POINCIANA – It’s fairly common in cities like Orlando and Kissimmee for local residents who don’t have a car to walk to their nearest bus stop, and find a linked route to reach whatever destination they want to get to.
But as readily available as that service is for urban residents, it’s often much harder to find in rural areas.
And while Poinciana, with its 10 villages and large subdivisions like Solivita, may not seem like everyone’s concept of a rural area, this community of 84,000 residents has been waiting years for expanded bus service.
For residents who rely on public transportation – particularly on the Polk County side of Poinciana – the arrival of a new bus route connecting the community to the rest of Polk County is going to be greatly appreciated, said Keith Laytham.
“This is the first time ever we’ve had fixed bus service connecting Poinciana to the rest of Polk County, which is significant,” said Laytham. “Often times residents need to be able to get to the government offices in Winter Haven and Bartow, not to mention jury duty, and don’t have either a car or bus to get them there.”
Laytham lives in Solivita on the Polk County side of Poinciana, and although he has a car and a reliable means of transportation, as the president of the local civic group Poinciana Residents for Smart Change, he and other members have long pushed government leaders on both the Polk and Osceola County sides of the community to expand public transportation options here.
Now, that’s becoming a reality.
Tom Phillips, executive director of Polk Transit, the agency working to expand public transportation options in Polk County, just announced a new public transit service, Polk Transit Route 416.
This route will provide express services on Count Road 580 from Haines City to Poinciana, while also connecting riders to the bus system in Winter Haven on one end, and the Lynx bus system in Orlando on the other side.
“For the first time, residents of Polk County can travel to and from the greater Orlando market on public transit,” Phillips noted. “Lynx and Polk Transit day passes will be honored by each system, providing seamless access across the county line.”
This route means residents of the Haines City and Poinciana area in Northeast Polk will have connected access to Winter Haven, Lakeland, and the county seat in Bartow.
“The delegation from the Poinciana and Haines City area asked Polk Transit officials to provide public transit access to the county seat at the My Ride rollout earlier this year, and we have delivered with the creation of the Route 416,” Phillips noted.
Laytham said this new route will be a big help for Poinciana’s Polk County residents – more than 32,000 altogether.
“The 416 line, which is the route that Polk County just opened up connecting Poinciana to Haines City, is a fixed service route, which means they are regular-sized buses that go at special times in the day, and they pick up people at the Wal-Mart and go up Cypress Parkway into Haines City,” Laytham said. “Then from the Haines City location they can connect with buses to the Four Corners area south, and southwest over into the Winter Haven area, which connects to the rest of Polk County.”
The new Polk Transit Route 427, from Haines City into the Four Corners area along U.S. 27, is offering hourly service to locations that will include U.S. 17-92 in Davenport, Hinson Plaza, Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center, Posner Park, and Berry Town Center, Phillips noted.
This route, Phillips noted, would be “providing vital access to medical appointments, shopping, and employment opportunities.”
Both routes represent a significant step forward for Poinciana, Laytham said.
“To the best of my knowledge, it opens up for the first time a connection for us into the entire Polk County system, and the Central Florida system with Lynx,” he said. “When you look at the map and see where Poinciana is located, it is really the gateway between Polk County and the Orlando area. With this baby step, this establishes a precedent, that if it’s successful could lay the basis for future transportation expansions. That could include a vision that would consist of providing a public bus transit linkage between the residents of Poinciana-Polk County to the SunRail system, which would allow access into downtown Orlando.”
SunRail is a 61-mile light rail system now under construction. The first phase – which will run through Volusia, Seminole and Orange counties, with four stops in downtown Orlando – is expected to be operational by 2014.
The second phase will continue the route into Osceola County, with stops in downtown Kissimmee and Celebration, before ending at the Poinciana Industrial Park. That phase is expected to be completed by 2016.
The Poinciana Industrial Park is at the intersection of Poinciana Boulevard and Orange Blossom Trail, on the Osceola County side of the community.
Laytham said a fixed bus route could transport Poinciana-Polk residents to the SunRail station, giving them even more transportation options.
“About two years ago, for the first time ever, we got a pickup service,” he said. But that was not a fixed route, he added, while the new one is.
In addition, the City of Kissimmee just joined Osceola County and officials at Lynx to announce the proposed construction of the Lynx Multimodal Center in Kissimmee. Expected to open by the fall of 2013, the eight-bay transfer facility will have 17 bus routes passing through it.
“It means the opening up of transportation services to the rest of the world,” Laytham said. “We can now go anywhere within the Lynx system, but also they can go anywhere in Polk County within the Polk system.”
As Phillips noted, by connecting to Winter Haven, that city’s SMART shuttle — which stands for Save Money And Ridet Transit — provides dial-a-ride service within a two-mile radius of the Winter Haven Area Transit Terminal.
“At Polk Transit, we realize the need to continue to offer products and services that meet the need of everyone in Polk County,” Phillips noted.
To learn more, visit Find My Routes or Google “Transit” for route information online.
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