(The Center Square) – The bus transit service for the Orlando area had a 25% increase in operating expenses compared to before the pandemic yet had ridership at 67% of pre-pandemic levels.
The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, also referred to as LYNX, is still committed to expanding service, according to budget documents.
Like almost all transit agencies in the country, LYNX reported a drop in ridership since 2019. Its ridership was 25 million in 2019 and reached 16.73 million, according to a recently released report from the Federal Transit Administration. LYNX has seen its operating expenses increase from $141.3 million in 2019 to $180.7 million in 2022.
Emergency federal funding has bailed out transit agencies across the U.S. LYNX saw its federal funding increase from $15.6 million in 2019 to an average of $62.1 million over the next three years.
But the federal emergency money is due to run out by 2024 and voters have not shown an appetite to pay for more additional transit costs. In November 2022, voters rejected a 1% sales tax increase over 20 years that would have generated an estimated $600 million per year for regional transportation agencies, including LYNX.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings was quoted in a county document stating that “a dedicated funding source for our regional transportation system remains a high priority.”
LYNX has stated in budget documents it was still suffering from effects of the pandemic in 2022.
In 2023 budget documents, the transit agency stated it wants to double bus-based transit service to the region over the next 20 years.
“This requires the construction of a new operations and maintenance facility in the southern portion of the LYNX service area to support the expanded fleet, several new and expanded passenger transfer facilities, as well as new zero-emissions fueling infrastructure,” the transit agency stated.
LYNX offers several transportation services, with a total of 68 bus routes made up of 300 buses that cover approximately 2,500 square miles including small portions of Lake and Polk counties.
LYNX receives funds from the Federal Transit Administration, Florida Department of Transportation and local government jurisdictions.
The city of Orlando, Beep Corporate Communications, and MathewFriedman director of marketing communications of LYNX did not respond to emails seeking comment.