ORLANDO – The Lynx bus system is launching a study on how to provide better transit services along the busy U.S. 192 corridor – a prelude to possibly getting federal funds to help support more bus routes on that tourism highway.
It comes at a time when, perhaps due to the weakened economy, more Central Floridians are riding the Lynx bus system, said John Lewis Jr., the CEO of the public transportation agency in Orlando.
“Ridership continues to exceed expectations,” he said.
At the same time, Lynx is looking for ways to meet the needs of families who increasingly are relying on bus service to get them where they need to go. That’s why Lynx is now conducting a study on ways to bring more transit options to the U.S. 192 corridor, which covers four counties – Lake, Orange, Osceola and Polk.
“The U.S. 192 Alternatives Analysis continues on track,” Lewis told the members of the Lynx board of directors during its meeting on Thursday at the Lynx headquarters in downtown Orlando.
Matthew Friedman, the manager of public relations at Lynx, said the study began earlier this month, and is required by the federal government before the agency can apply for money to implement any enhanced services plan.
“Everyone is figuring out what to do on (U.S.) 192,” he said. “It’s a partnership with Lynx and 192, because they want to figure out what transportation solutions to have on the corridor. This is not just about public transit, but also how to improve transportation options along 192.”
U.S. 192 runs from the Kissimmee/St. Cloud area, down past Celebration into Four Corners, where the highway ends at U.S. 27 which continues on into Polk and Lake counties.
Although the section around Four Corners continues to experience new business development, the areas closer to Kissimmee have fallen on hard times, and this section is plagued by a high number of vacant, abandoned buildings. The area is also known to have a lot of families living in extended stay motel rooms because they can’t afford to get into an apartment or rented home.
Friedman said in order to apply for federal money that could be used to bring more bus routes to the residents along U.S. 192, the alternatives analysis study is required, which is why Lynx started the study two weeks ago.
“Basically it’s an insurance policy,” he said. “If we don’t do the study, we can’t get the federal dollars.”
Right now, Lynx has two bus routes that operate on U.S. 192, the 55 bus and the 56 bus.
Jeffrey Jones, Osceola County’s strategic initiatives director, said the alternatives analysis is being done at the same time that Osceola County is looking for ways to improve the entire U.S. 192 corridor, through a West 192 Economic Advisory Committee appointed by the commissioners that meets once a month, and is formulating a long range plan of action.
The Lynx analysis, he said, enables Osceola County to work with the agency on a long-term and coordinated effort that brings improved transportation options into the mix.
“They are coming back to the West 192 corridor, but also to the east side of 192, and looking at how they enhance the transit on that corridor,” Jones said. “And it can take increasing the frequency of bus service, or the quality of the buses in the area, or moving to streetcars or light rail, that they need to look at. We met with them earlier this week, and talked about how do we coordinate our master plans so we’re not working at cross purposes.’’
But there’s no question, he added, that providing residents from Four Corners to Kissimmee with more options for public transportation will be a strong investment in the corridor’s future.
“If there’s a vision for the corridor, it involves not only looking at land uses and densities and mixes, but whatever vision is selected by the residents and the businesses out on that corridor, and that transit will support that vision,” Jones said. “It’s a good thing they’re doing, but it’s going to take a very high level of coordination between both sides.”
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