Lynx riders were the big losers when the bus CEO resigned
Lynx bus CEO Edward Johnson is gone, but not forgotten.
Though Johnson had some shortcomings, we believe that he tried his best to improve public transit for thousands of Central Floridians.
Ultimately, Johnson’s departure will hurt riders the most. It could take six months or more before a permanent replacement is selected, and then that person faces a learning curve to understand the system and all the political players.
Much has been said about the $21 million deficit at Lynx, we think it’s important to note the technology innovations the bus system added under Johnson’s leadership to improve the rider experience.
· Mobile-fare collection (paying with your smartphone)
· Real-time bus tracking app
· Free wi-fi on all the buses
As for the $21 million deficit – that’s what happens when you try to provide transit service to a sprawling metro area when your agency is catastrophically underfunded and doesn’t have enough people, equipment or other critical resources.
In an interview last year, Johnson described some of the things Lynx needs to improve service. To see that interview, .
Despite these shortcomings, Lynx provides roughly 83,000 rides daily, compared to SunRail, which provides 5,300 rides daily on weekdays. Lynx has 300 buses to serve three counties. By comparison, the Orange County public school district has 900 buses to serve one county.
Point your fingers as much as you want at Johnson, he was not the problem. The problem is that Central Florida’s elected officials have neglected Lynx for decades.
Lynx riders have been neglected because most of them don’t have a choice because they can’t afford a car. Many ride the bus for almost two hours on the way to work and two hours on the way back home.
Neither Lynx nor SunRail, have a dedicated source of funding to subsidize the cost of service. Almost every public transit system in the world (THE WORLD!) needs to subsidize the cost of service. Taxpayers subsidize all transportation systems and services from the street outside your house, to the airlines.
Every year Lynx officials go hat in hand to local governments to beg for money to keep things rolling. They get the bare minimum, which is why Lynx is always limping along.
Lynx needs a reliable source of funding that could come from a penny sales tax or surcharge on car rentals – two possible sources.
It’s up to our elected officials to demonstrate political courage to embrace a dedicated source of funding to provide Lynx with the resources it needs.
Without a dedicated funding source, the next Lynx chief will be on a fool’s errand doomed to suffer the same fate as Edward Johnson.
Either that or the next Lynx chief will be forced to eliminate many routes and reduce the frequency of buses to cut costs.
The community deserves more, not less public transportation.