Opinions: The roads are never big enough

Trent Gautney

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For years, Jacksonville has touted being one of the fastest growing cities in the south, but has done little to deal with the city’s glaring lack of an adequate public transportation system. 

Right now, Jacksonville has very few options for its residents when it comes to commuting without the use of an automobile. A sluggish bus system and impractical skyway are all the city has produced to help its nearly one million residents move about. 

In order to function as a resident of Jacksonville, it is absolutely necessary to own a car of some sort. However, owning and maintaining a car is an extraordinary expense, forcing many individuals to spend money that they should be using for other obligations such as food and their own health, rather than keeping a vehicle running so they can keep their job. 

It should not be necessary for people to have a car in order to have a job, but in Jacksonville, with its abnormally large layout and lack of public transit, it is unfortunately not an option.

Not only is a lack of public transportation in a large city bad for its residents because of the individual costs of owning a car, but there is also the cost of time wasted constantly being stuck in traffic. Not to mention the waste of taxpayers’ money continuously being fed into building larger roads that will instantly reach capacity and create no relief for commuters. 

Jacksonville is already a large city that is only going to continue to grow. This new onslaught of cars on the road is going to turn the city into the next Orlando (or even, God forbid, Atlanta) in terms of traffic. For years, the only solution to this problem has been to build more roads and add more lanes. 

The only problem with this great and simple idea of adding more lanes, is that we have already tried adding lanes to some of our busiest roads, and it does not work. Building more lanes and more roads will never work due to the simple idea of induced demand. 

In an article for Wired, Adam Mann writes that creating new lanes and new roads will only create new drivers to fill these spaces. Instead of pouring money and resources into projects that will provide no relief for drivers, these could be used to create better transit systems such as light or heavy rail systems that would be cheaper to both operate and ride, reduce travel times and get more cars off the road. 

Creating public transportation that relies on technology, other than gas-powered vehicles, will also have a dramatic effect on the environment, at a time when we need to make dramatic changes sooner rather than later. 

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, heavy rail systems produce 76 percent less greenhouse gases per passenger mile than cars while light rail systems produce 62 percent less.

In large cities such as Jacksonville, this could have huge results in attempting to reduce overall greenhouse gas production. It only makes sense that a city that relies so heavily on the environment should be one of the first in attempting to grow in a sustainable way.

Public transportation is the way of the future. Automobiles are becoming an antiquated form of travel, as they are being quickly outmatched by bus lines, metros and bullet trains. As Jacksonville strives to become the city of the future for the Southeast, and continues to grow rapidly in both population and economy, it only makes sense that we should be at the forefront of producing a sustainable transit system; this system will reduce negative impacts on the environment and is affordable enough for everyone to have equal access to the reaches of the city without gutting their paycheck.  

It is time for Jacksonville to do something daring and invest in the future. It is time we create a real public transportation system that benefits all residents and will outlast all the roads that will never be big enough.

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