Monday, September 17, 2018

Lynx needs to improve coordination

Ever since SunRail started serving our community, people have asked if Lynx is coordinating its buses with SunRail.

Lynx and SunRail officials have repeatedly said that they are coordinating bus and train arrival times.

Coordination is the key to what transportation wonks call an “intermodal” system. In other words, a system where people can seamlessly transfer from one mode of transportation to another, such as from a bus to a train and vice versa.

Bus leaves right before SunRail arrives
Yet we have continued to hear Lynx riders complain that the bus they needed pulled out of the train station just before their train arrived.

For the first time this past Monday (Sept. 17) we decided to check it out for ourselves.

We arrived at the Sand Lake Road SunRail station before sunrise.

Lo and behold two buses pulled in. A couple of people got off. Then the buses left. As the buses pulled away we could hear the public address system on the platform announce that the next train was due in two minutes.

Two minutes later the train pulled in, but there were no buses waiting in the train station. To see it for yourself, click here.

Sand Lake Road is a major transfer point. It provides bus links to Orlando International Airport; the Sand Lake Road business corridor; International Drive where many people in the hospitality-industry work, and other destinations in south and east Orlando county.

We saw the cycle of the bus leaving before the train pulled in two more times at Sand Lake Road on Monday.

No one should look at this article and conclude that everything is screwed up between Lynx and SunRail. We observed operations for less than an hour at one train station.

What we observed though, shows there is room for improvement.

We don’t think the bus drivers should take the blame for what we saw. Who knows if the bus drivers even know the SunRail train schedule. Indeed, bus drivers have their own bus schedule to keep.

We know that Lynx managers are always working to fine-tune their routes and schedules. That process takes time.

A quick fix for what we observed might be to post a Lynx dispatcher at Sand Lake Road (and other major transfer points) during critical travel periods – especially during the morning rush hours – and give that dispatcher the authority to hold a bus for a minute or two if a train is only a minute or two from arriving.

Realistically three things need to happen to improve Lynx and SunRail service.
·        Voters need to elect local, state and federal officials who are dedicated to improving public transit in Metro Orlando.
·        Merge Lynx and SunRail into a single public transit system.
·        Provide money to add 400 buses to the Lynx fleet (more buses and drivers means improved service for riders). Fund a full-service SunRail so the trains run more frequently and provide train service on the weekends, holidays and late at night.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

How Lynx is helping non-profits

Organizations that support children, animals and civic pride will be among the eight non-profit agencies featured on the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX) 2018-19 Public Service Bus.

Seminole County Commissioner and LYNX Board Chairman Lee Constantine and LYNX Chief Executive Officer Edward L. Johnson will unveil the bus 2 p.m. Sept. 6. The event will be held at the Cranes Roost Park Eddie Rose Amphitheater located at 274 Cranes Roost Blvd., Altamonte Springs.

All organizations will receive free exposure by having their logos placed on a LYNX bus traveling Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties for the next 12 months. Each winner was selected in a random drawing of 40 applicants with 501(c)(3) status and operate on budgets of less than $1.5 million annually.
LYNX 2018-19 Public Service Bus Contest Winners:

·        ASD Adult Achievement Center of Seminole County provides services to adults with autism. The Altamonte Springs organization has programs to help young adults develop social skills, executive function skills, job readiness skills and independent life skills as they transition into independent life.
·        Children’s Safety Village of Central Florida mission is to prevent injuries and fatalities of children through lifesaving education, advocacy, and leadership. Based in Orlando children learn about fire, water, traffic, pedestrian, bicycle, 911, internet and other safety skills in a realistic setting.
·        Come out with Pride is an annual parade and festival at Lake Eola bringing together and celebrating the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.
·        Crossroads Corral of Sanford provides equine-assisted mental health counseling to Veterans who suffer from PTSD and their families, youth and women who have suffered trauma, abuse, and neglect. Their mission is to promote personal growth, hope, and healing through horses.
·        Just Our Soldiers' Helpers (J.O.S.H.) from Lake Mary increases the morale of deployed U.S. service members by preparing and shipping care packages consisting of snacks/food or high- quality hygiene products.
·        Latino Leadership of Orlando teaches leadership development, educational advancement, and economic development. Most recently they served 8,500 families impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Are they autism?
·        Lovey Loaves in Orlando is a special needs dog rescue devoted to saving and rehabilitating dogs that have been dealt different circumstances such as amputation, blindness, deafness or those suffering from disease, illness or injuries.
·        SNiP-it of Central Florida operates a high volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic. Based in Kissimmee they help pet owners have healthier, happier pets and also reduce the number of unwanted litters and animals entering shelters.

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Lynx bus shuffle

Say goodbye to Lynx Express 208.

For the past 4 years, Express 208 shuttled passengers between the Lynx Intermodal Station in Kissimmee and the Sand Lake Road SunRail station.

Next Monday (July 30) the 208 is going away because it’s being replaced by the SunRail station. Next week SunRail trains will be providing service down to the Kissimmee Intermodal Station. The Lynx express bus service will no longer be needed. As a reminder, all bets are off on the weekend because SunRail does not run on Saturdays and Sundays.

One other noteworthy Lynx service change involves the Fastlink 418 that many people rely on to reach the Veterans Affairs hospital in Lake Nona. Until now, it was common for people headed to the VA hospital to catch SunRail to Sand Lake Road where they could pick up the 418.

However, as part of Lynx periodic reshuffling of routes to maximize resources and prepare for expanded SunRail service -- as of July 15 -- the 418 no longer stops at the Sand Lake Road SunRail station.

To deal with this change, people must get off SunRail at the Sand Lake Road station to catch the Link 11 to Orlando International Airport where they catch the Fastlink 407 to the VA hospital in Lake Nona. Making these transitions between the bus and train can be tricky because there’s barely one or two minutes to get from one to the other. A little more timing coordination on the service changes at SunRail and Lynx would have been appreciated.

Starting next Monday (July 30), folks will be able to take SunRail straight to the Meadow Woods station where they can catch the 418 and continue to the VA hospital.

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