The Poinciana Economic Development Alliance meets at the Poinciana Community Center on April 4. (Photo by Michael Freeman).
POINCIANA – In Poinciana, Wendy Farrell notes, residents will definitely ride the Lynx buses that travel through the community.
So many people, in fact, that Lynx has seen a spike in the number of local people riding these buses, she added.
‘’We have two of the largest routes that have seen an increase in ridership,” Farrell said.
Now the community is facing another challenge – how to actually expand that bus service so that more people can take advantage of it.
And that’s particularly true of the Polk County side of Poinciana, which Farrell said is under-served by public transportation options, even though the villages on this side have more than 30,000 residents.
Farrell is a member of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, a group working to bring more jobs, businesses, social services and economic development projects to Poinciana, the community of 10 villages in Osceola and Polk counties. That also includes boosting quality of life options like public transportation.
With more than 84,000 residents, Farrell said, a lot of local residents rely on other means of transportation than a car. Lynx, the public transportation agency that services Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties, has daily fixed-route local bus service, and their ridership is up by 20 percent.
At the same time, Lynx is operating under a deficit and needs more revenue to close that a $3 million gap. Farrell, who is also the chairman of the Poinciana Area Council – a group of local business owners – has been encouraging businesses in Poinciana to advertise on the Lynx buses to help the agency’s revenue stream.
Lynx not only operates on the Osceola County side of Poinciana, taking residents from the Wal-Mart off Cypress Parkway to the Osceola Mall, but also on the Polk County side, providing an improved transportation option to the residents there as well.
But the alliance wants to make sure that bus service keeps operating.
Pastor Henry Vernon, a member of PEDA, said he spent a lot of time in past years convincing Osceola County leaders to invest more in public transportation options for local residents who can’t afford a car – a decent number, considering all the people who work in the local tourism and hospitality industries at starting salaries close to the minimum wage.
Without that bus service, he said, many of them would find it difficult to get to work – or to shop, visit the doctor, or do other tasks.
“Public transportation came to Osceola County because I brought it in here,” Vernon said.
Now, he added, it’s time to push for the same thing in Polk County. Vernon said Poinciana’s Polk County residents need to start being vocal to their county leaders in Bartow that they need better bus service in this corner of the county.
“There is a way to make it happen in Polk,’’ he said. ‘’But I don’t want to go into Polk County and beat up anybody. I want to be a friend.’’
Farrell said the Lynx system will play an important role in Poinciana’s future when the state finishes construction on a station for the SunRail commuter rail line. It starts in Debary in Volusia County, then goes into downtown Orlando before continuing into Osceola County, stopping at the intersection of Poinciana Boulevard and Orange Blossom Trail in Poinciana.
Poinciana’s Polk County residents, Farrell said, are farther away from that SunRail station, so an expanded bus route could help get them there. Right now, she said, the bus lines on the Polk County side of Poinciana mainly go to the local schools.
‘’It does go around by Palmetto Elementary and Chestnut Elementary,’’ she said.
But more routes are needed, said Jeff Goldmacher, a member of PEDA.
“There’s no regular bus lines to go down there,’’ he said.
Nick Murdock, the chairman of PEDA, said the counties should consider investing in more than just expanded bus lines.
‘’I know we need some better bus shelters here,’’ he said.
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