The Jacksonville (Fla.) Transportation Authority (JTA) is the recipient of APTA’s 2016 “Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award” in the mid-sized category for delivering more than four million but fewer than 20 million annual passenger trips.

The JTA encompasses 850 employees, 200 buses and trolleys, 26 community shuttles, 97 paratransit vehicles and an automated peoplemover with an annual $230 million budget. The agency operates Jacksonville’s public bus service, ferry service, downtown automated Skyway and paratransit service. The authority also plans, designs and builds roads and bridges.

“Clearly the hard work of the JTA board and staff has paid off. This is a great honor and strengthens our resolve to transform transportation in Jacksonville and deliver world class service to Northeast Florida,” says CEO Nathaniel P. Ford Sr.

According to Ford Sr., 2015 was a banner year for the JTA. “We continued to move the needle of excellence and kept the authority focused on offering many transportation solutions to our diverse population.”

In December 2014, the agency implemented its award-winning Route Optimization Initiative (ROI), which completely overhauled the transit system. “Without question, ROI was the most dramatic change to public transit in Jacksonville in the last 30 years,” Ford Sr. explains. “At the same time, we introduced real-time passenger information and changed our branding as it relates to signage and bus stops.”

Prior to the ROI’s extensive route overhaul, routes did not keep pace with how the community had changed. Where people live, work and shop had changed over the years and the system was just not meeting 21st century demands, Ford Sr. explains. There was no longer a 9-to-5 workforce, and the system had to change to give access to the new demographics that it served. The launch of the ROI made routes more direct, increased service frequency and improved on-time performance from 65.8% in 2013 to 80% today.  

However, ROI was not just new routes; it was also a new way of doing business at the JTA. Route management was changed from a zone concept to end-to-end route management. Service Delivery managers were hired and are responsible for everything on their assigned routes, including on-time performance, bus cleanliness and customer service. The authority also hired additional bilingual representatives for Spanish speaking customers; provided cross-training to customer service representatives, increased part-time staff to handle peak-hour calls, and closely managed call volumes to determine response and wait times.

Another big development for the agency was the launch of JTA’s First Coast Flyer bus rapid transit Green Line in Northwest Jacksonville in December 2015. Along with that implementation, the agency added compressed natural gas buses to its fleet and implemented mobile ticketing known as MyJTA.

Additionally, the agency completed conversion of its internal Enterprise Resource Planning System to Oracle in record time and increased employee engagement to keep staff motivated, according to Ford Sr.

Always striving to improve the safety and security of its customers and operators, JTA installed a cutting-edge training simulator in March of 2015 — the only one of its kind in the state of Florida, to provide bus operators with remedial and refresher training. All bus operators are required to attend on a quarterly basis. JTA also installed LYTX DriveCams on buses to analyze risky behaviors and reduce collisions. The agency also engaged the community with its “Keep it in your Pocket” campaign, an effort targeted at texting and driving. “Arlington Toyota, a local dealership, partnered with JTA to include our campaign in their commercials and collateral in each vehicle that is serviced,” Ford Sr. says. “It is partnerships like this that help make the difference.   

To expand transportation access throughout the region, the JTA, in partnership with the Northeast Florida Mobility Coalition, developed a program called TransPortal, a One Call/One Click Transportation Resource Center. TransPortal, developed via a $1.9 million U.S. DOT grant, focuses on individual travel needs, is customer-driven and offers a single point of customer access to multiple modes of transportation. TransPortal increases the availability of community transportation resources to veterans, service members and military families by providing transportation options in the Northeast Florida area, including traditional transit and paratransit services, bicycle share programs, car and van pools and more.

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