Tag Archives: LYNX Orlando

Summer Service Changes – PSTA, HART, LYNX, SunRail, Votran

It’s that time again…service changes, service changes, service changes!

In this post, I will outline some of the key changes that are coming to the following transit agencies: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (d.b.a. LYNX), SunRail Commuter Rail, & Volusia County Transit (Votran).

Please note that with some of the agencies, further detailed information may not be available immediately as of this posting. Updates will be made when that information becomes available. This post is meant to present a general level overview of some of the key changes that will be enacted during the course of the next two months.

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)

PSTA is enacting several map/scheduling/time point changes on Sunday, June 17, 2018, which can be viewed on the PSTA website. The most significant changes however will take place the following day, Monday, June 18, 2018 – when Routes 100X & 300X will be officially re-launched as extended versions of their current selves. This will allow both routes to each serve a key area in the Tampa Bay region that wasn’t previously served by a PSTA express bus route.

  • Route 100X – St. Petersburg/Gateway/Tampa Express: Thanks to additional Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Urban Corridor Project funding, the 100X will be extended southward to serve Downtown St. Petersburg via Interstate 275. All existing points (Gateway Mall, Britton Plaza in South Tampa, and Downtown Tampa) will continue to be served as they are today, with the limited trips to the Fidelity National (FIS) complex on Roosevelt Blvd & 16th Ct N being kept. The overall span of service within the existing route will largely remain the same, but adjustments to the schedule have been made to account for the Downtown St. Petersburg leg, thus creating an expansion to the overall span of service when the extension is accounted for.
    • The redesigned Route 100X will continue to operate Monday through Friday only, but will have a peak-hour frequency of roughly every 45 to 50 minutes, instead of the current 30 to 60 minute frequency. The midday trips have also been re-timed.
    • Buses will originate in Downtown St. Pete, at The Pier District (2nd Ave N, just east of the Sundial Shoppes where the Central Ave Trolley terminates), with the first trip of the morning departing at 4:42am.
    • From The Pier District, buses will circulate through the downtown area – serving all designated bus stops along the way – before entering the interstate system via I-375. Buses will then exit I-375 and enter I-275 north, then exiting at 54th Ave N.
    • From 54th Ave N, southbound/westbound buses travel along MLK St N while northbound/eastbound buses use 4th St N to enter/exit Gateway Mall.
    • From Gateway Mall eastward, the existing routing is used. The last trip from downtown St. Pete will be at 5:42pm.
  • Route 300X – Gateway/TPA Airport/Tampa Express (re-branded as the “Airport Express”): With the opening of the bus transfer hub at Tampa International Airport’s Rental Car Center, PSTA began formulating plans to alter Route 300X service while longer term plans for a direct express route from Clearwater Beach to Tampa continue to materialize. FDOT Urban Corridor funding will allow for the 300X to serve the TPA Airport Bus Hub on most trips while maintaining hourly peak service & the limited midday trips. Two trips (one AM eastbound & one PM westbound) will be kept as direct trips between the Ulmerton Rd Park-N-Ride Lot & Downtown Tampa via I-275. The overall span of service will remain largely the same – with a slightly earlier start time & somewhat later end time.
    • The redesigned Route 300X will continue to operate Monday through Friday only, with peak frequency changing to operate hourly versus the existing schedule. The midday trips have also been re-timed.
    • Buses will continue to originate at the Ulmerton Rd Park-N-Ride Lot on Ulmerton Rd, just east of Starkey Rd. The only major routing change is that most trips will now serve the TPA Airport Bus Hub, where customers from Pinellas can easily transfer to HART Routes 30, 32, 35, 60LX, & 275LX. Future plans also include Pasco Transit launching its own express route from central Pasco County to the bus hub.
    • The first eastbound trip of the morning will be at 6:10am, with the last trip being 6:20pm.
    • Only the 7:00AM Eastbound trip from the Ulmerton Rd Park-N-Ride Lot & the 4:55PM Westbound trip from HART’s Marion Transit Center will skip the airport. These trips will travel between Downtown Tampa and the Gateway area directly. These trips are being retained as direct trips to/from Downtown Tampa due to concerns from customers who use the existing 300X during the height of rush hour to get to/from work.
  • Other Changes: Minor map/scheduling/time point changes will be made to Routes 5, 7, 14, 15, 16, 20, 68, & the Dunedin/Palm Harbor Flex Connector (Route 813).

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART)

HART will be enacting similar changes to some of its bus routes on Sunday, July 1, 2018, which can be viewed on the HART website (Select the Routes drop-down menu and scroll to the “HART Service Changes – Effective 71/18” section to view maps and schedules). The most significant changes will include the replacement of Route 51LX with Route 275LX, the addition of Route 48 – which restores service to key areas of northeastern Hillsborough that was lost when Route 57 was eliminated in October, 2017, and the elimination of the Downtown Tampa In-Towner Trolley Services due to ultra-low ridership.

  • Route 14 – Armenia Ave: Weekday service will be completely re-timed to reflect traffic patterns during the day. Buses will now depart roughly every 30 to 35 minutes. Weekend frequency will remain unchanged.
  • Route 48 – Temple Terrace: One of the biggest complaints by far that I’ve seen since the Mission MAX system restructuring was implemented back in October of 2017 was the elimination of Route 57 through Temple Terrace. The 57 was eliminated due to lower ridership & high upkeep costs, but many residents complained that they were left with no avenue to get to work or other destinations in Hillsborough without the route in place. While these residents clamored for HART to revive the 57, the route in its previous form was not going to return due to certain areas having ultra-low ridership levels. However, talks for a replacement service to serve key areas where residents were left with no service begin gaining traction during the late winter of 2017, when Hillsborough County officials began discussing the possibility of additional funding for the transit system. While a recurring funding arrangement failed to be reached, a one-time infusion was agreed upon to provide additional funds for service maintenance and expansion through FY 2018.
    • The routing for the 48 will be similar to how the 57 operated, with buses originating at the NetPark Transfer Center on 56th St & Harney Rd. Buses will leave the transfer center going south on 56th to Harney Rd, then 78th St, Temple Terrace Hwy, Davis Rd, Morris Bridge Rd, and then Fowler Ave. The previous segment of the 57 along 56th St and Fletcher Ave will not be served by the 48 due to the 6 already serving those areas. 42nd St & Skipper Rd just north of the USF Tampa campus will also not be served by the 48. Buses will instead continue down Fowler Ave to 30th St, where they will connect to the University Area Transit Center.
    • Service will run hourly, with weekday service starting at 5:30AM & running through 9:30PM. Weekend service will pretty much mirror the weekday schedule.
  • Routes 51LX/275LX: Due to the continuing decline in ridership of Route 51LX, which runs from Pasco County to Downtown Tampa via Temple Terrace, HART will be eliminating the route entirely & replacing East Pasco to Downtown Tampa Limited Express service with Route 275LX. The 275LX will operate all week long instead of just during weekday peak hours with hourly frequency, plus service to Tampa International Airport. The agency is re-allocating its funds through the FDOT Urban Corridor Project to fund the 275LX service.
    • With the 275LX, buses will originate at the Wiregrass Park-N-Ride Lot in Wesley Chapel, then travel down Bruce B. Downs Blvd to the Lowe’s Park-N-Ride Lot near I-75 in Tampa Palms. From there, buses will make a stop at the University Area Transit Center via Bruce B. Downs Blvd, then to Downtown Tampa & the Marion Transit Center via Fowler Ave & I-275. The segment along Bruce B. Downs Blvd & Fowler Ave will essentially restore basic service to areas along these corridors that were lost when Route 45 was re-aligned & Route 57 was eliminated back in October, 2017.
    • From the Marion Transit Center, buses will re-enter I-275 and terminate at the Tampa International Airport Bus Hub at the Rental Car Center, with departures synchronizing with Route 60LX so that customers traveling between the airport & downtown can enjoy a roughly 30 minute headway. Service on the 275LX itself will be hourly, with service starting up at approximately 5:10AM & running through about 10:00PM. Two trips will originate at the Marion Transit Center going to Tampa International Airport & the other two will originate at the University Area Transit Center going to Wiregrass. In the evening, trips will stagger to end at either transit center between 9:50PM & 11:00PM. Weekend schedules will basically mirror the weekday schedule.
  • In-Towner Services: Due to the continuing decline in ridership, Routes 96 & 97 will be eliminated. Customers wishing to traverse through Downtown Tampa can utilize Routes 1, 8, or 19, with Routes 1 & 19 serving western Downtown & the Riverfront, & Route 8 serving eastern Downtown & the Channelside District. Customers can also use the Downtowner free shuttle service provided by the Tampa-Downtown Partnership. Talks are currently underway as to the possibility of the partnership transferring operation of the shuttle service to HART.
  • HyperLINK Service: Despite the initial success of the HyperLINK ride-share type program, various factors – including whether there would be future commitments to run the service by private sector vendors – have prompted HART to end the service. Service in all zones will wind down on July 31, 2018.
  • Other Changes: Minor map/scheduling/time point changes will be made to Routes 1, 25LX, 31, 42, & 45.

Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (d.b.a. LYNX) & SunRail Commuter Rail

In anticipation of the opening of Phase II of SunRail from Sand Lake Rd in southern Orlando to Poinciana, LYNX is making key changes to the bus network in Osceola County, along with changes to other routes in the overall network to improve system efficiency.

Despite the May 24, 2018 Board of Directors Meeting being cancelled, the service changes were approved. The original listing of service proposals are available on the LYNX website, with an update to be posted soon. Changes are slated to take effect on Sunday, July 15, 2018. The new SunRail schedule will be posted on the SunRail website as it gets closer to opening day for Phase II.

I will update this post as additional information becomes available.

Volusia County Transit (Votran)

Votran has an odd tendency to not post service changes in a very timely manner. With that said though, I am understanding that two new routes will be launched in around Monday, June 25, 2018. One will be a new fixed route (likely to be designated as Route 25) in the Deltona area, with a second fixed route serving the New Smyrna Beach area (likely to be designated as Route 44).

I will update this post as additional information becomes available.

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Transit Agency Service Status Post-Hurricane Irma

Updated on 9/18/17 at 6:15AM – THIS IS THE LAST UPDATE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE!!!

Please check the Florida Public Transportation Association website to find your area’s respective transit agency website.

Please be advised that due to the severe damage in the Florida Keys, Key West Transit will not be operating for the foreseeable future.


Service Status as of 9/18/17

Any transit agency that has not yet resumed full normal service is listed below.

  • Citrus Connection Polk County: Limited service will operate. View listing of operating routes.
  • Palm Tran: All services have been restored to normal operation, except Route 94, which will resume on a later announced date.
  • Miami-Dade Transit: All services have been restored to normal operation, except the following:
  • SunRail: Limited Trips – Please check the SunRail website.

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Legalese | Disclosures

LYNX April, 2017 Service Changes

The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (which does business as LYNX) will be enacting service changes on Sunday, April 30, 2017. These changes will largely comprise of scheduling adjustments, but four routes (links) will see some sort of routing change. You can access the revised schedules on the LYNX website and printed schedules will be distributed soon.


Routing Changes

  • Link 45 – Lake Mary (Seminole County) – All weekday trips will serve the Lake Mary SunRail station. Minor schedule adjustments will also be enacted.
  • Link 63 – LYMMO Orange-North Quarter (Orange County) – All trips will be extended to the LYNX Central Station via Amelia Street. This change will allow customers to access both Orange Line segments from the terminal. Additional stops will be added at LYNX Central Station, Orange Avenue/Amelia Street and Livingston Street/Orange Avenue.
  • Link 319 – Richmond Heights (Orange County) – Buses from LYNX Central Station will use Terry Avenue, South Street and Parramore Avenue. New stops will be added at Terry Avenue/Church Street.
  • Link 427 – U.S. 27/Haines City (Lake County/Orange County/Osceola County/Polk County) – The segment in downtown Haines City will be modified to operate along East Main Street between 5th and 10th instead of East Hinson Avenue. Bus stops will be added at East Main Street and 8th Street.

Scheduling Changes

  • Link 8 – West Oak Ridge Road/International Drive (Orange County) – Minor schedule adjustments will be enacted to improve efficiency. A trip from Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets at 9:05 p.m. will be added on Sundays.
  • Link 9 – Winter Park/Rosemont (Orange County) – The weekday 7:55 p.m. trip from Rosemont SuperStop will extend to Winter Park SunRail Station. The current 9:10 p.m. departure from Denning Drive/Webster Avenue will now start from the Winter Park SunRail Station at 8:45 p.m.
  • Link 37 – Pine Hills/Florida Mall (Orange County) – A trip will be added at 10 p.m. on Sundays from Florida Mall SuperStop.
    Link 107 – U.S. 441/Florida Mall (Orange County) – A trip will be added at 10 p.m. on Sundays from Florida Mall SuperStop.
  • Link 108 – South U.S. 441/Kissimmee (Orange County/Osceola County) – The Sunday 9:40 p.m. departure from Florida Mall SuperStop will be changed to 9:50 p.m.
  • FastLink 441 – Kissimmee/Downtown Orlando (Orange County/Osceola County) – Minor schedule adjustments will be enacted to improve efficiency. A new bus stop will be added at Orange Blossom Trail and Wetherbee Road.
  • Minor schedule adjustments will be enacted on Links 7, 13, 18, 20, 24, 26, 125, Xpress Link 208, Link 405, Link 443, and NeighborLink 622 to improve efficiency.

LYNX Central Station Bus Loading Bay Changes

Bus bay assignments at the LYNX Central Station will change accordingly to read the following:

  • Bay C – Link 63 LYMMO Orange Line-North Quarter
  • Bay D – Link 50
  • Bay E – Links 36 and 40
  • Bay M – Links 21, 54 and 441
  • Bay P – Link 107
  • Bay X – Links 7, 11 and 18
  • Bay Y – Link 125

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Legalese | Disclosures

LYNX and HRT Service Changes – Effective 8/28/16

LYNX-HRT August 2016 Service Changes 1

Beginning Sunday, August 28, 2016, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX) and Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) will enact various service changes throughout their respective systems. Please read carefully through the following changes. Further details – including route schedules – can be found on the transit agency’s website.


LYNX August 2016 Service Changes

HRT August 2016 Service Changes


 LYNX

FYI: LYNX refers to their bus routes as “links”

New Routes

  • Link 320  Avalon Park Schools Connector – New weekday service from Alafaya Trail/East Colonial Drive to East Colonial Drive/Chuluota Road and Avalon Park providing service to the Econ River High Charter School. Service began on August 15.

Routing Adjustments

  • Link 10 – East U.S. 192/St. Cloud (Osceola County) – Eastbound buses will operate on Orange Avenue instead of Grape Avenue between 10th Street and U.S. 192. There will also be minor scheduling adjustments.
  • Link 24  Millenia (Orange County) – Westbound buses on Oak Ridge Road will operate via International Drive, Altamira Drive, Adrianna Avenue and Oak Ridge Road to the Orlando Premium Outlets International Drive. Eastbound buses will now operate via Oak Ridge Road to Millenia Boulevard. There will also be minor scheduling adjustments.
  • Link 31 – LYMMO Orange-Downtown (Orange County) – While being the “original” LYMMO circulator line, the route’s numbering has been inconsistent with the three subsequent LYMMO routes that have 60-series route numbers. As a result, LYNX is re-designating this route as Link 60 (LYMMO Orange-Downtown).
  • Link 62 – LYMMO Grapefruit (Orange County) – Layover location will be moved to E. Church Street/S. Magnolia Avenue. There will also be minor scheduling adjustments.
  • Link 63  LYMMO North Quarter Line (Orange County) – The current bus stop on N. Orange Avenue/Concord Street will be moved north to N. Orange Avenue between Colonial Drive and Concord Street.
  • FastLink 407 – Kissimmee/Medical City/Orlando International Airport (Osceola County/Orange County) – The direction of travel will change for this route. Trips from the LYNX Kissimmee Intermodal Station will serve Orlando International Airport (OIA) before Medical City and then reverse on the trips from Medical City to the LYNX Kissimmee Intermodal Station. There will also be minor scheduling adjustments.

Trip Adjustments/Additions/Eliminations

  • Link 6  Dixie Belle Drive (Orange County) – The Weekday/Saturday 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. trips, as well as the Saturday trips from Dixie Belle Drive/Gatlin Avenue, the 4:55 a.m. weekday; and 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday trips from Colonial Plaza SuperStop will all be eliminated. There will also be minor scheduling adjustments.
  • Link 8 – W. Oak Ridge Road/International Drive (Orange County) – A trip at 6:05 a.m. on Weekdays and Saturdays will be added, as well as a 5:15 a.m. trip on Sundays – all from LYNX Central Station. A 4:14 p.m. Weekday, 5:15 p.m. Saturday, and 4:48 p.m. Sunday trips will be added from Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets. There will also be minor scheduling adjustments.
  • Link 23  Winter Park/Springs Plaza (Orange County) – The Saturday 5:40 a.m. trip from Denning Drive/Webster Avenue and the 5:45 a.m. trip from Springs Plaza will be eliminated.
  • Link 37 – Pine Hills/Florida Mall (Orange County) – A 5:55 a.m. weekday trip, as well as 7 and 8 a.m. Sunday trips will be added from Silver Star Road and Hiawassee Road. 3:10 p.m., 4:10 p.m., and 5:10 p.m. trips will be added on Weekdays; and 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. trips will be added on Sundays – all from Florida Mall. There will also be minor scheduling adjustments.
  • Link 40  Americana Blvd./Universal Orlando (Orange County) – The 4 a.m. Saturday and 4:45 a.m. Sunday trips from LYNX Central Station will be eliminated.
  • Link 102  Orange Avenue/South 17-92 (Orange County) – The 4:45 a.m. weekday trip from LYNX Central Station will be eliminated, as well as the 10:28 p.m. Sunday trip from Fernwood Boulevard and Oxford Road. There will also be minor scheduling adjustments.
  • Link 106 – N. U.S. 441/Apopka (Orange County) – The 1 a.m. weekday trip from Apopka SuperStop will be eliminated. A 4:25 a.m. Weekday and a 4:50 a.m. Sunday trip from Apopka SuperStop will be added. A 9:45 p.m. Saturday and a 7:45 p.m. Sunday trip from LYNX Central Station will also be added. There will also be minor scheduling adjustments..
  • Link 107 – U.S. 441/Orlando Florida Mall (Orange County) – A 9:15 p.m. trip on Sunday from LYNX Central Station will be added. There will also be minor scheduling adjustments.
  • Link 313 – Winter Park (Orange County) – The 7:40 p.m. weekday, 6:39 a.m. and 7:33 p.m. Saturday trips from Florida Hospital will be eliminated, as well as the 6:45 a.m. Saturday trip from LYNX Central Station.
  • FastLink 418 – Florida Mall/Meadow Woods/Lake Nona (Orange County) – The 7:30 p.m. weekday and Saturday trip from the VA Hospital will be eliminated. There will also be minor scheduling adjustments.

Minor Scheduling Adjustments

The following routes will see minor scheduling changes – many of which include changes to timepoints and/or running times.

  • Link 3 – Lake Margaret Drive (Orange County)
  • Link 9 – Winter Park/Rosemont (Orange County)
  • Link 20  Malibu Street/Mercy Drive (Orange County)
  • Link 26  Pleasant Hill Road/Poinciana (Osceola County)
  • Link 28 – E. Colonial Drive/Azalea Park (Orange County)
  • Link 29 – E. Colonial Drive/Goldenrod Road (Orange County)
  • Link 44 – Hiawassee Road/Zellwood (Orange County)
  • Link 50 – Downtown Orlando/Magic Kingdom (Orange County)
  • Link 54 – Old Winter Garden Road (Orange County)
  • Link 108 – S. U.S. 441/Kissimmee (Orange County/Osceola County)
  • Link 434 – SR 434 Crosstown (Orange County/Seminole County)
  • Link 436N – SR 436 Crosstown (Orange County/Seminole County)
  • NeighborLink 652 – Maitland Center (Orange County)

HRT

New Routes

  • Route 55 – Greenbrier Circulator (Southside) – New Monday through Saturday service from Greenbrier Mall to Robert Hall Blvd via Crossways Blvd.
  • Route 968 – MAX (Express) – Silverleaf Park-N-Ride / DoD Suffolk – New express route will provide service between Silverleaf Park-N-Ride to the Joint Staff Compound in Suffolk. There will be two AM trips leaving Silverleaf (6:00, 6:30) and two PM trips leaving the Compound (3:40, 4:10).
  • Route 969 – MAX (Express) – Indian River Park-N-Ride / DoD Suffolk – New express route will provide service between Indian River/Greenbrier Park-N-Ride to the Joint Staff Compound in Suffolk. There will be two AM trips leaving Indian River(6:11, 6:30) and two PM leaving the Compound (3:40, 4:10).

Route Eliminations

  • Route 427 – Denbigh Midnight (Northside) – Route discontinued due to low ridership. Note, this was a lone commuter run that began its trip at about 12:00am, hence the route’s name.

Routing Adjustments

  • Route 14 – Robert Hall Blvd / TCC Chesapeake (Southside) – Route has been revised to service TCC Chesapeake in one direction only.
  • Route 111 – Thomas Nelson Community College / Riverside Regional (Northside) – Route modified to provide service between Patrick Henry Mall and Fishing Point via Canon Blvd.Hourly service to the Newport News/Williamsburg Airport, Mary Immaculate Hospital and Riverside Convalescent Center removed from the Route 111.  Hourly service to the airport will now be provided by Route 116. Hourly service to Mary Immaculate and Riverside Convalescent center will be provided by the Route 107.
  • Route 116 – Lee Hall / Patrick Henry Mall (Northside) – Route revised to provide service to Newport News/Williamsburg Airport. Service frequency will also change from 70 minutes to 60 minutes.
  • Route 119 – Fishing Point Dr/Riverside Regional Medical Center (Northside) – Service to the Canon facility will be discontinued. Route 111 will provide service to Canon Blvd.
  • Route 121 – Newport News Transportation Center / Williamsburg (Northside) – Boarding/Disembarking for for this route at NNTC will now be done on Washington Ave between 34th and 35th St. (In front of the clock tower)
  • Route 966 – MAX (Express) – Silverleaf Park-N-Ride / Newport News Transit Center – Boarding/Disembarking for this route at NNTC will now be done on Washington Ave between 34th and 35th St. (In front of the clock tower). Schedule has also been adjusted to start service from Silverleaf at 5:40 AM.

Trip Adjustments/Additions/Eliminations

  • Route 15 – Evelyn T. Butts Ave / Robert Hall Blvd (Southside) – Service to Greenbrier Mall, Monday – Friday limited only to after 7:30 PM; service to Greenbrier before 7:30 PM, will be provided by Route 55. Service to Robert Hall also increased to every 30 minutes.
  • Route 103 – Downtown Newport News / Downtown Hampton (Northside) – Weekdays and Saturdays, after 8:00 PM service frequency will be changed from every 45 minutes to hourly.  Sunday service will be hourly.
  • Route 104 – Downtown Newport News / Newmarket (Northside) – Weekdays and Saturdays, after 8:00 PM service frequency will be changed from every 30 minutes to hourly. Sunday service will be hourly.
  • Route 108 – Patrick Henry Mall / Lee Hall (Northside) – Service frequency will change from 70 minutes to 60 minutes.
  • Route 918 – MAX (Express) – Silverleaf Park-N-Ride to Lafayette River Annex/Gate 4 – Due to low ridership, service will be reduced to one AM trip (6:00) and one PM trip (4:15).
  • Route 961 – MAX (Express) – Norfolk to Hampton to Newport News – New 4:00 PM trip from NNTC to DNTC via Evelyn T Butts.

Minor Scheduling Adjustments

The following routes will see minor scheduling changes – many of which include changes to timepoints and/or running times.

  • Route 12 – South Norfolk / TCC-Virginia Beach (Southside)
  • Route 23 – Norfolk General / Military Circle / Janaf (Southside)
  • Route 109 – Downtown Hampton / Buckroe (Northside)
  • Route 112 – Downtown Newport News / Patrick Henry Mall (Northside)
  • Route 115 – Buckroe / Downtown Hampton (Northside)
  • Route 403 – Buckroe Shopping Center (Northside)
  • Route 414 – NNTC/Jefferson/Oakland (Northside)
  • Route 415 – NNTC/Denbigh (Northside)
  • Route 430 – Denbigh Fringe (Northside)

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Legalese | Disclosures

Why Privatizing Public Transit is BAD NEWS

The debate has sprung up at least a couple of times in the past five years here in Tampa Bay, but now it seems that the debate on whether to contract out public transit agencies to a private operator is gaining some steam. Right smack dab in the middle of this debate are at least three public transit agencies in Central Florida; Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT), Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT), and most recently…the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (also known as LYNX).

The argument to privatize transit

Many fiscal conservatives, including those who associate themselves with the Tea Party, have argued that publicly run transit agencies are financially bloated and inefficient. They chastise local governments for not having their “ducks in a row” when it comes to operating reliable transit services without breaking the bank, and for being far too dependent on state and federal funding sources – namely the latter. In turn, they also argue that private companies such as MV Transportation and TransDev can run these agencies with greater efficiency and financial solvency than the municipalities that currently operate and fund them. It almost sounds like logical sense in the minds of fiscal conservatives…right? Why have governments operate inefficient transit when private enterprise can manage transit like a business?

With the economic downturn of 2008/09, many transit agencies were forced to slash services as federal and state funding for transit declined. Many agencies have turned to contracting out at least some of their services to the private sector in an effort to save money.

What privatized transit generally looks like

There are two major forms of privatization that pertain to public transit: 1) Contract out transit services to the private operator, but allow the public entity to plan out and finance those services, 2) Allow the private operator to handle both operations and planning.

In the first scenario – seen in parts of the US; the private operator would be contracted to provide their workforce to operate the transit routes and would be given the necessary resources (route assignments, schedules, etc.) for the contracted employees to do their jobs. Meanwhile, the transit agency would retain responsibility for planning and financing services and their board of directors and executive staff would likely be retained to oversee day-to-day operations.

In the second scenario – seen in many parts of Europe and in Australia; the private entity does virtually all the work…from operating the routes, to paying the employees, to planning out and financing services. The role of the government in the scenario is reduced and the public element of the transit agency may be limited to just the board of directors and a few key executive members. In this case, the transit agencies operate similar to what the airlines would, bringing forth a business-like competition to the service area.

The pros and cons to privatization

While I’m not going to spend a ton of time going through each of the pros and cons of privatizing transit in detail, it is important to know what some of them are.

Pros

  • Generally less burden on public entities and governments.
  • Competitive environment – like the airlines (in the case of the second scenario described above).
  • Greater flexibility of routes and services.
  • Greater economic flexibility.
  • Generally lower employee wages.
  • Lower overall cost of doing business.

Cons

  • Focus is on making profits, not providing excellent service – Massive cuts to the agency’s services and routes could be made at the expense of meeting profit margins.
  • Less accountability – difficult to hold the private operator accountable for its actions.
  • Greater risk of late buses and trains, as well as “no shows”.
  • Less public input on service changes, except public hearings that are required to be held by law.
  • Lower customer satisfaction and employee morale.
  • Government subsidies needed to shore up unproductive services and meet government regulations – such as Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act here in the US.

Problems with privatized transit in Fairfield, CA

Fairfield and Suisun Transit (FAST) in Fairfield, CA has experienced problems since it was outsourced to MV Transportation. Buses have been consistently late – or not shown up at all, customer complaints have increased, and employee morale has decreased. Despite these troubles, FAST decided to renew its contract with MV in 2014. As recent as May, 2015, dismay has been expressed over how FAST transit workers are compensated. These problems definitely bring to the forefront that contracting out transit services to the private sector isn’t the best way to go about saving money and rebuilding public trust.

Agencies in New Orleans, LA, Long Island (Nassau County), NY, and even Austin, TX have all outsourced their transit operations to private companies. While I’m not sure about how Austin is doing, both Nassau County, NY and New Orleans have experienced problems since privatizing their transit services.

The situation with MCAT/SCAT

Discussions about privatizing MCAT and/or SCAT have arisen in recent years, but were never pursued further. Additionally, a 2013 survey showed that almost 60% of customers were against even merging the two agencies. However, things took an interesting turn when private transit operator TransDev jumped into the foray with an unsolicited proposal to merge the two entities and simultaneously making the united entity a privatized one. While Manatee County seems to be on board, Sarasota County needs more time to examine the repercussions should the proposal be approved. Some have pointed that MCAT and SCAT would do better as one body – but not under private hands, and many customers have voiced time and time again that they don’t want their transit agencies to be run by a private company – fearing many of the same repercussions that are already being felt in Fairfield, CA with FAST.

The situation with LYNX

Some in Orlando, including Congressman John Mica, have expressed dismay at LYNX’s lack of ability to create a better transit network – including efficient connections to SunRail. These parties believe that contracting out LYNX services to the private sector would force the agency to make better decisions in order to better serve customers. There is even talk of legislation that would basically impose strict guidelines on LYNX and force the agency to bid out its system to private transit operators like TransDev and MV. I’m not sure how far the legislation would go, or if it would only apply to LYNX, or stretch out to be a statewide mandate – eventually opening the door for agencies like Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) to have to do the same thing. One thing is clear though, the SunRail advocacy group – The SunRail Riders – have expressed heavy dismay towards the proposal, citing that it will turn LYNX into an entity that beefs up SunRail connections at the expense of routes that are dearly needed by riders in other areas of Osceola, Orange, and Seminole Counties.

Why privatizing MCAT/SCAT could lead to the privatization of PSTA

If the privatization plan goes through with MCAT and SCAT, there is no doubt in my mind that Tea Party activists, like Barbara Haselden of Pinellas County, will see even more reason to lobby county and state officials into contracting out the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) out to the private sector. These activists have long argued that PSTA is mismanaged and cannot think outside the box. They also believe that privatization is the only way to “protect the taxpayers from further waste”. PSTA has already contracted out paratransit services, only to see disastrous results (although issues supposedly have been addressed and resolved), and the agency is now having to look at possibly contracting out its express routes due to budgetary constraints, and the failure of the Greenlight Pinellas referendum.

Why privatizing LYNX could lead to the privatization of SunRail

Tea Party activists have also argued that both LYNX and SunRail are grossly inefficient and that SunRail has no long term funding source, or long term management plan by the various municipalities that would have to begin operating it when the state relinquishes control in 2021. If LYNX becomes privatized, there is no doubt in my mind that these activists will call on the state to also bid out SunRail to a private operator. Why? Because I’m very sure that their argument will be “if you privatize LYNX, then you also have to privatize SunRail”, and I’m willing to bet that this is exactly what winds up happening. In addition, privatizing LYNX could also open the door for – as I mentioned, PSTA to also be bidded out to the private sector. It’s like a game of dominoes…once one agency is privatized, others will start looking into privatization as well. And then fiscal conservatives, along with the Tea Party, will advocate our elected officials to force privatization upon our transit agencies.

All three agencies could stand to lose a lot

If MCAT, SCAT, and LYNX are all privatized, you can likely expect that customer satisfaction will plummet, customer complaints will rise, buses will be late – or not even show up, needed routes will be cut in order to shore up ones that the private operator sees as “profitable”, employee morale will decline, and the list goes on and on. In short, expect far worse service from these agencies if they are privatized. It has already happened to FAST and several other agencies throughout the US. We simply cannot allow this to happen here in Florida.