Not to Be an Asshole, But Fuck the Skyway

Yes, we all love the Skyway. I remember back in 1988 when my Grammy was like: “Hey, who wants to go downtown and ride the People Mover?” As many siblings and cousins as could fit would jam their tiny bodies into her European luxury sedan and go for it. It was awesome. If we were lucky- which was often, she’d take us to the Dreamette too.

I got back into the Skyway when I was a 20-something shitkicker. I was going to college in my hometown. A real townie. Back then, there were  maybe 2 bars downtown and virtually nothing going on. We’d go downtown to ride it. We’d ride it for pretty much the same reason that we rode it with Grammy. Just something to do. Something to pass the time.

The sad part about being a grown-up now is that I don’t have much use for the Skyway. And for any practical purposes, nobody really does.

In all truth, the only reason the Skyway continues to operate is because of our City government’s refusal to legislate/lead in any timeframe longer than 1 fiscal year. One fiscal year is exactly as far into the future as our City Councils and Mayors (all of them) can envisage.

According to the JTA, the cost to operate the Skyway is $3.275M annually. That’s not too much, right, since the city’s entire budget is around $1B. But what is the real benefit of the Skyway? Something to do?

There  is only 1 benefit of operating the Skyway. If Jacksonville ceases to operate the Skyway, the city will have to pay back the federal government the $70M it put up to build the Skyway. So every year, the mediocre seat-fillers we elect onto the council will keep throwing our cash down the same hole to avoid paying back the feds.

If we applied the $3.275M to paying the feds off, we’d be done in 21 years. We could have started the first year we realized the Skyway was a total waste of time. If that was 1991, then we’d already have it paid off. Then, we’d have an extra $3.275M every fiscal year. We could spend that on fun things to do. Just something to do! For fun.

But since the council/mayors can only see one year at a time, we will continue paying the yearly operations and maintenance on a pathetic tribute to failed public policy, presumably forever.

It would be different if they wanted to spend more money to expand it to actually be useful. How bout a ride to Everbank Field? How bout a new leg to Riverside? How about a Springfield Main St leg?

Of course not! That would cost a fortune. The council could never risk such a bold expense. So instead, they’ll just keep paying every year just enough to keep it there and keep it useless.

To me, it is the perfect symbol for Jacksonville’s ineffective leadership. They can’t pay to play. They can’t pay to quit. They’ve got just enough momentum to keep on sucking air until their dead.

And we’ll just keep on taking it until we’re dead because the thought of running for a seat is far more ghastly than just trying to think about something else.

FUCK THE SKYWAY

Here’s the blurb from the JTA paper about it, if you don’t wanna get all into that .pdf:

Failure to operate (or dismantling) the Skyway is a default under the original grant agreement with FTA. JTA would be required to repay the federal and state government an amount equal to the remaining undepreciated amount of the federal and state grant funding. The final repayment amount would be subject to the determination of FTA, but JTA estimates the amount at approximately $70 million. Some have suggested JTA could seek a waiver from FTA to avoid repaying this amount. JTA believes this would be likely to fail: New Jersey Transit Authority, for example, terminated a federally-funded project, and FTA issued a demand letter ordering the repayment of $271 million within 30 days. Closer to home, when the South Florida Regional Transit Authority indicated that it was reducing service on the Tri-Rail system, FTA stated that it “may demand all federal funds that have been provided to support the project be returned.” In addition to a high likelihood of required repayment of grant funds, JTA believes that a default under the grant agreement would jeopardize future discretionary federal funding for transportation in Jacksonville. Over the last eight years, JTA has secured almost $160 million in federal-aid discretionary grants for Jacksonville. On an annual basis, these discretionary grants are approximately $20 million.

Here it  is in comedy form:

Everything was more fun with Phil Hartman.

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