monorail system, and potentially build transit-oriented development around North Florida city wide system stations.

The first phase of the project, called Ultimate Urban Circulator, is underway. JTA under contract with a construction management company Balfour Beatty in January to begin designing a 3-mile self-driving shuttle line along a busy downtown Jacksonville street. The initial phase will be connect major sports stadiums and entertainment venues along Bay Street to the existing monorail.

The idea of ​​the autonomous shuttle system was born out of discussions on how to modernize and reuse the aging monorail, the Skyway People Carriersaid Bernard Schmitt, JTA vice president of automation. It was one of three similar automated, elevated, stationary systems.guideway systems built in the United States in the late 1980s. The other two are in Miami and Detroit.

Funding for the $49 million contract comes from a BUILD grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation of $12.5 million, the Florida Department of Transportation, the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization and JTA.

The deadline for Balfour Beatty to complete the first part of the first phase of the project is later this month, Schmidt said.

In the first quarter of 2023, implementation work could begin, but the Bay Street corridor will not require major work. Instead, the work will consist of installing “cameras and antennas and lidar sensors and radar sensors at every Bay Street intersection and throughout downtown Jacksonville,” he said.

Proposal Shipyard station along the corridor is one of the locations selected as a possible site for transit-oriented development. According to a plan posted on the JTA websiteit would include a mixed-use waterfront neighborhood, a public plaza adjacent to the train station, and a 20-acre linear park.

The Rosa Parks Station, along the existing Skyway, could see vacant blocks redeveloped into low-rise living/working units and a neighborhood of multi-family homes. JTA has also developed proposals for several other stations.

The second phase of the project will connect the Bay Street corridor at street level to the 2.5-mile Skyway system. Monorail tracks will be converted to elevated carriageway for self-driving shuttles. Additional plans require extensions to more neighborhoods. This Phase 2 project will be funded by the City of Jacksonville’s local gas tax.

Schmidt said the goal of the Urban Circulator is for it to become “a system that provides connectivity and interconnects our different neighborhoods.” Compared to a typical 40-foot transit bus, “these vehicles represent a more agile and nimble product,” he added.

JTA has tested vehicles from several different manufacturers, including Beep and Marineaas good as Local Enginesa company that closed earlier this year. The final selection will be announced “in the next four or five months,” Schmidt said.