LAKELAND – Keith Laytham is hoping that he can convince a lot of Poinciana residents to take a trip to Lakeland on Wednesday, around mid-afternoon.
Considering how geographically large Polk County is, that probably sounds like a long drive to some.
But even if that’s the case, Laytham is still hoping as many of his neighbors as possible can take the time out of their schedule to visit the Lakeland Campus of Polk State University at 3 p.m. on Wednesday for an important reason: to let their voices be heard about the possible future of transportation in Poinciana.
“This is important for Poinciana,” he said.
Laytham is the president of Poinciana Resident for Smart Change, a civic group working to improve the community of 84,000 residents that cuts across both Polk and Osceola counties. Laytham lives on the Polk side of Poinciana, at the Solivita development, and there are 31,000 people living on the Polk side of the community – but the public transportation options there are very limited.
On Wednesday, Polk Transit, a county agency working to develop improved transportation options, will unveil its long term transit proposal for the entire county ,including Poinciana. The program will be from 3-5 p.m. at the campus at 3433 Winter Lake Road in Lakeland.
What’s unique about this, Laytham said, is that only one non-urban community will have its own new transportation plan and visioning.
“They will unveil their vision of transportation in Polk County and what they’re offering,” Laytham said. “What’s significant about this is the only non-city community that is being included is Poinciana.”
Tom Phillips, the executive director of the Lakeland Area Mass Transit District and Polk Transit, agreed, saying he’s hopeful that a lot of Poinciana residents will turn out at Wednesday’s meeting to demonstrate their support for this proposal.
“We are hoping for a good turn out from the east side of the county,” he said via email. “Poinciana is the only non-municipal area to receive a specific recommendation.”
The agency has been trying to learn more about what local residents – including the residents of the Polk County side of Poinciana – need in terms of public transportation options. The 31,000 residents living on the Polk County side of Poinciana now have two pick up bus routes, the 601 and 603.
Many of the residents, Laytham included, have argued that they certainly could use more.
Polk County funds the pickup route 603, operated by Lynx, and that pickup line has provided 13,295 passenger trips to the residents of Poinciana in the last 12 months.
The route is funded through a Job Access Reverse Commute grant from the Federal Transit Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation in the amount of $343,806, with an in-kind match from Polk County of $343,806.
Polk Transit is now developing a new fixed-route service that will connect the residents of Poinciana with Haines City via State Road 580. That route is expected to start in September, allowing residents of Poinciana to connect to the Winter Haven Area Transit Route 15, providing access to routes in that city and Bartow, Lakeland and Lake Wales.
That service will be paid for by a FTA grant of $333,810, with a matching amount from Polk County commissioners.
Polk Transit is also working with Osceola County to provide continued service throughout Poinciana, where the 10 villages cross both counties.
Laytham said the fact that Poinciana got merited for its own new plan at the transportation unveiling shows that letting your voice be heard can definitely have an impact.
“They have plans for Winter Haven and Bartow,” Laytam said. “The only non-city that’s included in this is Poinciana, and I think it’s an honor. I think the voices of the community are starting to be heard.”
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