Saturday, November 3, 2018

Vote like your bus ride depends on it

Public transit sucks in Central Florida – really in most of Florida – because most of the politicians on the Nov. 6 ballot don’t care about public transportation.

We know this because we embarked on a month-long investigation to survey federal, state and county commission candidates whose names are on Central Florida ballots.


Through the efforts of researcher Robin Denise Harris, we posed 2 simple questions:
If elected, does the candidate plan to support efforts to improve and expand SunRail?
If elected, does the candidate plan to support efforts to improve and expand Lynx (or Votran for candidates in Volusia County)?

Of the 38 candidates we reached out to (trying several times if candidates did not respond to the first query) 17 candidates answered yes.

Those answering YES included:
U.S. House: Darren Soto, Wayne Liebnitsky
Florida Senate candidate: Melissa Martin
Florida House candidates: Tracey Kagen, Ricky Shirah, Barbara Cady, Geraldine Thompson, Anna Eskamani, Amy Mercado, Carlos Guillermo Smith, Pam Dirschka
Orange County Commission candidates: Christine Moore, Patricia Rumph and Mayra Uribe
Osceola County Commission candidates: Viviana Janer and Cheryl Grieb
Volusia County Council candidate: Barbara Girtman

The other candidates did not respond. One candidate died during the campaign.

We counted no response as a NO because if a candidate running for office can’t or won’t respond to a basic bread-and-butter question about public transportation, then they really don’t care about this community. Don’t they understand that traffic and transportation are major public policy issues that affect the health, future and potential prosperity of this region?

The campaign of Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy of Orlando said that they don’t respond to surveys. Huh?

If her campaign won’t answer 2 simple questions, then how are people supposed to know what the Honorable Ms. Murphy stands for?

Out of fairness, we’re obligated to report that Mike Miller, Ms. Murphy’s Republican challenger, would not respond to the survey.

Many candidates were difficult to contact because they do not list phone numbers or email addresses on their campaign websites or social media. They want our votes, but they don’t want to hear from us unless we’re donating money.

Here are the candidates who did not respond to our survey.
U.S. Senate: Bill Nelson and Rick Scott
US House: Nancy Soderburg, Mike Waltz, Bill Posey, Sanjay Patel
Florida House: Lee Mangold, David Smith, Scott Plakton, Josie Tomkow, Ben Griffin, Bobby Olszewski, Stockton Reeves, George Chandler, Rene Plasencia
Orange County Commission: Pete Crotty
Osceola County Commission: Wanda Rentas
Volusia County Council: Pat Patterson

The reason SunRail doesn’t run late at night or on the weekends is that most of our elected officials don’t care. Politicians have the power to improve the service.
The reason why Lynx and Votran riders must walk miles to bus stops or wait up to an hour in the pouring rain and under the boiling sun is that our politicians don’t care. The politicians have the power to improve the service.

In a previous article, we noted that Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis opposes SunRail. He calls it a boondoggle. Click here to hear DeSantis talk about transportation.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum supports more investment in public transit. Click here for Gillum’s position on this topic.

Vote for politicians who are #woke and care about public transit.

Vote Tuesday, Nov. 6 because our public transit and future depend on it.






Friday, November 2, 2018

Proposed changes coming to Lynx

Lynx is proposing to add 1 route and make other route and schedule changes on Jan. 28, 2019.

Here's what they're planning:

NEW ROUTE

Link 709 – Kissimmee Connector (Osceola County) – Will operate a one-way loop through downtown Kissimmee from the LYNX Kissimmee Intermodal Station via Dakin Street, Lakeview Drive, Patrick Street, Emmett Street, Church Street, Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, Rose Avenue, Oak Street, Central Avenue, Hilda Avenue and Main Street. Route will operate every 30 minutes weekdays 6:30 a.m.-8:09 p.m.

ROUTE ADJUSTMENTS

Link 21 – Universal Studios (Orange County) – The current bus stop on Valencia College Drive will be eliminated. Buses will serve a new stop near the Valencia College Nursing and Fitness Center via Kirkman Road, Valencia College Drive and Receiving Road.        

Link 37 – Pine Hills/Florida Mall (Orange County) – The current bus stop on Valencia College Drive will be eliminated. Buses will serve a new stop near the Valencia College Nursing and Fitness Center via Kirkman Road, Valencia College Drive and Receiving Road.

Link 301 – Pine Hills/Animal Kingdom (Orange County) – Afternoon trip from Pine Hills to Animal Kingdom Lodge will serve All-Star Resort. Minor schedule changes.

Link 303 – Washington Shores/Disney Hollywood Studios (Orange County) – Routing to/from Hollywood Studios will change. Bus stop will change from current location to a new stop located at the new Cast Services building. Service to All-Star Resort will be eliminated. Minor schedule adjustments.



SCHEDULE ADJUSTMENTS

Link 8 – W. Oak Ridge Road/International Drive (Orange County) – 4:51 a.m. weekday trip from Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets to downtown Orlando will change to 4:43 a.m.

Link 11 – S. Orange Avenue/Orlando International Airport (Orange County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

Link 18 – S. Orange Avenue/Kissimmee (Orange County/Osceola County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

Link 38 – Downtown Orlando/SeaWorld (Orange County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

Link 50 – Downtown Orlando/Magic Kingdom (Orange County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

Link 57 – John Young Parkway (Orange County/Osceola County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

Link 60 – LYMMO Orange Line (Orange County) – On Friday and Saturday, the last trip will leave CentroPlex Garage at 10:45 p.m.

 Link 62 – LYMMO Grapefruit Line (Orange County) – On Friday and Saturday, the last trip will leave Church Street and Magnolia Avenue at 10:45 p.m.

Link 108 – South U.S. 441/Kissimmee (Orange County/Osceola County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

Link 111 – SeaWorld/Orlando International Airport (Orange County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

FastLink 407 – Kissimmee/Orlando International Airport/Medical City (Orange County/Osceola County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

Link 416 – Poinciana/Haines City (Osceola County/Polk County) – Will extend the 5:40 a.m. trip from Walmart and the 1:55 p.m. trip from Haines City Plaza to serve Haines City High School.

FastLink 441 – Downtown Orlando/Kissimmee (Orange County/Osceola County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

NeighborLink 622 – Oviedo (Seminole County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

Before they move forward with these changes, Lynx is planning to hold public hearings. The board will vote on these changes at the Dec. 6 meeting.

Those hearings will be held:

Tuesday, Nov. 13, 5 to 7 p.m.
Altamonte Springs City Hall, 225 Newburyport Ave.
Altamonte Springs

Wednesday, Nov. 14, 3 to 5 p.m.
LYNX Central Station, 2nd floor
455 North Garland Ave.
Orlando

Thursday, Nov.15, 4:45 to 6:45 p.m.
Kissimmee City Hall
101 Church St.
Kissimmee





Thursday, November 1, 2018

Downtown Kissimmee is getting a new bus route

A new bus route has been proposed for Kissimmee that would benefit both locals and people arriving at Kissimmee’s new SunRail station.

The proposed route, to be known as Link 709/Kissimmee Connector will make it easy for people to reach some of the most popular destinations in the downtown Kissimmee area.

Kissimmee Intermodal Station
Tentative plans call for charging $1 to use the Link 709.

The bus will begin its route at the Kissimmee Intermodal Station, which is also where the SunRail train stops.

The intermodal station is a major transfer point for buses from all over Osceola County. Amtrak trains also stop at that station, and that’s also where people board and get off the Greyhound bus.

A press release from Lynx explained that the bus will operate in a one-way loop through downtown Kissimmee via Dakin Street, Lakeview Drive, Patrick Street, Emmett Street, Church Street, Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, Rose Avenue, Oak Street, Central Avenue, Hilda Avenue, and Main Street.

This route will make it easier for people for people to reach popular destinations such as Kissimmee City Hall, the county courthouse and administration building, Osceola Regional Medical Center and Florida Hospital Kissimmee.

Link 709 will operate every 30 minutes weekdays 6:30 a.m.-8:09 p.m.

A public hearing to discuss Link 709 and other proposed changes to Lynx routes and schedules will be held Nov. 15th, 5:45 to 6:45 p.m. at Kissimmee City Hall.




Thursday, October 11, 2018

How come Lynx riders get left in the dust

Lynx bus riders in Central Florida always seem to get the short end of the stick.

Check out the recent report card on Metro Orlando’s transportation that the Orange County League of Women Voters just released. Click here for the report.

Overall the report was good. The league gave the transportation network and local leaders a D grade. We give the league a B for their report.

Just like everybody else, the league report seemed overly focused on improving and expanding rail transportation – SunRail -- and connecting that train system Orlando International Airport.

Those are noble concerns, but let’s get real.

SunRail now provides 5,300 rides daily. Lynx provides 83,000 daily rides – 15 times the number of SunRail.

We’re not putting down SunRail. We’re just stating cold, hard facts.

Most of the Lynx riders aren’t headed to exciting destinations like the airport.

They’re going to I Drive to change linens on beds or headed to jobs in theme parks and other thankless tasks that most people wouldn’t want to do.

And by the way, did we mention that SunRail only runs Monday to Friday, while Lynx is a 365-day service because many of its riders work non-traditional shifts?

Without Lynx, Central Florida’s service-based economy would have crashed and burned years ago.

We get it. We know that SunRail is the new shiny toy.

Suits are common on SunRail; not so much on the Lynx bus.

The class bias was unfortunate, but not uncommon.

In a new report, an advocacy group called the TransitCenter explained that that “transit agencies are still overwhelmingly focused on rail, rather than bus, amenities. In 2016, transit agencies spent just 6 percent of their station capital funds on bus stop amenities, like benches and shelters. The other 94 percent went to rail stations.

“There are two main problems with that disparity. For one, it’s discriminatory. Bus riders are more likely to be low-income. And it’s bad business: about 50 percent of transit trips in the U.S. are still made by bus.”

Lynx riders, some of whom also use SunRail, don’t want to get lost in the sauce.

SunRail service certainly needs to be improved. But Lynx should not be an afterthought. Its riders have suffered from skimpy service for decades.