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This is the best of times and the worst of times for public transit in Central Florida.
First the bad news. Earlier this week (5/21) a referendum to add a penny to the sales tax in Osceola County was resoundingly defeated by voters. In addition to road projects, a portion of that money was also supposed to be used to improve SunRail and Lynx bus service.
No one loves the idea of increased taxes. Granted sales tax increases cause a special burden on people struggling to make ends meet. Improved public transit – weekend SunRail and improved bus service – also expands opportunities for those same workers.
We also know that Osceolans love and make great use of public transit. You can see that every day for yourself every weekday mornings on northbound crowded trains headed out of Osceola, and at the downtown Kissimmee intermodal station (shown in the accompanying photo) where workers board buses. It was not too long ago that there was no Lynx bus service in Osceola County.
The voters have spoken and now the burden falls on Osceola elected officials to identify other sources of money needed to keep growing public transit for residents.
The good news, however, outweighs the bad.
https://youtu.be/kYsXqVMK1a0That is an important move because the reason public transit is so weak is because there is no dedicated source of funding for it. Hopefully, Mayor Demings and his supporters will take the time to understand why the initiative failed in Osceola.
As a reminder, no public transit system in the world can pay for operations solely from the fare box. Typically, a transit system can pay about 30 percent of the costs from fares. Beyond that, they need government support.
Remember, public transit is a service. The police and fire are also very expensive services paid for by the government. Unlike police and fire, transit raises some of the money needed to pay for its operating costs. Keep in mind that all transportation – from the street outside your house to the airlines – receive government subsidies.
The most exciting news came this week when Virgin Trains (formerly Brightline) announced that it started construction on tracks between West Palm Beach and Orlando International Airport. This has been discussed for years and now it’s happening. We can’t wait.
The best is yet to come.
See you on The Rail!
This article first appeared on sunrailriders.blogspot.com
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