Our elected officials should be blamed for the Lynx deficit

No one should be surprised by the recent TV news story reporting that Lynx has a $21 million deficit.

That’s the inevitable outcome when you have a fast-growing 3-county metropolitan region served by an underfunded, poorly equipped public bus system.

Our elected officials – local, state and federal – have ignored Lynx for decades. They’ve never given Lynx the resources it needs and that riders deserve. Now the suits are acting surprised.

The best suggestion some people have come up with to address the problem is laying off drivers and cutting routes.


Anyone suggesting cutbacks is both an idiot, and an elitist!

Maybe those Lynx critics don’t ride the bus, but tens of thousands do every day.

For the record: Lynx provides 83,000 rides daily.

Lynx serves Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties with about 300 buses. By comparison, the Orange County school district has 900 buses to serve one county.

Lynx needs more drivers, more buses and more routes – not fewer.

The overwhelming majority of people who ride Lynx use it because they don’t have a choice. They don’t have a car and can’t afford one. Many spend two hours or more every day on trips to and from work, school, doctors office and such.

Most of the riders are working people – employed in the low-paying service industry that drives Central Florida’s tourism economy. They are voters and taxpayers and they deserve better.

Many walk a mile or more to reach a Lynx bus stop and must make multiple transfers to reach their destination. There are many important destinations – such as Orlando-Sanford International Airport -- that can’t be reached on a Lynx bus.

We won’t even discuss how long passengers wait – often without shelter from the sun and rain – for their bus to arrive.

The first thing some people want to do is blame the deficit problem on Lynx CEO Edward Johnson. Who knows maybe the Lynx board will throw Johnson over the side because of this deficit. But guess what? Lynx bus service will continue to suck and struggle financially!

Johnson didn’t cause the crisis. The factors leading up to this situation existed well before Johnson took over the agency. They are beyond his authority to fix.

Unlike most other transit agencies throughout the nation, Lynx does not have a dedicated funding source, to help pay for the service. (SunRail doesn’t have a dedicated funding source either and will soon be facing the same budget problem in 2 years when the Florida Department of Transportation turns over that rail system to local governments to run.)

A dedicated funding source could be a penny sales tax; a surcharge on rental cars (Orlando is the nation’s largest rental-car market), or a slice of the expressway authority tolls.

No public transit system can support its operations solely from the fare box. Typically, a public transit system can get about 30 percent of its operating money from the fare box.

It is the responsibility of our elected officials to provide that funding source to subsidize our public transit. Politicians don’t want to touch it so they won’t be blamed for a tax, but if they’re too timid to make the tough decisions, then they need to quit so we can elect people who will.

Without a subsidy, people would have to pay $15 per ride on some Lynx routes. That’s obviously too much for service workers who bring $300 or less weekly.

Let’s not forget that all transportation -- from the airlines to the street outside your house -- is supported by taxpayer subsidies.

Public transit is a service just like the police and fire departments, which are also expensive to run. Unlike police and fire, public transit does generate some income through the fare box. As noted earlier, public transit plays a major role in our local economy.

Instead of a steady source that can be counted on, every year Lynx managers must beg local governments for financial support. Lynx never gets the amount needed to create a robust, convenient bus system. Now we have a crisis. Thanks for nothing!

Time for our local, state and federal elected officials to pull up their big-boy and big-girl pants and give Lynx and its riders the financial support they have always needed.


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