POINCIANA – When the civic group Poinciana Residents for Smart Change holds its monthly meeting in August, they’re looking to get as much information as possible on one subject: buses.
More specifically, the members want to know what the two counties that host Poinciana’s 10 villages can do to get more bus service here.
That meeting will be held on Monday, Aug. 20, and will put the Lynx bus system – which now provides routes on both the Osceola and Polk County sides of Poinciana – in the spotlight.
John Lewis, who runs the Lynx system, has agreed to speak at the meeting.
“We’re having the CEO for Lynx coming to our next PRSC meeting on August 20 so we can tell him what we need – face to face,” said Annette Brown-Best, a member of the civic group that’s working to improve the community of more than 84,000 residents.
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 a $3 million gap. 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. Right now, the 31,000 residents living on the Polk County side of Poinciana have two pick up bus routes, the 601 and 603, but certainly could use more, Brown-Best said.
Polk County funds the pickup route 603, operated by Lynx, and it 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.
Brown-Best said she hopes this month’s meeting helps underscore the strong need for more public transportation options in a community where a high unemployment rate has meant more families unable to afford a car.
“I’ve been asking for increased bus service for a long time now,” she said.
In July, PRSC hosted Tom Phillips, the executive director of Polk Transit, a county agency working to develop improved transportation options. Getting a Lynx representative to meet with local residents is also going to help outline the community’s future transportations needs and options, said Keith Laytham, the president of PRSC.
“There are a lot more long and short term Poinciana issues with Lynx than Polk (County), so it should be an even more interesting meeting,” Laytham said. “Lynx is a much bigger operation than what Tom Phillips runs, so the Lynx issues are much tougher.”
Jeff Goldmacher, a Poinciana business owner and member of the non-profit group Poinciana Economic Development Alliance – which is working to bring more jobs and businesses to the community – said having a strong public transportation system is vital to any economically healthy community.
Getting government leaders in both Osceola and Polk to work together on this, he said, is going to be an important long term goal.
“At least now they have their eyes open to the fact that Poinciana is a community in need,” Goldmacher said.
And while most of the Lynx bus service is mainly on the Osceola County side of Poinciana, the 31,000 residents on the Polk side need more bus options as well, he added.
“They need to work with the transportation departments in Polk County so we can bring service to the three villages in Polk that really need more transportation,” Goldmacher said. That’s particularly true, he said, when it comes to giving Poinciana residents better access to shopping plazas like Posner Park on U.S. 27 in Davenport, which offers both shopping and employment opportunities, he said.
Although Lynx provides bus service to The Loop shopping plaza on the Osceola Parkway near Kissimmee, it doesn’t take Poinciana residents to U.S. 27, he added.
“There’s so much development on (U.S.) 27 now,” he said. “Those (Poinciana-Polk) residents shouldn’t be on an island. They should have access to both The Loop and to Posner Park.”
Goldmacher also thinks the counties should form alliances with private businesses, so the two sides can work together to bring about more transportation options.
“There was ways to partner with private industry to get this done,” he said.
The PRSC meeting will be held at the Poinciana Public Library on Doverplum Avenue, starting at 7 p.m.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.