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Central Florida's Lynx public bus system should be running SunRail.
That notion may seem off the wall, but it makes sense because Lynx is in the mass transit business, and the Florida Department of Transportation -- which built and oversees SunRail -- is in the road-building business. Those are two different disciplines.
FDOT is top-notch when it comes to building roads. They're engineers. They care about things, but they're not exactly warm and fuzzy when it comes to caring about living and breathing people.
A couple of weeks ago there was a tragic situation at SunRail when early in the morning a dead body was found on the tracks near the Sanford station. Public address systems announced that SunRail service was canceled for the morning. "We apologize for the inconvenience," the announcer added.
We were flabbergasted. They apologized "for the inconvenience" as though it was no big deal.
Lynx would not have done that, regardless of the sad circumstances. Lynx knows that people need to get to work. To their credit, SunRail did resume service that morning. But why did SunRail think that canceling service for the morning was an acceptable option?
Customer service at SunRail is a joke. When SunRail launched they had station Ambassadors to answer questions from riders. But SunRail got rid of the Ambassadors so there's no one to talk to face to face when you have a question. Good going SunRail!
At Lynx Central Station in downtown Orlando there are Lynx representatives who answer questions and sell bus passes. Oh, and did we mention that the customer service booth is in the bus system's air-conditioned passenger lobby. That's right, air-conditioned -- something to think about the next time you're standing under the skimpy canopy on a SunRail platform in the blazing sun, or a driving rain.
In addition, Lynx has a platoon of supervisors in marked cars who patrol the bus routes and answer bus rider questions. When SunRail failed a few weeks ago and announced service was canceled for the morning, it was a Lynx supervisor who led a convoy of buses to rescue stranded SunRail riders. Lynx runs 7 days a week, albeit operates abbreviated service on the weekends. SunRail provides 4,200 rides daily. Lynx provides 105,000 rides daily. And as we all know, SunRail doesn't run on the weekends, or much during the middle of the day.
SunRail is new and sexy. Lynx is not.
The overwhelming majority of people on Lynx ride because they don't have a choice. They can't afford a car, of for one reason or another, they can't drive. It takes a long time to get from Point A to Point B on Lynx because their bus fleet is too small. Lynx has 299 buses to serve Orange, Osceola, Seminole and portions of Polk and Volusia counties. Lynx really needs about 700 buses to provide more convenient service. The problem is that Lynx doesn't get enough funding, but that's a story for another day.
Central Florida won't get the mass transit it deserves until bus and rail service is being managed under one roof. Clearly Lynx knows more, and cares more, about mass transit than our friends at FDOT.
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