Thursday, July 5, 2018

Poor people aren't the only ones hurt by Orlando's weak bus system

Next time you’re out under the blazing sun or in a rainstorm waiting for your Lynx bus, here’s something to think about: Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) has three times more buses than Lynx has in its fleet.

Lynx has about 330 buses. OCPS has 900.

And no, we can’t use school buses for Lynx. That’s not what school buses were designed for.

Don’t hate on the local public schools. They need all those buses to get 69,000 children to school every morning within a short period of time, so classes can begin on time.

Lynx also has an incredibly important mission.

Lynx provides 83,000 rides daily across Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties, in addition to small portions of Lake and Polk counties. By comparison, SunRail provides about 3,200 rides every weekday and does not operate on the weekends.

Lynx is the main artery for Orlando’s lifeblood that has enriched this community as the vacation and convention capital of the United States.

If you ride Lynx you already know that many service-industry workers – housekeepers, groundskeepers, clerks, kitchen staff and so many others – need the bus to get to work.

Since most service-industry workers don’t get paid a living wage they can’t afford a car. Instead many spend three hours or more every weekday -- longer on weekends when many Lynx buses run on a reduced schedule – traveling to and from work.


Lynx deserves kudos for technology innovations it has introduced – especially its app that lets riders track buses and manage their fare payment -- to improve the rider experience.

Realistically Lynx needs more money to add buses, drivers, and resources to support an expanded fleet. The fares riders pay only cover about 30 percent of the operating costs. That’s the financial reality for every public transit system in the world.

The Lynx CEO also told us that it costs $92 an hour to operate a single bus. To keep the fare affordable – at $2 for a one-way ride – subsidies are essential.

On some routes, the one-way fare would be $14 or more without the subsidy from local government. Canceling routes or reducing service would make it impossible for some people to get to work. As it is, many people walk miles, or wait an hour, for their Lynx bus.

Every transportation system -- from airlines to the street outside your home -- depends on government subsidies.

The situation with Lynx is particularly bad because Lynx doesn’t have a dedicated source of funding that it can count on for that subsidy. Every year Lynx officials must beg local governments for the subsidy it needs to operate.
Since Lynx is generally viewed as transportation for “poor people” it lacks powerful, influential advocates in the business or political community.

As we noted earlier, don’t blame bus drivers or Lynx management, for the jacked-up bus service.

Blame the politicians who are supposed to fight for everyone – including folks who depend on Lynx.

The lack of an adequate public transit system should be everyone’s concern – even those who have never ridden a Lynx bus.

As if the daily traffic jams on every major thoroughfare from Lake Mary to Kissimmee haven’t become overwhelming, earlier this year Orlando lost out on a proposal that would have brought a $5 billion second Amazon headquarters and 50,000 high-paying jobs to Central Florida. One of the deal killers was the fact that our public transportation system sucks.

Civic, business and political leaders in Central Florida have used their influence, creativity, and checkbooks to achieve and build magnificent things in our community – two basketball arenas, a soccer stadium, the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, a new downtown campus for UCF, overhauling Camping World Stadium (Citrus Bowl) and much more.

Those leaders have a moral obligation to flex their muscles to support public transit – a resource that benefits the entire community and the local economy.

For more news about Central Florida’s public-transit system, click http://www.LynxedTogether.com




Wednesday, June 20, 2018

After 25 years Lynx still don't get no respect

Tri-County Transit was re-branded as Lynx 25 years ago. They painted many of the buses funky tropical colors to add some pizzazz.

That was probably the first time elected officials in Orlando took public transit seriously.

Yet Lynx continues to drag along because frankly, we don’t know of any elected officials who ride the bus, except maybe for a news media photo opportunity.

Lynx may as well be a homeless guy panhandling at the side of the road – all the suits see him but ignore him.

But Lynx is not a homeless guy. It’s an integral part of Central Florida service economy. If hourly workers can’t get to work, the theme parks, convention center, hotels and so forth are out of business.

Granted SunRail is the new shiny toy in Central Florida’s public transit arena. Lynx may not seem as sexy and cool as SunRail, but every day Lynx gives 80,000 more rides than SunRail. (That’s not a typo).

Many Lynx routes run on weekends and late at night. SunRail does not.
Despite this, Lynx riders are subjected to long waits at bus stops under the broiling sun and in rain.

Lynx service should be a lot better. But Lynx only has slightly more than 300 buses to serve three counties.

Realistically, Lynx needs 600 to 800 buses to provide frequent service and to service more destinations.

Lynx can’t do a lot better because passenger fares only cover about one-third of the operating expenses.

Lynx, SunRail and just about every other public transit system, in the world rely on public subsidies to operate. (Before any fiscal hawks start beefing, you should know that the airlines and even the road outside your house are subsidized by taxpayers.)

The problem is there is no dedicated source of funding for Lynx and SunRail. Remember, most of those elected officials who never ride the Lynx don’t really care about the hourly workers who rely on the bus.

And while we’re at it, SunRail is living on borrowed time. Right now, the train is being subsidized by the Florida Department of Transportation (which is why there is no late-night or weekend service). Come 2021, SunRail also will need a local dedicated funding source or it will go out of business.

But for right now, let’s celebrate 25 years of Lynx by clicking here.






Monday, April 30, 2018

Major route and schedule changes proposed for Lynx bus

Many service changes are proposed for Central Florida’s Lynx bus system this summer.

Several substantial changes are being made to bus service in South Orange County and Osceola County in coordination with the expansion of SunRail train service from South Orange to Poinciana this July. There are also some schedule adjustments being proposed for Seminole County.

Public hearings on these changes will be held later this month in Orlando, Kissimmee and Altamonte Springs. Check LynxTogether Events for more details. People can also make public comments on these changes by visiting www.golynx.com and leave your thoughts at the “Contact Us” page.

Those comments will be received through May 30.

The Lynx board will approve these changes during their meeting May 24. The approved changes will go into effect July 15.

Here are the proposed changes

NEW ROUTES

·         Link 155 – The Loop/Buena Ventura Lakes/Osceola Parkway (Osceola County) – Will operate between Buena Ventura Lakes and The Loop shopping area via Osceola Parkway serving Tupperware SunRail Station. Service every 30 minutes during weekday peak period only.

ROUTE ELIMINATIONS

·         XpressLink 208 – Downtown Kissimmee Express (Orange County/Osceola County) – Eliminate service.



ROUTE ADJUSTMENTS

·         Link 1 – Winter Park/Altamonte Springs (Orange County/Seminole County) – Routing from Altamonte Mall will operate via SR 436, Westmonte Drive to Wymore Road. Minor schedule changes.        

·         Link 18 – S. Orange Ave./Kissimmee (Orange County/Osceola County) – Extend route into Meadow Woods SunRail Station. Minor schedule changes.

·         Link 103 – North 17-92/Sanford (Seminole County) – Change morning routing to operate via Bush Boulevard to serve the John E. Polk Correctional Facility.

·         Link 306 – Poinciana/Disney Springs (Orange County/Osceola County) – Extend route into Poinciana SunRail Station. Change evening route to operate via Seralago Boulevard and U.S. 192 to Poinciana Boulevard. Minor schedule changes.

·         FastLink 418 – Florida Mall/Meadow Woods/Lake Nona (Orange County) – Eliminate service along Sand Lake Road, Orange Avenue and to the Sand Lake SunRail Station. Operate via Orange Blossom Trail and Wetherbee Road, extend into Meadow Woods SunRail Station. Minor schedule changes.

·         NeighborLink 604 – Intercession City/Campbell City (Osceola County) – Extend route into Poinciana SunRail Station. Change time point from Orange Blossom Trail/Pleasant Hill Road to Poinciana SunRail Station. Minor schedule changes. Adding additional trips to meet evening SunRail trains.

·         NeighborLink 631 – Buena Ventura Lakes (Osceola County) – Extend route into Tupperware SunRail Station. Eliminate time point at Valencia College Osceola Campus and change to Tupperware SunRail Station. Minor schedule changes. Adding additional service to meet early morning SunRail trains.

·         NeighborLink 632 – North Kissimmee (Osceola County) – Extend route into Tupperware SunRail Station. Eliminate service to Kissimmee Intermodal Station. Eliminate time point at Valencia College Osceola Campus and change to Tupperware SunRail Station. Minor schedule changes. Add additional service to meet early morning SunRail trains.



SCHEDULE ADJUSTMENTS

·         Link 15 – Curry Ford Road (Orange County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

·         Link 23 – Winter Park/Springs Plaza (Orange County/Seminole County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

·         Link 26 – Pleasant Hill Road/Poinciana (Osceola County) – Adding 5:10 a.m. and 5:40 a.m. trips from Poinciana Walmart to Kissimmee Intermodal Station on weekdays. Minor schedule adjustments.

·         Link 34 – Sanford (Orange County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

·         Link 42 – International Drive/Orlando International Airport (Orange County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

·         Link 45 – Lake Mary (Seminole County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

·         Link 46W – W. SR 46/Seminole Towne Center (Seminole County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

·         Link 104 – East Colonial Drive (Orange County) – Minor schedule adjustments

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

·         Link 426 – Poinciana Circulator (Osceola County/Polk County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

·         Link 434 – SR 434 Crosstown (Seminole County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

·         Link 436N – SR 436 Crosstown (Orange County/Seminole County) – Minor schedule adjustments.

·         NeighborLink 652 – Maitland Center (Orange County) – Minor schedule adjustments.



Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Lynx can make Poinciana SunRail a winner

Will the Poinciana SunRail station be a winner or a loser? Making it easy for people to get to the train station is key, and Lynx plays a big role in that equation.

The experience of the last four years has shown that the end of the line stations – DeBary and Sand Lake Road – have been two of the busiest in the SunRail system. DeBary – the only SunRail station in Volusia County gets passengers from the Votran bus system. The Sand Lake Station in south Orlando is supported by 6 Lynx bus routes.

Bus loop at the Poinciana train station


At this writing, the bus situation is not nearly so bright for the nearly completed Poinciana station. That station at the intersection of Old Tampa Highway and Poinciana Blvd. is in Osceola County, relatively close to Polk County.

In case you’ve never been there, the Poinciana station that will become the southern end of the line for SunRail is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. (OK there is a Home Depot, a soft-drink bottling plant, a Wawa and an ice-cream-stand nearby.)

What concerns us is that currently the Poinciana station will be served only by Neighborhood Link 604. That bus circulates mainly in the Intercession City and Campbell City area near the station. As it is a Neighborhood Link you must call 2 hours in advance to arrange for pick up.

Under a contract with Polk County, Lynx will provide the only bus (Link 416) for Polk County residents to reach SunRail. That bus (Link 416) will carry people from Haines City to the Lynx Super Stop at the Poinciana Walmart. At the Super Stop, riders would transfer to Link 26 to take them to the intermodal station in downtown Kissimmee where people can catch SunRail, Lynx, Greyhound, and Amtrak.

The problem is that neither SunRail or Lynx offers service that is convenient to use.

Blame the local, state and federal elected officials because there is no dedicated source of funding to subsidize our local public transit – Lynx and SunRail.

All public transit throughout the world relies on government subsidies. Passenger fares only pay about 30 percent of the operating costs. Roads, highways and even airlines rely on government subsidies.

Until politicians find the courage to provide adequate funding a reliable people who rely on public transit will continue to receive janky service.

There is some good news. Currently, Osceola County, Lynx and the state Department of Transportation are discussing the possibility of offering additional Lynx bus service to connect more people to the Poinciana SunRail station.

What other changes would you like to see Lynx make in Osceola to make better use of SunRail?