Orlando must invest in reliable public transit to become a world class city
Come Out With Pride Orlando recently submitted a bid to host World Pride in 2026, the 10 year anniversary of the Pulse tragedy.
This global celebration of love and equality has been previously held in cities like London, Madrid, and New York City.
If selected, this event is predicted to draw over a million people from across the globe, generating billions in economic impact.
Orlando is a vibrant and diverse city, full of love and respect and kindness, put on display as we mourned together after June 12, 2016.
However, compared to other cities like Amsterdam bidding for World Pride, Orlando is at a huge disadvantage for one reason: it does not have a world class transit system.
Previous hosts have world famous transit like the London Tube and the NYC Subway.
Orlando has LYNX and Sunrail, operated infrequently for people who cannot afford cars, not as realistic alternatives to driving.
We need to make a significant investment in mass transit to catch up to other potential host cities because Orlando cannot accommodate a million more cars.
Dedicated funding, like Orange County Mayor Jerry Deming’s proposed penny sales tax for transportation, would allow Orlando to compete globally for massive events like World Pride or the World Cup.
International visitors accustomed to the gleaming high speed rail and automated rapid transit of Europe and Asia will not want to visit a city with buses and trains that run hourly and not late night or weekends.
As one of the fastest growing regions in the country, Orlando cannot continue to invest in infrastructure for cars only.
Geometry means we cannot grow if everyone drives; there is simply not enough space.
Our largest employer understands this.
Disney World could not accommodate 60 million annual visitors by car, which is why it has an extensive transit system. With three monorail lines, frequent buses, ferries, and even an aerial gondola, Disney’s multimodal transportation options are an essential part of the magic.
Public transit has many benefits beyond merely providing mobility options. It relieves congestion, saves workers money, and helps protect our environment and air quality.
Orlando’s transit system does none of these things.
One of the most common questions on job applications is, ” Do you have reliable transportation?”. A bus that comes every hour is not reliable, yet that is how often half of all LYNX routes run.
Our inadequate transit was documented in vivid detail in Orlando Sentinel’s Laborland report from 2019, chronicling the 3 hour commute of a blind Disney worker that takes 30 minutes by car. According to a report by Orlando Economic Partnership, there are 527,000 Orlando jobs within 30 minutes driving, but only 5,600 jobs accessible by transit in the same time.
We are failing our most vulnerable workers who rely on LYNX and failing to compete economically. There is a reason Orlando only has one Fortune 500 company.
To their credit, LYNX understands the problem. Their upcoming service change on December 12 is a step in the right direction by adding more frequent, late night, and express service to major employment centers like Universal, Disney and OIA.
Unfortunately, they do not have the resources to implement their transformative vision, which includes Sunrail to the airport and Bus Rapid Transit on major corridors.
LYNX’s lack of dedicated funding has been cited as a problem since 1993, yet leaders have done nothing.
Mayor Deming’s transportation tax, originally proposed for the 2020 election but shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic, would change this.
With life returning to normal, Demings has spoken of putting it on the ballot for approval in 2022.
With the $600M this is expected to generate annually, LYNX could double service. Half of all routes would come every 15 minutes or better, with over 90% coming at least every half hour.
No more hourly waits for long suffering LYNX riders.
Congress recently passed the $1.2 Trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which included a historic $100 billion investment in transit. Orange County should follow their lead by putting transportation funding on the ballot in 2022, investing in a more sustainable and prosperous future.