JTA extends Riverside Avondale Trolley

Thanks to heavy promotion by local merchants and Riverside Avondale Preservation, and support from hundreds of “choice” riders on the first weekend of each month, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority deemed the six-month pilot of the Riverside Avondale Trolley a success. “Ridership has been really good,” said Brad Thoburn, JTA vice president of planning. “It’s an event now, but we want to make sure we have buy-in from the businesses before extending it to every weekend.”

By “buy-in” Thoburn is talking about merchant sponsorship in the form of paid advertisements on the trolleys. The trolleys will continue to run on the first Friday and Saturday of each month, but to make this a weekly occurrence merchants are being asked to put some skin in the game. RAP’s executive director, Carmen Godwin, would prefer to see the trolleys run on the merits of ridership.

“We are more than willing to help spread the word to businesses about the opportunities available for sponsorship,” said Godwin. “We want the trolley to run on a weekly basis but I am not sure anyone on our end feels that it should be dependent upon these sponsorships as this is one of the most successful routes, from our understanding, that JTA has, as it stands.”

One concern among residents living near the Shoppes of Avondale is whether the original intent of the weekend trolley service has been forgotten. According to Alicia Grant, a member of RAP’s Transportation Committee, the trolley service was intended to relieve the parking situation by utilizing parking lots on the perimeter of the Historic District, providing a place for out-of-neighborhood shoppers and diners to park.

Kay Ehas, chair of the Parking Study Steering Committee, indicated that potential parking lots have been identified but are privately owned and agreements are not yet in place to allow out-of-area visitors to park and then ride the trolley.

If a Downtown trolley is established, however, the need for parking lots may be lessened.

Similar to the proof of concept test done in Riverside/Avondale earlier this year, JTA will run the same test for a Downtown trolley on Aug. 1-2. If the concept tests out positively, Thoburn said the plans are to make 5 Points a transfer site for bothtrolley loops, affording Downtown residents the opportunity to take advantage of 5 Points, Riverside and Avondale nightlife and vice versa.

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