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Car-Free in Jacksonville (also online at )



Jacksonville Landing downtown
A brief guide to Jacksonville, Fla. and to its more transit-accessible attractions and neighborhoods

I. INTRODUCTION (Or, Why would anyone read this site?)

Tell natives that you found a website about getting around Jacksonville without a car and you might hear a surprised, "That’s ridiculous—you can’t get around Jacksonville without a car!"

Of course, Jacksonville is more auto-oriented than many American cities: there is no subway or light rail system, bus routes run only every half an hour at most, most buses stop running at around 8 or 9 PM, and many destinations are just too far from each other for public transit to make sense.

So why would I waste time creating this website?

And who would be interested in reading it?

To start with, not everyone can be part of the car culture. 9.3% of Jacksonville households own no car, according to the 2000 Census. Many people are physically incapable of driving due to age or disability, or can’t afford a reliable car. Others (including me for the first five months I lived here) are new to town and haven’t gotten a car yet.

Even if you do own a car, you might want to learn how use your car a bit less- for example, to see if you can at least avoid driving to work so you don’t have to waste time stuck in traffic or throw your money down the rat hole of unstable gas prices. Moreover, you can see a city differently on foot or on a bus; you can focus on scenery instead of on protecting yourself from other drivers.

The purpose of this website is to help you do this - that is, to help you get around Jacksonville without a car to the extent possible. The website focuses on public transit because I am not familiar enough with bicycling to add bike-related content (though if any reader wants to do so I shall be glad to accept his or her assistance).


A. The basics: buses, Skyway and trolleys

Public transit in Duval County is provided by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) ( JTA runs 40 or so bus routes throughout Duval County (as well as bits and pieces of neighboring counties)

The majority of bus routes start running between 5 AM and 7 AM on weekdays. Ending hours vary; about 60% of bus routes stop running between 8 and 10 PM, about 20% terminate earlier, and about 20% terminate at 10 PM or later on weekdays. (Buses tend to run shorter hours on weekends, and about 40% do not run on Sundays). The last buses stop running around midnight.

JTA also runs a mini-rail system called the Skyway that serves downtown every day but Sunday (6 AM-11 PM on weekdays, 10 AM -11 PM on Saturday), three trolleys that are also limited to downtown and run until about 7 PM, and special shuttle services of various types (discussed below). Other JTA services are discussed below.

Route and schedule information for all of these services can be found at the JTA’s web site. In addition, bus schedules are available at the FCCJ Skyway station (the transfer point for all JTA buses). If you don’t have internet service you can call JTA Customer Service at (904) 630-3100, and they can mail you schedules (as well as a system map).

B. Fares

1. Regular Bus fares

a) One-ride cash fares (exact change only)
Regular $.75
Beach (to town) $1.35
Cecil Commerce Center Express $1.35
Orange Park Express $1.50
Reduced Fare for disabled $.25 (requires special identification available from JTA)
Senior Citizen (60 and older) FREE

b) Tickets
Regular (book of 10) $7.00
Regular (book of 40) $28.00
Under 18 (book of 10) $5.30

c) Passes - (unlimited rides)
(Good on Bus and Skyway)
Weekly $10
Monthly $40
Youth (under 18) $30

2. Skyway

.35 per ride

.10 for seniors/disabled

(free with monthly parking in one of JTA’s downtown lots).

3. Downtown trolleys- free

4. Stadium shuttle

a) from downtown- Pickup at Convention Center Lot (East Bay & Stuart) and Kings Avenue Parking Garage

$45 for Season Shuttle Pass
$ 5 Single Game Shuttle Pass

b) From Arlington- pickup at Kmart Plaza (University & Beach Blvd.)

$54 for Season Shuttle Pass
$ 6 Single Game Shuttle Pass

c) from Northside- pickup at Gateway Mall (Norwood Ave. & 44th St.)

$80 for Season Shuttle Pass
$10 Single Game Shuttle Pass

d) From Southside/Beaches- pickup at Philips Hwy. at Butler Blvd. and Marbon Road at San Jose Blvd.- fare same as Northside

e) From Beaches- pickup at Winn-Dixie Shopping Plaza (San Pablo & Beach Blvd.); fare same as Northside.

f) from Westside- pickup at Lane Avenue & I-10. Fare same as Northside.

5. Airport shuttle-

Adult Fare: $3 one way

Seniors/Disabled: $1.50 one way

Weekly and/or monthly JTA pass holders: swipe card plus 50 fare

6. Ride Request (on-demand service; reservation required):

Regular Adult Fare: $2.00 cash fare, each way.

Disabled: $1 each way: Please show valid reduced fare or Medicare card as ID.

Seniors: Ditto. Please show valid senior photo ID or Medicare card.

Passes: $10 weekly $40 monthly

7. Inter-County Shuttles: Mostly $1 cash fare each way for most customers, .50 for seniors/disabled. (However, the Baker County shuttle costs $2 for most riders and $1 for seniors and the disabled).

Monthly passes must be purchased through other counties’ transit providers rather than from JTA-Sunshine Bus Company for St. John’s County, Clay Transit for buses to Clay County, Ride Solutions for buses to Putnam County, and B-Line Express for buses to Baker County). Monthly passes are generally $65.


C. Park and Ride

1. Downtown: parking at Skyway stations

Riders can park at one of JTA’s downtown parking lots and ride the Skyway for no additional charge. Parking is free between 5-11 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays. Parking fees for daytime ridership are listed below.

Convention Center
Approximately 900 spaces are available with about 95 percent occupancy. Nine (9) spaces are metered at 25 cents per hour for up to 10 hours.

Monthly Parking rate including Skyway rides:
Prime $33.33
Handicapped Reg. $27.09
Handicapped Corporate $24.05
Handicapped City/Federal employee $22.04
Hours: Always open except for special events when hours are limited.

San Marco Station
A paved lot at the corner of San Marco Blvd. and Prudential Drive offers 24 spaces and 200 paved spaces are available under the Acosta Bridge.

Monthly Parking rate including Skyway rides:
Single $27.98

Hours: Always open.

Kings Avenue Station
Nearly 1900 spaces are available at varying prices. The five story Kings Avenue Parking Garage has monthly parking for commuters only. The 200-space surface lot has daily, handicap and limited monthly parking. The parking garage and lot are patrolled by roving security. Call 630-3100 for additional information about Kings Avenue parking.

Monthly Parking rate including Skyway rides:
Garage $33.33
Handicapped $27.09
Surface Parking $27.98 (lot always open)

Monday - Friday: 4:30 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.
Saturday - Sunday: Closed (except for special events)

2. Suburban park-and-ride lots

JTA provides parking lots at these bus stops: Wonderwood and A1A in the Mayport area, Monument Road at Mill Cove Golf Club, Highlands Square Shopping Center in the city’s Northside, Marbon Road and San Jose Blvd. in Mandarin, and Phillips Highway and J.T. Butler Blvd. in the city’s Southside. Parking is free.

D. Special Shuttles

JTA runs the following shuttles, all of which (as noted above) have different fare structures than other buses.

1. Ride Request

Ride Request allows you to request a van ride to work in order to reach areas not served by JTA transit system.

However, this service is limited to the following areas: (1) near the Avenues Mall in south Jacksonville, (2) near the south end of the Mandarin neighborhood at Marbon Rd., (3) near the airport and (4) near the Amtrak station on the city’s northwest side. Detailed information about the areas served by each shuttle is available at the JTA website. Each shuttle connects with a JTA bus route.

Requests for this service must be made by phone at least two hours before you want to be picked up. Call (904) 598-8724 to make your reservation. You will get a voicemail recording. Please speak clearly and leave your name, pick-up location, where you're going, pick-up time, your return information and your phone number.

Space is limited; if the van shuttle is full, you may have to wait for the next van. An advance reservation will guarantee your space on the van. If you need to schedule a return trip please immediately inform the driver when you are picked up.

Because JTA vans are smaller than buses, JTA requests that you limit carry-on items to no more than three grocery-size bags.

Ride Request has limited hours; it runs on weekdays (not weekends) from 5 AM to 7 PM, and does not run from 12-2 PM.

2. Stadium Shuttle- A special shuttle serves Jacksonville Jaguars games; the locations of these shuttles are discussed in the fares section above, because different pick-up points have different fares.

3. Airport shuttle- JTA now serves the Jacksonville airport with a weekday-only shuttle (from 5:30 AM to about 8:30 PM; a detailed schedule is available at the JTA website). The shuttle runs downtown as follows:

Start at Kings Avenue Station to City Hall Annex (Newnan and Bay Streets)

Next stop at Adams and Hogan Streets

Next stop at FCCJ Transit Station Then on I-95 to Jacksonville International Airport where

the bus will proceed to the Ground Transportation booth.

From the airport, the shuttle stops at bus stops along Airport Service Road near Longhorn Steakhouse and the Hilton Garden Inn, then goes back on I-95 to downtown. It does not service anyplace between downtown and the airport.

4. Fixed-route intercounty shuttles: A few shuttles provide service from the fringes of Jacksonville to the surrounding counties (especially Clay and Putnam Counties). These buses run only a few times a day, and usually stop running after rush hour (between 4 and 7 PM, depending on the bus).

E. Paratransit for the Disabled

JTA provides lift vans for persons with disabilities who experience difficulty accessing fixed-route bus services. This service is known as "JTA Connexion."

You must apply to JTA to be eligible for paratransit. Criteria for eligibility are at JTA’s paratransit web site ( ) as is additional information about paratransit reservation procedures, etc.

As a general matter, be aware that paratransit is not a substitute for regular JTA service. While passengers may board regular buses whenever a bus stops at a certain place, paratransit passengers must make reservations. Reservations may be made between 7 AM and 6 PM (including weekends and holidays). Changes to an existing reservation will be accommodated if possible. However, same day changes may result in trip delays.

Cancellations must be made at least one and one half hours prior to your scheduled pick up time to ensure that the driver has adequate time to adjust the route.

F. Bikes on buses

Bikes are allowed on JTA buses, and JTA buses are equipped with bike racks. However, you must purchase a $3 permit from JTA in order to be eligible for this privilege, and you must also pass a bicycle training session at a JTA facility at 100 N. Myrtle Avenue. For more information and to schedule an appointment call (904) 630-3160.

G. Where to Buy Passes

1. Online - You may purchase passes online at

Be prepared to wait a week or so to get your pass in the mail.

2. In person- You can purchase passes at the following locations:

a) JTA facilities: FCCJ station, 100 N. Myrtle Avenue

b) Tax collector offices-

231 East Forsyth Street

10000 Atlantic Boulevard

6674 Commonwealth Avenue

5751 North Main Street

4335 South University Boulevard

31 Sailfish Drive

10131-24 San Jose Boulevard

5363 Soutel Drive

6011 103rd Street

c) Winn-Dixies at:

8775 Old Kings Rd.
201 W. 48th St. (Now a Save-Rite)

2261 Edgewood Ave. W
11701-10 San Jose Blvd.
248 Blanding Blvd.
14286 Beach Blvd.
8560 Argyle @ Cheswick
5207 Normandy Blvd.
11380-8 Beach Blvd.

H. Common-Sense Bus Riding Tips (From the JTA website)


Look for the sign
Every JTA stop has a sign posted. To find your closest stop, check your route map first. It will tell you which streets your vehicle travels. Then look for the stop signs along the route. They are located every few blocks.

How to signal the operator to stop for pick-up
When the vehicle comes into view, stand up and flag the operator to stop.

How to pay
Passengers should be prepared to pay exact cash fare (operators do not carry change) or swipe a weekly or monthly pass.

How to signal the operator you want to get off
As the vehicle nears your stop, signal the operator by pushing on the passenger signal strip located near all windows. This informs the operator you wish to get off at the next stop. If you aren't sure where to get off, ask the operator to call out your stop.

Accessible transportation
All JTA vehicles are equipped with ramps or wheelchair lifts to assist our passengers upon request.

Service animals
Trained service animals are welcome on all JTA vehicles.

If you Leave something behind
Call (904) 630-3189 to reach Lost and Found. Everything turned in from a JTA bus is available to be picked up Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except holidays) at 100 N. Myrtle Avenue. Lost articles may not reach Lost and Found until the following day. Items are held for 30 days.


A. The Basics

One common question my friends ask is: Can you shop without a car? Short answer: yes. Even if you are buying too many things to carry in a shoulder bag or with your hands, you can bring them home by:

a) using a two-wheeled, folding shopping cart, often available at hardware stores and maybe even grocery stores. Using one of these carts you can roll home moderately heavy items without putting a strain on your back or arms. Using a cart avoids the problems of having to juggle dozens of bags or deciding whether or not to buy heavy things - with a cart, unless it's really, really big, you can carry it yourself.


b) Taking a taxicab home. When I took a taxicab home from the nearest Office Depot (about a mile and a half according to Mapquest) it cost me about $5 plus a tip. (And I strongly recommend tipping generously; Jacksonville is small enough that unless you use a different cab company on every trip, your odds of seeing the same cabbie twice are high). (Caveat: I am referring only to using a cab for errands that take place every so often, such as grocery shopping; daily cab use would of course be quite expensive).

For buying furniture, remember that many stores will deliver heavy items to your door, though usually at a charge. (Or you can rent a truck!)

B. Speaking of Taxis....

You probably will not be able to hail a cab in Jacksonville; population here is simply not dense enough to support that many cabs. Instead, you will have to call a cab. Here are the phone numbers of a few cab companies:

Abc Cab Co. 765-9999

Checker Cab 355-9911

Citi-Cab 357-4646

Eagle Cab 779-8983

Gator City 355-8294

Hurri Cab 355-1010

Unimet Taxicab 786-4252

Yellow Cab 260-1111

All of these phone numbers are in area code 904.

C. Renting A Car

Most nationwide rental car companies have offices in Jacksonville. These facilities are not limited to airports; for example, Enterprise Rent-A-Car ( has about 20 Jacksonville locations. Some other companies include Avis ( , Hertz ( , Budget (, Dollar ( and National ( . In addition, U-Haul ( rents trucks from numerous Jacksonville locations.

Be aware that quoted rates do not always include insurance. However, some major credit cards (especially American Express) have rental car insurance coverage for all cardholders. So before buying insurance from the rental car company, check with your credit card company first.


If you are trying to leave Jacksonville, one obvious alternative is flying; JTA’s airport shuttle is discussed above. (Information on the shuttle is on the front of JTA’s web page).

Other alternatives include:

1. Amtrak ( Amtrak trains leave Jacksonville for points north (running to Savannah and along the east coast to Washington and New York) and south. But Amtrak service is more limited than either air or bus service; for example, Amtrak trains from Jacksonville do not go to Atlanta. The Amtrak station is unfortunately not anywhere near downtown. Instead, it is in the outer reaches of Northwest Jacksonville, served by the K2 and M4 buses. The neighborhood surrounding the bus station is rural-looking and lifeless, and has a reputation as a rough area. So I recommend that if you are going from the Amtrak station you stay at the station, rather than wandering around the neighborhood.

2. Greyhound ( The Greyhound station, by contrast, is in the heart of downtown, a block or so north of the Central Skyway station. Greyhound service to Jacksonville is thankfully extensive.



Even people who know how to get to their job by bus often believe that they need a car to go anyplace else of importance. But in fact, many civic amenities are on bus or rail routes, including shopping malls, museums, hospitals, major regional parks, and sports arenas. This section lists a few of these facilities and how to reach them. (Caveat: I make no claim that this is a complete list; I relied on Yahoo yellow pages and used my best judgment to figure out what was major enough to be worth including).

A. Theatres (stage)

Alhambra Dinner Theatre ( , 12000 Beach Blvd., 641-1212- K2 bus

Florida Theatre of the Performing Arts ( , 128 E Forsyth, 355-5661- numerous downtown buses; also a few blocks east of Central Skyway station (also shows movies)

Professor Plum’s Playhouse ( , 4578 Blanding Blvd., 772-7707- E2 bus

River City Playhouse ( , 2642 Rosselle St., 388-8830- P3 bus

Theatre Jacksonville (, 2032 San Marco Blvd., 396-4425- B7 and U2 buses

B. Theatres (movie)

Beach Blvd. Cinema 18, 14051 Beach Blvd., 992-4394,- K2 bus

Regal Cinema, The Avenues 20, 9525 Phillips Highway, 538-3889- L7 bus

Regency Square 24, Regency Mall, 264-3888 - This mall is a major connecting point for several buses, including: AR-20, H2, K1, R1, R5, S1, and U2.

San Marco Theatre & Draft, 1996 San Marco Blvd., 396-4845- B7 and U2 buses.

C. Hospitals

Baptist Medical Center ( , 800 Prudential Drive, 202-2000- a couple of blocks south and west of San Marco Skyway Express stop

Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital ( , 3599 University Blvd. South, 858-7600 - on U2 bus.

Memorial Hospital ( , 3625 University Blvd. South, 399-6111- ditto

Nemours Children’s Clinic ( - 807 Nira Street, 390-3600- U2 and B7 buses.

St. Luke’s Hospital (, 4201 Belfort Road, 296-3700- SS-4 and SS-5 buses

Shands Hospital ( , 655 W. 8th St., 549-4217- NS-20 bus

Specialty Hospital ( , 4901 Richard St., 737-3120- just north of University Blvd. served by U2 bus.

St. Vincent’s Medical Center ( , 1800 Barrs St., 308-7300- R1 and R5 buses.

D. Shopping Malls

Avenues, 10300 Southside Blvd.- L7 and S1 buses.

Gateway Center Mall, 5184 Norwood Avenue-A transit hub for Jacksonville’s northside, served by L7, L8, N6, P4, P7, NS-14, NS-20, NS-21, and NS-22 buses.

Jacksonville Landing (Water St. downtown, )- Numerous downtown buses. Also near Central Skyway station and Sunflower Trolley.

Regency Square, 9501 Arlington Expressway- This mall is a major connecting point for several buses, including: AR-20, H2, K1, R1, R5, S1, and U2.

E. Museums

Alexander Brest Museum at Jacksonville University, 2800 N. University Blvd., 256-7371- J1 bus.

Beaches Museum and History Center ( , 380 Pablo Avenue in Jacksonville Beach, 241-5657- just off Beach Blvd., served by K2 bus.

Cummer Museum of Art ( , 829 Riverside Avenue, 356-6857- R5 bus.

Jacksonville Fire Museum ( , 1408 Gator Bowl Blvd., 630-0618- E5 bus.

Jacksonville Maritime Museum ( , 1015 Museum Circle, 398-1011- just a couple of blocks north and east of San Marco Skyway station.

Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art ( , 333 N. Laura Street, 366-6911- on Hemming Plaza, across the plaza from Hemming Skyway station.

Jacksonville Zoo ( , 8605 Zoo Parkway, 757-4463- just off Hecksher Drive, served by NS-14 bus.

Karpeles Manuscript Museum ( , 101 W. First St., 356-2992- About half a dozen blocks north of FCCJ Skyway station. Or a couple of blocks west of First and Main, served by I6, E2, E5, L7, L8, L9, and NS-22 buses.

Mandarin Museum and Historical Society ( , 12471 Mandarin Road, 260-9983 - SS-35 bus. Also a long walk from San Jose Blvd., served by J1 bus.

Museum of Southern History, 4304 Herschel St., 388-3574- B6 bus.

Museum of Science and History ( , 1025 Museum Circle, 396-7062- A couple of blocks north and east of Riverplace Skyway station.

Ritz Theatre and LaVilla Museum ( - 829 N. Davis, 632-5555- Just south of State and Davis, served by P4 bus.

F. Sports

The city’s two major sports teams are the minor league Jacksonville Suns (, 358-2846) and the football Jaguars (, 633-2000). Both are near Gator Bowl Blvd., served by the E5 bus and the Sunflower Trolley.

G. Major Colleges and Universities

Edward Waters College ( , 1658 Kings Rd., 470-8000- H2, K1 and K2 buses.

Florida Coastal School of Law (, 8787 Baypine, 680-7700- B7, J1 and L7 buses.

FCCJ (Florida Community College at Jacksonville, )- FCCJ’s various campuses are generally transit hubs.

The downtown campus (101 W. State St.) is next to the FCCJ Skyway station, the city’s major bus depot. Thus, nearly all JTA buses stop there.

The FCCJ’s South campus (11901 Beach Blvd.). is served by the K2 and R5 buses.

The FCCJ’s Westside Kent campus (3939 Roosevelt Blvd.) is a transfer or termination point for the E2, P2, O1, R1 and R5 buses.

The North campus (4501 Capper Road) is served by the NS-14 and P7 buses.

In addition, FCCJ has several centers with more limited offerings. More information about these centers can be found at the FCCJ website.

Jacksonville University (, 2800 N. University Blvd., 256-7371- J1 bus.

Troy University ( , 2683 St. John’s Bluff, 641-1005- R5 bus.

University of North Florida ( , 4567 St. John’s Bluff, 620-4242- R5 bus.


A. Downtown and North

1. Downtown: The Beginnings Of Recovery

Buses: Nearly all of them, plus trolleys, plus Skyway.

Sidewalks: always.

In recent decades, downtown Jacksonville has been a dead zone: a place open for business 9 to 5, and almost completely closed at night and on weekends. The local elite decided that the primary mission of downtown was to accommodate commuters’ cars, so downtown is honeycombed with parking lots where buildings should be.

Having said that, downtown is beginning to recover. A couple of office buildings have been converted to apartments, most notably the Carling on 31 W. Adams and 11 E. Forsyth (see links below for web pages etc.). In addition, there are numerous condominiums downtown as well. According to a recent "State of Downtown" report (available at ) the downtown core now has over 1500 residents, up from about 900 in 2000. Before 2000, nearly all of downtown’s residents lived in senior citizen public housing. Now, downtown also has hundreds of young professionals; according to the State of Downtown report, 75% of new downtown residents (that is, residents of buildings built in the past five years) have at least graduated from college, and 31% have a graduate degree. 31% of new downtown residents earn over $100,000.

Obviously, downtown is especially convenient for people who work downtown- so most new downtown housing is in the heart of the business district, rather than on its fringes (which tend to be deserted even during the daytime). In particular, most housing so far is on the north bank of the St. John’s River (hereinafter "the river" since it is the major river in Jacksonville), within a few blocks of the main library. The south bank boasts some hotels and a couple of museums (including the Museum of Science and History and the Maritime Museum, accessible via Skyway from the north bank - again, see links below for web pages etc.) but no housing so far that I know of.

One major advantage of living downtown (from a car-free perspective) is that since nearly all JTA buses stop at the FCCJ transit center, downtown residents can get anywhere without changing buses. In addition, downtown residents can walk to major cultural amenities such as the downtown public library (on 303 N. Laura St., across Hemming Plaza from the Skyway station) and the modern art museum next door.

Despite the positive changes of the last few years, downtown’s retail situation is so-so. On the positive side, the Jacksonville Landing ( ) mall gives residents a decent level of shopping and dining opportunities during the day. The Landing has no anchor store, but has a variety of smaller shops (including a decent discount bookstore, Book Liquidators) However, most Jacksonville Landing shops close by 8 PM or earlier. The nearest grocery store is a Winn-Dixie at 777 Market, on downtown’s northeastern fringe.

As you walk east and west from downtown’s commercial core, you will find yourself in deserted, arguably scary, areas. However, the west side is slightly more interesting: it contains the remnants of the LaVilla neighborhood. The LaVilla area was Jacksonville’s African-American business and entertainment hub for most of the 20th century. But the neighborhood gradually decayed in recent decades, and most of LaVilla’s buildings have been demolished in the name of urban renewal, leaving nothing but homeless shelters and traffic arteries.

However, the Ritz Theatre Building (829 N. Davis St.), which operated for more than thirty years as a movie house, now hosts a museum dedicated to the African-American experience in Jacksonville. The Ritz is about a mile from downtown’s commercial zone. I felt reasonably safe (though more than a little depressed) walking there during the day, but would not walk there at night.

If you walk north from downtown on Main, at first you see a similar wasteland of abandoned buildings and parking lots where buildings should be. But after a few blocks, you reach First St., the beginning of...

2. Springfield: Jacksonville’s Victorian Village

Buses: I6, E5, L7, L8, L9, NS-20, NS-22, WS-2. Also only a few blocks north of FCCJ Skyway stop.

Sidewalks: Always.

Most of Jacksonville’s pre-1900 buildings are in the Springfield neighborhood, because a 1901 fire that destroyed most of downtown spared Springfield. Many of Springfield’s houses date from the 1880s, and two-thirds were built before 1921.

When it was built, Springfield was an upscale streetcar suburb. However, Springfield suffered massive disinvestment in the second half of the 20th century, and until recently was one of the city’s rougher areas. In the past decade, young professionals have begun to move into the area and rehabilitate its houses. Today, Springfield still has boarded-up houses - but those houses are usually boarded-up because they are about to be rebuilt from the inside out, rather than because they have been abandoned. If Springfield had a neighborhood flower, it would be the "Under Construction" sign.

Commercial development in Springfield has lagged behind residential development. When I visited Springfield on a Sunday afternoon, the shops on Main Street (the neighborhood’s major commercial street) were about as likely to be open as comparable shops downtown - that is to say, not very. Main Street looks more suburban and auto-oriented than the residential blocks of Springfield: some businesses (especially the street’s ample collection of user-car dealers) are set back from the street, and it is a bit wider than the commercial shopping streets of other close-in areas such as San Marco and Riverside. In other words, Main Street looks like part of a suburban slum rather than a chichi intown neighborhood.

Springfield’s residential blocks, by contrast, are dominated by Victorian homes, some of which have been cut up into apartments. In addition, there are some apartment buildings, which tend to be newer but nevertheless fit into the neighborhood’s low-rise fabric even if they don’t fit into the neighborhood’s architectural style.

The major advantage of Springfield is that it is the only place in Jacksonville where you can live less than a mile from downtown and still come home to a house on a tree-lined street. And unlike downtown residents, Springfield residents can walk to a grocery store in the heart of the neighborhood (Shop & Save at 150 E. 3rd St.). In addition, Springfield has more bus service than most Jacksonville neighborhoods, though less than downtown.

On the negative side, Springfield still feels a little rough around the edges: it is by no means a homogenously middle-class neighborhood, and is surrounded by even more troubled areas. Moreover, the neighborhood’s shopping opportunities are limited.

3. The Rest of the Northside: Poor Close In, Middle-Class Sprawl Further Out

Traditionally, the north side of Jacksonville, between downtown and I-295, has been the city’s poorest, most violent area. Many of these areas have poverty rates over 40%, and almost every northside neighborhood south of the Trout River (which bisects the the northside) has poverty rates higher than the citywide average. Areas north of the river are stereotypical middle-middle class sprawl: low-density, automobile-dependent, not tremendously poor but is not tremendously wealthy either. Jacksonville’s airport is at the farther edges of the Northside.

B. Southeast

1. San Marco: The Shining Star of the Southside

Buses: B7, H2, U2. Also about a 1 and 1/4 mile walk from San Marco Skyway station.

Sidewalks: Yes (though sidewalks tend to disappear from residential streets just south of this neighborhood).

Most of Jacksonville’s southeast side is stereotypical suburbia: mostly middle- and upper-middle-class, but mostly made for cars rather than people. The San Marco neighborhood, just south and east of downtown, is an exception to the second half of this generalization.

This small neighborhood, centered on the corner of San Marco and Hendricks, is a tiny, walkable, enclave dominated by small shops that are in front of sidewalks rather than standing behind yards of parking. The neighborhood’s shopping district is surrounded by residential streets that also have sidewalks (although the sidewalks do tend to die out a few blocks south of the shopping district).

As in Springfield, the residential streets are dominated by single-family homes and small apartment buildings rather than high-rises. But unlike Springfield, San Marco is rich, rich, rich - especially the streets near the river, where 1920s mansions dominate. (As is true in most of Jacksonville, blocks further away from the river are not quite so well-off, and as you go further east towards Phillips Highway, safety may be a concern).

So what’s not to like? For one thing, San Marco is one of the city’s most expensive areas to live in; because so few parts of Jacksonville are this walkable, the supply for places like San Marco lags behind the demand. Even 2 bedroom condominiums can cost over $400,000. Although San Marco is a mixed-use area, it has a very limited mix of uses: it has fancy shops and expensive restaurants, but no large grocery store or discount retail. San Marco does have a movie theater with one screen, the San Marco (1996 San Marco).

You could walk to downtown from San Marco if you have time on your hands: the neighborhood is about a mile and a half from Jacksonville Landing. If you choose to ride a bus, San Marco also has pretty good bus service: the B7 bus extends from downtown to San Marco to (almost) Mandarin, and runs until almost midnight. The B7 bus runs down San Jose for several miles until it reaches Baymeadows.

The neighborhoods on the B7 just south of San Marco (built mostly in the 1940s and 1950s) are upper-middle-class areas that are not tremendously walkable: the main street (San Jose) has sidewalks, but the side streets do not. On the positive side, the residential streets are fairly narrow and have lawns that one can walk on in good weather, and because there are commercial areas on San Jose every mile or two, these neighborhoods are all within a long walk of shops.

When the B7 bus reaches the corner of San Jose and Baymeadows, you can stay on the bus and go inland to the Baymeadows neighborhood, or get off and start walking south towards...

2. Mandarin: Wealthy Upscale Sprawl (including Beaclerc, Old Mandarin and Julington Creek)

Buses: J1, SS-35 (and B7, if you count Baymeadows Rd. as part of Mandarin)

Sidewalks: Mostly yes on commercial streets; about half the time on residential streets.

The Mandarin neighborhood, in the southeast fringe of Duval County, begins at the river and continues eastward from there, towards St. Augustine Road. The parts of Mandarin close to the river are quite wealthy, including both its northeastern fringe (often called Beauclerc, because Beauclerc Road is the most prominent residential street there) and Old Mandarin further south. As you get further from the river, Mandarin becomes more middle-class - solidly upper middle class between Scott Mill and San Jose, and more middle middle class east of San Jose, though truly grubby areas don’t start until one gets east of St. Augustine Rd. (However, the Julington Creek area south of Loretto Rd. is also quite affluent, even miles away from the river). Most of Mandarin is the sort of "executive neighborhood" that families who spend their lives in upscale suburbia naturally gravitate to: a cookie-cutter, well-off, sprawling place built in the 1970s and 1980s.

In many ways, Mandarin is stereotypical sprawl. Housing are generally separated from commerce; most of the neighborhood’s shopping is on San Jose Blvd., with a few shops here and there on St. Augustine and Sunbeam. While most American suburbs have apartments (though not single-family homes) on the same streets as shops, this is not the case on San Jose Blvd., which is almost 100% commercial. Most other streets are purely residential.

In some ways, San Jose Blvd. is an excellent example of how not to design a street. This street is 8 lanes wide in some areas, and a tiny part of it (around Beauclerc Rd.) even lacks sidewalks, as does most of the side street on which the neighborhood library sits (Kori Rd.) Nearly every building is set back behind large amounts of parking.

Another of Mandarin’s nasty features is the dominance of cul-de-sacs. To be fair, a homeowner might benefit from living on a cul-de-sac, by being shielded from traffic. But where every single residential street is a cul-de-sac, it is virtually impossible to get from one street to another without having to go out of your way onto San Jose Blvd. For example, if you live on Chrysler Drive (one of the residential streets in Mandarin) and want to get to the library on Kori Road (just 1/10 of a mile away as the crow flies), you would have to walk or drive almost a full mile, because you would have to go through a tangle of residential streets to reach San Jose, then go to the corner of San Jose and Kori, then walk on Kori to the library.

So much for the bad. But there is good in Mandarin. For one thing, many (and perhaps even most) residential streets do have sidewalks, as does most of San Jose Blvd. Moreover, the bus service is not terrible by the (admittedly low) standards of Jacksonville; the J1 bus, the bus serving San Jose, runs every half hour for most of the day and runs till roughly 8:30 at night.

Also, San Jose has a truly bountiful selection of retail; nearly every conceivable "Big Box" store is somewhere on the J1 bus line, as are a large Goodwill thrift store and an excellent Big Lots store (both at the corner of San Jose and St. Augustine). And because almost all of San Jose Blvd. is part of this "Big Box" retail district, most Mandarin residents are within walking distance (broadly defined) of a shop or restaurant.

And unlike more homogenous suburbs, Mandarin also has an excellent selection of ethnic restaurants and markets: not just the occasional Indian or Thai restaurant, but a couple of Middle Eastern markets (both near the corner of San Jose and St. Augustine), a Latin American market (ditto) and a Brazilian buffet restaurant (on San Jose and Pall Mall). Mandarin is also the hub of the city’s Jewish community: every synagogue in Duval County is more or less in Mandarin. If you follow Jewish dietary law, the best place to shop is the Mandarin Publix at 10500 San Jose Blvd., which carries a pretty good selection of kosher products.

Finally, Mandarin does have a historic area: Old Mandarin, the area on and around Mandarin Road, a street just west of San Jose and south of I-295. In the 19th century, Mandarin was a farming community linked to Jacksonville by steamship. (As the name of the neighborhood suggests, oranges were a major crop). Today, the area has a luscious tree canopy and even a neighborhood museum describing Mandarin history, at 11964 Mandarin Road ( ). The best thing about the museum is the riverfront park in back of the museum, where you can walk right into the river and sit around with a bit more peace and quiet than you can on the downtown riverfront. The park is especially precious for Mandarin residents, because further north the riverfront is taken up by private houses rather than used for parkspace. And the surrounding residential neighborhood still has a few 19th-century mansions here and there.

3. The rest of the Southside: Affluent Sprawl

Generally, southeast Jacksonville east of Mandarin looks pretty much like Mandarin: middle and upper-middle-class suburban sprawl, with wide streets, low density and cul-de-sacs. The part of Southeast Jacksonville around Baymeadows Road west of I-95 is generally referred to as Baymeadows: an area full of corporate office parks. It is well served by the B7 bus, which, after heading down San Jose, turns east at Baymeadows for a few miles. Other buses (most notably the J1, I6, and L7) also serve bits and pieces of this area.

The rest of Southeast Jacksonville south of Beach Blvd. is often known as Southside. Most of Southside is solidly middle-class. However, some parts of Southside are wealthy (most notably the area just southwest of the University of North Florida, off the J. Turner Butler Expressway).

On the other hand, Southside does have a few struggling neighborhods. In particular, the census tract just south of St. Augustine and Emerson, a few blocks east of the San Marco area, has a 27% poverty rate, and the western blocks of Beach Blvd. also struggle with poverty.

The bottom line: older areas near the river (not just San Marco and Mandarin, but also the areas in between) are able to attract the affluent because of the amenity of waterfront access, newer areas far from the river are in good shape because they are at the frontiers of sprawl, but some of the in-between areas a few miles from the river are less successful.

C. Northeast

1. Arlington: Postwar Suburbia

Buses: AR-20, AR-30, H2, J1,K1, P2, Q1, R1, R5, S1, U2

Sidewalks: Sometimes. More likely on commercial streets than on residential.

Until the 1950s, most of Jacksonville east of downtown was essentially rural. But postwar road and bridge construction opened up northeast Jacksonville (much of which is now known as Arlington) to development.

Arlington is essentially suburban: residential streets often lack sidewalks even in the area’s older blocks, and commercial buildings are generally behind parking lots. However, the older, western parts of Arlington are not always as hostile to pedestrians as much of Southside. A few blocks here and there have streets that front the sidewalk, and residential streets are somewhat narrower than in newer suburbs.

Much of Arlington is working-to-middle class: not quite as well off as the Southside, not quite as poor as the Northside. However, there are exceptions in both directions. Many of Arlington’s waterfront areas are quite affluent. However, some of Arlington’s older non-riverfront neighborhoods struggle with poverty. In northeast Jacksonville as in Southside, the newest, furthest-out areas and the areas with river views compete for affluent consumers, while the in-between areas are often poorer.

2. Beaches: A Tale of Three Cities

Buses: K2, Q3, Q4, R1, R4, X2.

Sidewalks: Sometimes. Always on commercial streets.

At the far east end of Duval County is, of course, the Atlantic Ocean. And in front of the Atlantic Ocean lies three separate beachside communities, each with its own slightly different personality: Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, and Jacksonville Beach.

The differences between all three towns, however, are smaller than the differences between the parts of these communities to the west of Highway A1A (also known as 3rd St.) and the blocks closer to the beach. In all three towns, the areas west of A1A are basically postwar sprawl: wider streets with larger parking lots (though the streets are not so wide, nor the parking lots so large, as in most of the city of Jacksonville just west of the beach).

By contrast, the blocks east of 3rd Street are basically oriented towards the pedestrian. Even in streets without sidewalks, houses are a bit closer together and streets seem a bit narrower. In commercial areas, buildings are in front of sidewalks so pedestrians can easily walk from one building to another, rather than being set back far from the street.

Jacksonville Beach, the southernmost of the three cities, is the most "urban" in the good ways and the bad ways. In the other towns, the beachfront is home to mansions, some built at the turn of the 20th century. In Jacksonville Beach, the beachfront is lined by a wall of what passes for high-rises in Jacksonville (apartments, condos and hotels with 5-15 stories). In the other cities, shops tend to be low-key establishments. In Jacksonville Beach, commercial establishments are more likely to be bars. Generally, Jacksonville Beach seems to be a bit younger, a bit louder, and a bit more bohemian. Jacksonville Beach has more urban problems than the other two communities: for example, parts of Jacksonville Beach appear to be a bit rundown (though apparently this is less true than it was a few years ago) and Jacksonville Beach crime rates are a bit higher than those of the other two communities (though not atrociously high by Jacksonville standards).

Both Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach, by contrast, seem gentler and duller; as I walked around their residential blocks, I saw lots of families riding bicycles. In both communities, the areas around the beach are walkable, but solidly middle-class and family-oriented - though not quite as upper-class as San Marco or Avondale. Neptune Beach has very little crime by any standard. Atlantic Beach has slightly more crime (perhaps because it has a high-poverty area west of A1A) but still no more than the average American suburb.

Like Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach are basically mixed-use communities; that is to say, there are plenty of small shops and restaurants that are within walking distance of most homes. Large shops may be a bit more difficult to walk to; there are a Publix and a Winn-Dixie on Atlantic Blvd. (the street that is the dividing line between Atlantic and Neptune Beaches); however, both are about a mile to the west of A1A.

By and large, the beach towns are within walking distance of each other unless you live at the northern extreme of Atlantic Beach or the southern extreme of Jacksonville Beach. There is even a bus running north-south between the beach communities, the R4. (In addition, the Q3 bus serves the western, sprawling end of the beach towns, and the Q4 bus does the same for the western edge of Atlantic Beach alone). So if you are going to spend your entire life on the beach, you might not need a car at all.

However, bus service from the Beaches to downtown suffers from one hard-to-avoid defect: the beaches are about 15 miles from downtown, which means that the major buses from from downtown to the beaches (the K2, serving Beach Blvd., and the R1, serving Atlantic Blvd.) will take almost an hour. In fact, even the rush-hour-only express bus from downtown takes about 35 minutes to reach Atlantic Beach.

Bottom line: The beaches are an OK place to live auto-free if you don’t go outside the beaches, a so-so place if you work downtown, and a terrible place if you work outside downtown and have to change buses.

D. Southwest (generally known as the Westside)

1. Riverside/Avondale: An Intown Mix

Buses: P7, R5, WS1

Sidewalks: Usually

The part of Jacksonville near Riverside Avenue just south of downtown and north of Roosevelt Blvd. goes by a wide variety of names: some call the closer-in parts Riverside and the further-out parts Avondale, while others just use the terms "Riverside", "Avondale" or even "Riverside/Avondale" as a generic term to describe the whole area.

In any event, Riverside/Avondale is the most walkable part of southwest Jacksonville, just as San Marco is the most walkable part of southeast Jacksonville. Like San Marco, Riverside/Avondale is far more walkable than a typical suburb, with narrow residential streets, sidewalks, and shops that are near residential blocks and are close to the street. Like San Marco, Riverside and Avondale were mostly built in the first few decades of the 20th century, when auto ownership was common but not quite as common as it is now. Thus, the neighborhood is less compact than Springfield, but more so than a typical post-World War II suburb. And like San Marco, Riverside/Avondale has wealthy blocks with riverfront mansions.

Riverside/Avondale differs from San Marco in several respects. First, Riverside/Avondale is a corridor extending for miles, not just an isolated neighborhood that pops up for a few blocks and then peters out. Second, Riverside/Avondale is more socially diverse than San Marco. Riverside/Avondale is divided into a singles-oriented, bohemian half which is politically liberal and uncomfortably close to rougher areas, and a more well-off, family-oriented half. The bohemian half is generally referred to as Riverside or Five Points (named after a street corner where Park, Margaret and three other streets intersect) and the more family-oriented half is Avondale. Riverside is closer to downtown, Avondale farther. No one seems to agree on where the dividing line is - perhaps Edgewood Avenue, perhaps Avondale Rd. Third, the housing stock of Riverside/Avondale is also a bit more diverse than in San Marco. While Riverside is dominated by single-family homes and small apartment buildings, there are a few riverfront high-rises here and there- some condos, some apartments.

Which is a better place to live? It depends what your priorities are. Because Riverside/Avondale is so much larger than San Marco, it is much more self-contained: it has its own Publix (at 2033 Riverside) and multiple shopping areas (including the Five Points area at Park and Margaret, a smaller shopping area at Park and King, and the more upper-class Shoppes of Avondale in the 3500 block of St. John’s). Although the Shoppes of Avondale, like San Marco, tend to be quite expensive, this is less true of Riverside’s other shopping areas. Riverside also boasts the major regional art museum, the Cummer (at 829 Riverside).

Riverside also has more parkspace: while San Marco has one riverfront park, Riverside was planned to ensure that most of the riverfront is public space. On the blocks closest to the river, houses run north-south, while the river runs east-west. So instead of one house gobbling up riverfront space, everyone shares the riverfront as public space.

On the other hand, San Marco is closer to downtown than Riverside (or certainly Avondale). So if getting to your downtown job is your first priority, San Marco may be preferable. Also, San Marco has better bus service: the B7 runs until midnight, while the R5 and WS1 (the main buses serving Riverside Avenue) stop running around 9 PM - perhaps because Jacksonville’s Westside is less of an employment hub than its Southside.

2. Murray Hill: Riverside North

Buses: P7, R5

Sidewalks: Yes on commercial streets, usually (but not always) on residential streets

In every American city, gentrification starts with one set of neighborhoods (usually the most historically affluent or closest to downtown) and spills over into others, as would-be urbanites get priced out of the most desirable intown neighborhood and move to a slightly less desirable one nearby. For example, in Atlanta, people priced out of Morningside revitalized Virginia-Highland, and people priced out of Virginia Highland revitalized Little Five Points and Inman Park.

The same virtuous cycle is beginning to happen in Jacksonville: people priced out of Riverside are moving to Murray Hill, a neighborhood just a bit further from the St. John’s River (i.e. north and east of Riverside). Like Riverside, Murray Hill suffered hard times in the second half of the 20th century, and is now becoming fashionable once again. But Murray Hill is cheaper and newer than Riverside.

Physically, Murray Hill is a kind of middle ground between Riverside and typical Westside sprawl. As in Riverside, most shops in Murray Hill’s most heavily commercial area (Edgewood south of Post) front the street rather than being set back behind yards of parking. On the other hand, Murray Hill’s residential blocks are much more suburban than Riverside’s: single-family homes appear to be more dominant and apartment buildings fewer, and some residential streets lack sidewalks.


3. Ortega: Old Money (including Ortega Forest)

Buses: WS1, P4

Sidewalks: Generally not.

Perhaps the richest neighborhood in Jacksonville is the Ortega neighborhood, just south of Avondale. Like Riverside/Avondale, Ortega was built around the water in the early 20th century- in fact, Ortega is more or less an island, and to get there from Avondale you have to cross a bridge.

But Ortega is a very different kind of neighborhood both from walkable, mixed-use Avondale and from postwar suburban sprawl.

Ortega was planned as a retreat for wealthy homeowners, and has more or less stayed that way. That means no sidewalks, and very little commerce compared to other well-off areas such as Southside and Mandarin. The only streets that have any commerce at all are Ortega Blvd. (which is mostly riverfront mansions, but has a few small offices here and there, and even a small pharmacy/soda fountain) and Roosevelt Avenue (which is the kind of speedway that you will find more of in Baymeadows or Southside, but which is not quite as commercial). Houses tend to be mansions, especially on the river. The area west of Roosevelt Blvd. (often called Ortega Forest) is demographically comparable to the eastern half of the island.

Despite the absence of sidewalks, Ortega is not quite as unwalkable as comparable neighborhoods in some other cities. Trees do not go right up to the street, so there is usually a lawn to walk on if you do not feel comfortable walking in the street. And the streets are narrow and not heavily trafficked, so walking in the street is not quite the act of madness that it would be in (for example) most Atlanta suburbs. And unlike many cities’ upper-class areas, Ortega actually has decent (but not spectacular) bus service; the O1 bus runs from downtown to Ortega as late as about 9 PM.

3. The Far West Side: Working-Class Sprawl

Most of southwest Jacksonville west of Ortega is comprised of majority-white, middle-to-working-class neighborhoods. Most of these neighborhoods are by no means as poor and crime-ridden as northwest Jacksonville, but are definitely dominated by high school graduates rather than college graduates. They tend to be automobile-dependent sprawl, like most of Jacksonville far from the rivers and the beaches.


A. My Personal links

Email me at

My scholarly articles and speeches at

My blog at

My Jacksonville photos at

My "most livable cities" webpage:

My Car-Free in Atlanta webpage (last updated 2004, so some details may now be incorrect);

My old Car-Free in Cleveland webpage (last updated 1998, so some details may now be incorrect):

My old Car-Free in Buffalo webpage (last updated 1999, so some details may now be incorrect):

B. Jacksonville Links (in no particular order, but I decided that the most important links, in my totally subjective judgment, should go first).

Public transit


Other Florida counties’ transit systems:



Neighborhood Websites - Downtown Jacksonville - Riverside Avondale Preservation - Springfield Preservation - San Marco Preservation - The New Springfield - Historic Preservation and Community Revitalization for Arlington

Real Estate - A web site with listings from an enormous number of Jacksonville neighborhoods (though sometimes the neighborhoods are defined more narrowly or more broadly than in the web page above; for example, its "San Marco" listings include some scruffy areas, while it divides Mandarin into several different neighborhoods).

Urban Blog Sites - Urban Jacksonville - The Urban Core - Downtown Parks - Jacksonville Street Art - Jeff Vrabel: Jacksonville Music Critic Metro Jacksonville (who I thank for assembling many of these links) - Jacksonville Independent

Colleges and Universities Edward Waters Florida Coastal School of Law (my employer!) FCCJ - Jacksonville University Troy University University of North Florida

Economic Development - City of Jacksonville - Cornerstone/Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce - Jacksonville Community Council, Inc. - Jacksonville: Where Florida Begins - Jacksonville & The Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau

Jacksonville History - Jacksonville Historical Society


Entertainment - Inertia Independent Records & Books - Claim Your Nightlife - Moon Colony Razorblade - Jax Night Life - Hello Jacksonville - Pub Club Jacksonville

Cultural Attractions - Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens - FCCJ theatre - Florida Theatre of the Performing Arts - Jacksonville Fire Museum - Jacksonville Maritime Museum - Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art - Jacksonville Zoo - Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum - Mandarin Museum and Historical Society - Museum of Science and History - Jacksonville Fire Museum - Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center - Jacksonville Public Library - River City Playhouse - Ritz Theatre and African-American history museum. - Theatre Jacksonville - Times Union Center for the Performing Arts

Sports Jaguars (football) - Suns (baseball)


Hospitals - Baptist Medical Center - Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital - Memorial Hospital - Nemours Children’s Clinic - St. Luke’s (also Mayo Clinic) - Shands Hospital Specialty Hospital St. Vincent’s Medical Center

Apartments and Condos in and near downtown

For Sale - The Peninsula Condos - Plaza Condos at Berkman Plaza - 1661 Riverside - San Marco Place - The St. Johns - The Lofts on Main - The Chelsea Lofts - River Watch at City Center

For Rent The Carling - Cathedral Residences (Senior Living) - 11 East Forysth - The Goffin Building - 1951 Market Lofts - The Lofts at San Marco - W.A. Knight Lofts

Last updated 12-21-06