It’s officially November, meaning that holiday shopping madness has begun. Except this year, the “madness” will take on a different meaning at the Town Center, as new restaurants and shops are expected to attract thousands of shoppers, and with them, an influx of traffic on Gate Parkway and J. Turner Butler Boulevard (or “JTB”).

As if navigating around long lines and discount-hungry shoppers isn’t frustrating enough, it’s likely that this year, the stress of holiday shopping will begin on the roads, as Gate Parkway becomes so backed up that traffic overflows onto JTB. Therefore, instead of a “quick trip” to the open-air mall, shoppers could be looking at double, or even triple, their average commute times.

Photo via JTA Facebook page.

So, Why Not Take the Bus?

Hoping to help alleviate some of the increased traffic, or simply to allow riders to make productive use of their travel time, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) wants the community to know that it does have a route that can help transport shoppers to and from the Town Center. In particular, Route 8 runs from downtown to the Town Center, making multiple stops and intersecting with numerous other routes along the way.

“Before the Town Center opened, we were missing many of the stores and restaurants that had been in other big cities for years,” Leigh Ann Rassler, public relations manager at JTA, said. “Once we started getting them, it was a huge deal. Now, the Town Center is a hotspot and a central shopping destination, as we don’t really have anywhere else like that.”

She added that due to this popularity, it makes the most sense for certain shoppers to consider taking public transportation to the outdoor mall. Now that the JTA buses offer free Wi-Fi, this enables those who are trying to multitask holiday shopping with other obligations, such as work, to use their travel time as efficiently as possible — something that wouldn’t be possible if you were driving to the Town Center alone.

The Convenience of Public Transit

“We also now offer a NextBus, a real-time passenger, faster information app that allows riders to see when a bus is stopping at a different location, and for them to receive a text/call from a bus stop to get an update on the location and arrival time for their bus,” Rassler said. “This is a great advancement from the days of paper scheduling where riders would have to wait, not knowing when the bus would arrive or if they missed it.”

Along with helping riders better prepare for the time of their buses arrival or departure, Rassler explains that this app will also help shoppers determine when they should get in line and when it’s time to wrap up a conversation. “Park and Ride” options are also available for travelers who wish to leave their car at a specific bus stop location.

“We also have the mobile ticketing app, MyJTA. This is a great way for riders to pay for their fare from their mobile device, without having to use change or a STAR Card,” Ann said. “We’re trying a lot of new things to make it more convenient and appealing for riders so they don’t have to risk comfort or convenience when taking the bus.”

Although she added that riding the bus is a personal decision based on the commuter’s needs, she believes that it will definitely help avoid the stress of transportation to the Town Center this holiday season.Really though, who wants to keep their eyes on the bumper-to-bumper car in front of them when they could be relaxing or reading a book?

For more information on JTA or it’s bus routes, visit: http://www.jtafla.com.