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Don’t shortchange LYNX riders to benefit SunRail

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We’re getting indigestion from a public transit proposal that seems to be gaining some traction – having a private company run LYNX, the public bus system that serves Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.

State Rep. Jason Brodeur, a Republican from Sanford, is the local latest leader to pitch the idea in a Sentinel My Word column. He wrote that a private management takeover of LYNX is essential to SunRail’s success.

The thinking is that private management is more efficient than the government. Don’t fall for the hype. Private management aims to make a profit. Government’s mission is to serve the public. Big difference between those two missions.

LYNX is critical to SunRail’s success because there needs to be reliable transportation waiting at train stations to take SunRail riders to their ultimate destination. We worry that private management would turn LYNX into SunRail’s stepchild. That would be WRONG and UNFAIR.

Too often private management makes its decisions based on spreadsheets with little consideration about what’s fair. The overwhelming majority of LYNX riders use the bus because they have no choice – too poor to own a car, or can’t drive. Many of the bus riders don’t travel anywhere close to a SunRail station. Those bus riders need more, not less, bus service.

We worry that a private industry takeover of LYNX will mean cutting service for needy riders to provide more bus service to support SunRail.

Clearly we’re huge SunRail supporters but we have to admit that despite its shortcomings LYNX is currently much more effective than SunRail. Every day LYNX provides 105,000 rides — 26 times more than SunRail. Our goal is to help grow SunRail ridership, but we don’t want longtime LYNX riders to get shortchanged in the process.

LYNX has struggled for years because it doesn’t have a dedicated funding source. That’s why LYNX doesn’t have enough buses and riders are forced to wait for long periods in all kinds of weather. SunRail faces the same funding fate in 2022 when the Florida Department of Transportation stops providing the subsidy needed to run the trains.

As we suggested in an earlier article, now is the time to create a true transportation system – buses and trains – by uniting SunRail and LYNX into a single robust mass transit agency. This approach is essential to get the dedicated local funding needed to keep Central Florida moving forward.