Did you know that there’s a convenient, fare-free way to get around downtown Orlando? It’s the LYMMO Bus! Think of LYMMO as downtown Orlando’s above-ground subway, since we can’t dig very far down without hitting water. LYMMO is run by LYNX, Central Florida’s public transportation authority, and currently has three (actually four) lines that circulate through downtown: the Orange Line, the North Quarter Orange Line, Grapefruit Line and Lime Line.
Most of LYMMO runs as a “BRT” (Bus Rapid Transit), which means the buses have their own dedicated lanes, stoplights and rights-of-way. As a BRT, LYMMO can get around quickly, without having to wait in traffic. In fact, Orlando claims that LYMMO was the first BRT in the United States, starting in 1997. The first BRTs were pioneered in Latin America, but they are being implemented all over the U.S., as quicker, cheaper alternatives to light rail, street cars or subways. Most buses run every 10 minutes during office hours, and 15 minutes on evenings, weekends and holidays. The hours of operation are:
Monday – Thursday: 6 a.m. – 10:45 p.m.
Friday: 6 a.m. – midnight
Saturday: 10 a.m. – midnight
Sunday: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
So why should the city pay for a fare-free circulating bus? First of all, all forms of transportation are subsidized by government, especially highways (see I-4 Ultimate at $2.3 billion). The real question is, what transportation gives the biggest bang for the buck? The answer is mass transit. According to SmartCitiesDive.com, “For every ten million dollars of transit investment made, business sales increase by thirty million dollars. During the 2006 to 2011 period, residential property was an average of 42% more valuable if located near high-frequency transit service, which means cities reap greater tax revenues.”
The other reasons for fare-free buses (or any kind of mass transit) are numerous, including health benefits, reduced traffic congestion, greater mobility for those unable to drive, reduction of household expenses, social connections, increased productivity while riding transit, and a safer and more equitable form of transportation. SmartCitiesDive.com goes on to say that “Millennials prefer walkable communities over sprawl, seeking to live around robust transit, shops, restaurants, libraries, parks, and a mix of housing styles such as apartments and houses.”
In Orlando, residents living in Parramore have no grocery stores within walking distance. This so-called “food desert” can lead to poor nutrition and higher food costs. Catching a ride on the LYMMO over to the downtown Publix can literally be a life saver for those living west of I-4.
For other residents, LYMMO is a convenient recreational option when going to soccer games at Orlando City Stadium, or Magic games and concerts at the Amway Center. Thornton Park resident Heidi Swartele likes “that it’s free, and that the LYNX app tells you where each bus is.”
In 2012, LYNX drew up expansion plans to extend LYMMO north and south from downtown. The north route would circulate to Ivanhoe Village, Florida Hospital, Loch Haven Park, College Park and Mills 50. A southern route would connect Orlando Health and SODO to Downtown.
Any kind of expansion is currently on hold. LYNX officials say that in the meantime, they are working on “smoothing” out some of the sharp corners the Grapefruit Line takes in Thornton Park, along with other minor improvements. They are also exploring automated vehicles, similar to those operating on the Las Vegas Strip. LYNX anticipates increased ridership as Creative Village’s UCF campus comes on line and more residential developments open. Jeff Reine from LYNX encourages residents to download the LYNX Bus Tracker app as an easy way to track both LYMMO and other LYNX buses. Also, riders can take advantage of free Wi-Fi while on the bus.
Whether it’s shopping for groceries, or catching a Broadway show at the Dr. Phillips Center, LYMMO is an indispensable way to get around, and helps support the growing urban fabric of living in Downtown Orlando.