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.
Don’t blame the Lynx drivers or the Lynx managers. They’re doing the best they can with ridiculously limited resources.
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.
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