‘Do better by us:’ State of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Transportation Authority gave its annual state of the Authority. Its CEO, Nat Ford, Board Chairwoman Debbie Buckland, and the City Council President Ron Salem all spoke glowingly about the job JTA does. But Action News Jax investigator Emily Turner has been covering JTA for months and has covered a different side of things.


To be fair, JTA has had some successes: a higher bond rating, new, transportation-oriented developments, an historic federal grant for the Emerald Trail, dozens of new bus drivers, and the completion of road projects ahead of schedule.

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From the podium of the Prime Osborne Convention Center, JTA CEO Nat Ford set the stage for his overwhelmingly positive report. “Today,” he said, “we’ll talk about the progress made and the work that is underway to ensure seamless travel for all and throughout Northeast Florida.” That positivity was echoed by JTA board Chair Debbie Buckland, who said ,”we at the JTA have had an amazing year.”

Inside of that year, though, there have also been numerous failures, none of which were addressed at the event.

In November, Action News reported that of the $18,640,238.83 JTA has received from the local option gas tax, only $1,587,622.00 of that has been spent, creating eight of the more than 1,500 jobs it promised and zero of the 153 roadways.

Action News Jax pulled JTA’s own reported bus data that shows it is paying $7 million more to do less than it did three years ago:

  • Moving fewer people (-1,785,591 annual passenger trips)
  • Covering fewer miles (-13,607,275 annual passenger miles) (-228,362 total revenue -miles)
  • Operating fewer vehicles (-3)
  • Running fewer hours (-6957 total revenue hours)
  • Running less frequently ( +17.3 minutes, average headway)

In January, Action News pulled records that show most- if not almost all of JTA’s routes fell short of its own on-time standard, month after month.

In April Action News Jax found JTA pays more per mile than any other transportation agency of similar size in the state, and significantly more than others on its top tier- administration and the people that run the show. The chief of which, is its CEO, Nat Ford.

Today, Ford closed his address saying, “remember, transportation isn’t about the numbers. It’s about the people.”

Action News has talked to those people: Lalita Moore, Ray Pringle, Laquinton Timbley, Michael Hebert and many others. Their assessment of the agency is very different than the one its leadership gave today.

Lalita’s took PTO to attend a board meeting, desperate for better bus service, “do better by us,” she begged, “please. please.”

RELATED: INVESTIGATES: Concerns over JTA’s Bay Street Innovation Corridor

Ray Pringle is a disabled veteran who is on the Mayors Disability Council. He’s tried and tried to get help from TA for those he serves but says he can’t even get a call back. “It’s very disgusting,” he says, “what JTA is doing- and it’s getting worse. It’s not getting better.”

Michael Herbert rides the bus because he doesn’t have a car. He says it’s inconsistent at best, having “waited on the number 17 for two hours. Then the bus that came said ‘out of service’ but stopped at the next stop.”

A disabled paratransit rider gets left without service often, sometimes in places she can’t get home, “I cried,” she said, “I’m stranded. I am trying to call someone to help me get to where I need to go.”

Laquinton Timbley went to a board meeting begging for change, “I take care of my mother, I’m disabled, I live on a limited income….and a lot of other people live on a limited income…They walk miles to get to the bus only to see it pass them by.”

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