City delays decision on project list for transportation tax
Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 11:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 11:03 p.m.
The City Commission does not plan to address its proposed project list on a transportation sales tax referendum until April.
After much discussion on the city's hotly debated bus rapid transit plans Thursday evening, commissioners decided not to reconsider their list until a consultant's final draft on a bus rapid transit system goes through a final round of public input and is finalized.
That final draft study now says that a bus rapid transit system in Gainesville is unlikely to be competitive for federal funding. It noted issues such as a projected increase over existing bus ridership of only 6 percent by 2035 when other systems "have achieved upwards of a 25 percent increase." The final draft of the $650,000 study, which is funded by a mix of federal and state funds, also said current projections do not show a population density sufficient enough to make a strong case for federal funding.
The consultant's study also said a more modest transportation system management alternative, which would require far less capital investment, also would not fare well in vying for competitive federal funding. But the consultant said such a premium transit system could, if locally funded, bring improvements to the transit system and benefit vehicle traffic.
Consultant Alan Danaher with the firm Parsons Brinckerhoff described that option as "limited stop service."
It would not include dedicated transit lanes or construction of stations. It would instead rely on traffic signal prioritization, queue jumping lanes at intersections and other investments. Its projected capital costs are about $15.3 million, with the majority going toward the purchase of new buses. It would link The Oaks Mall, student apartments on Southwest 62nd Avenue, and Southwest 20th Avenue, the area near campus and Shands, Depot avenue and the Rosa Parks Transfer Station and the Five Points area in east Gainesville. A park and ride lot is planned in Five Points under that plan
The majority of the commission spoke in support of continued consideration of that option as talks on a transportation sales tax referendum advances. Mayor Ed Braddy questioned if it was cost-effective since the projection is that the more modest plan would only boost bus ridership 2 percent by 2035. On the other hand, Commissioner Thomas Hawkins said he felt the consultant's study showed bus rapid transit remained a more beneficial option than the more modest transportation system management plan.
With no vote Thursday, bus rapid transit is still on the City Commission's preliminary project list, which was approved last September with Braddy and Commissioner Todd Chase in dissent.
The commission plans a transportation mix that includes roads, transit and bicycle and pedestrian paths.
The County Commission, which has the final say on putting a tax on the ballot, is considering an eight-year, one-cent transportation sales tax referendum. The city expects to take in about $108 million if that tax passes.
The public input meeting on the consultant's route alternative study for bus rapid transit is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday in the multi purpose room at the Gainesville Regional Utilities administration building, 301 SE Fourth Ave.