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