Please don't leave Lynx out in the cold

Dang. It’s a shame more Lynx bus riders didn’t participate in a recently completed survey of Orange County transportation needs.

Survey participants were asked to select their top 5 transportation priorities. The survey was conducted by Orange County to see where the public wants to spend money if voters in November approve a proposal to add 1-cent to the sales tax to pay for transportation improvements.

The good news is that “building a mass transit system (to include buses trains and other modes of transportation)” was ranked as the No. 1 priority.

That same priority list ranked improving Lynx service as No. 8.

Improving SunRail service ranked No. 4.

Priorities 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 focused on improving streets for vehicles.

County staff circulated the survey forms at a variety of meetings for months. The survey was widely publicized and could have been completed online.

Nearly 11,000 people completed the survey forms. Only 4 percent (about 440) of the survey participants ride Lynx daily. More than 70 percent said they never ride Lynx.

While it was gratifying to see that the overall idea of improving mass transportation ranked No. 1, much of the attention seemed to be focused on the shiny new thing – SunRail. The Lynx bus is not sexy, but necessary.

SunRail tends to carry more affluent Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 workers. There are few suits and ties on Lynx, which operates nearly 18 hours daily, 365 days of the year.

Lynx provides 60,000 rides daily, compared to SunRail which provides 6,000 rides every day during its 5-day operating schedule.

Lynx is the spark plug that drives the local economy relied on by low-income hourly workers in Central Florida’s lucrative tourism, hospitality service industry.

Many Lynx riders do not earn enough money to buy or maintain a car. They endure hours on the bus to and from work. They typically wait 30 minutes to an hour for buses – sometimes without any protection from the sun and rain. Most change buses more than once to reach their destination.

Improving that service to make it more convenient and reduce travel time requires doubling the bus fleet from a little more than 300 to 600 or more buses; more staff; better designed routes, and the construction of express buses-only lanes on main thoroughfares.

While it’s disappointing that more Lynx riders didn’t participate in the survey it’s also understandable. Many riders work more than one job and crazy hours. They’ve also been ignored for so long that many may not think that their concerns count. Yet it’s important for riders to take every opportunity to make their voices heard.

We hope the county commissioners who will decide how money from a proposed transportation tax would be divided up understand that this survey is not a scientific poll.

We encourage commissioners to do their own research. Spend a few hours downtown at Lynx Central Station talking to riders and ride some buses (not for a photo opportunity, but for fact finding.)

Our community deserves a much better bus system than what we have today.


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