ORLANDO – With any city, greatness comes from a variety of elements that all make an urban area attractive, from cultural opportunities to appealing housing to a convenient transportation infrastructure.
One thing that should also be added into the mix is a first class public transportation system that enables those without a car to stay mobile and get where they need to go, several city residents told the board of directors for Lynx, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Agency.
That kind of expansive service simply doesn’t exist today, several residents told the board members when they met at the Lynx office on Garland Avenue in downtown Orlando. And without it, they said, this city simply won’t have as great a future.
In a time of rising gas prices and an unemployment rate that’s forced some families to abandon their car, bus ridership is up – way up, said John Lewis Jr., the CEO of Lynx.
“People are turning to public transit in droves,” he said. “Our ridership is through the roof.”
That reflects the weak economy, some of the public speakers noted – but they also said Lynx simply doesn’t have enough routes to accommodate all the people who are increasingly relying on a bus transit system to get around.
“It’s no secret that Florida is growing at an incredible rate,” said Orlando resident James Quill. “But so is Orlando. What we need is a bus service that can cater to the needs of working people and young professionals.”
Quill, who is a student, said not enough routes take students from the University of Central Florida to downtown, and give them opportunities for jobs, entertainment or recreation.
”What we need is more dedicated funding,” he said.
Orlando resident Mark Billings said he relies on Lynx to get to work, and without it would have a huge problem.
“I am a full time bus rider on Lynx,” he said. “But I’ve found schedules and routing that is way out of hand.”
Another Orlando resident, Paul Heroux, said the city should do all that it can to create the best possible public transit system, particularly since Orlando brings thousands of visitors to Central Florida.
“We are a tourist area,” he said. “All of us in Orlando should think of Lynx as our system, even if we don’t ride it anymore. We should take pride in our system.”
Billings also said Lynx should seek, and strongly consider, the views of its riders, and assist them by regularly advertising the public hearings that the board of directors hold.
“These meetings need to be advertised better,” he said. “These meetings also need to be held in the areas being affected. It is simple for Lynx to have a liaison at peak times to hand out flyers about the meetings.”
Because as the national and local economy continues to struggle, Billings said, more families will be forced to turn to a bus as their only means of transportation.
“Gas is $3.50 a gallon,” he said. “A lot of people would use public transportation if it’s feasible.”
Carlton Henley, chairman of the Lynx board, said he firmly believes Lynx is doing the best it can with limited resources.
“We all had the same goal in mind, and that was to provide the best bus service we can,” he said. “And the best is yet to come, I truly believe that.”
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