Communication Builds Our Community

New Local Bus Service Begins in Lake Wales

"Circulator"Route Will Remain Within City Limits, Connect to County-Wide Service

A new "circulator" bus route that will serve the city six days a week on a frequent schedule began this week, making getting around town without a car a much simpler task.

Lake Wales should be very proud of the new service, according to Tom Phillips, executive director of Citrus Connection, which operates the buses. "This is only the second city [in Polk County] to have a real circulator route," he told Lake Wales

The circulator will stay within the city limits, running generally from a southeastern shopping district on SR 60 and the Eagle Ridge Mall on the city's north side. Convenient stops along the way will make it simple to get to within walking distance of most of the city's commercial and Medical facilities. Each stop will see a bus visit about every 40 minutes.

The fare for most riders is $1.50, but numerous area employers, along with Polk State College and certain other schools, fund agreements that allow their students and employees to ride at no cost.

Phillips explained that Legoland realized that it was less costly to give their "model citizens" a sure way to arrive at work than to replace them for no-shows, then be forced to hire and train replacements.

Phillips said the service is expected to attract hundreds of new riders formerly frustrated by long waits between buses that ran mostly to distant locations. Passengers will be able to use the service to travel to employment centers and Polk State College, among other destinations.

Disabled or qualifying riders within a half-mile of the route will also be able to be picked up at their location. Buses will also "kneel" to allow boarding, according to Phillips, and are equipped to carry wheelchairs and bicycles.

Connecting and express buses will operate from a transfer point at Eagle Ridge Mall to travel to destinations across the county. The service is a step toward addressing an identified "food desert" in the city.

Among likely users of the new route are residents of the Northwest Neighborhood without easy access to a grocery store. Stops at shopping districts will be handy to WalMart, Winn Dixie, and Publix stores.

"City staff have been identifying this food desert and the need for transportation for six or seven years," Phillips said.

Other stops will allow access to AdventHealth Lake Wales Medical Center and the surrounding Medical office district, the James Austin Center, and multiple stops in the downtown area.

The route replaces one that formerly ran from Lake Wales to the South County Jail west of Frostproof, but that route drew very few passengers, Phillips told Lake Wales

Since the Citrus Connection funding is partly based upon ridership, Phillips expects the significant increase in passengers will be a benefit to the system. The service is being provided at no additional cost to the City of Lake Wales, which contributes for each mile of bus route within the city limits.

The county's first local circulator route was established to serve the Dixieland area of Lakeland only a couple of years ago as the Department of Transportation put South Florida Avenue on a "road diet" by reducing the number of travel lanes in that area.

Those needing more information or eligible to arrange door-to-door transportation may call Citrus Connection at 855-POLKBUS, (765-5287).


Reader Comments(2)

estevealpacas writes:

I hadn't read Mr.Davies comments before sending an e-mail to Mr. Slayton with suggestions for the bus route.SO,Perhaps my suggestion has already been considered...But I will repeat it anyway: Return Route,starting at the health Center !.East on W.Central Ave to,2.North on N.Scenic (5th street),3.East on W. Sessoms 4 .MLK,Jr to Austin Center 5.MLK.Jr .S to West Stuart (turnEast ) 6. North on N.Scenic ( 5th St) & 7. West on Chalette Suzanne Road to the Mall ! Nuch greater exposure (and destinations) for ridership AND,perhaps a boon to the downtown/historic district ! Of course the street Blockages,if they continue,should be after the last bus in the evening and Work done in the evening...The OT for the workmen will be returned in added revenuefor the downtown !

HDavies writes:

With the new bus service in operation, city officials must exercise greater caution before approving street closures. During a conversation with the owner of Longs Dry Cleaning on Central Ave, after attending the Unity in the Community event, issues arose. The event had closed most of Central Ave between 1st St. and Wetmore. The newly introduced bus line also encountered problems since the street was barricaded, necessitating it to backup 200 feet to the 1st Street intersection to bypass the blocked road. City authorities should enhance their planning and consult local businesses before closing streets during peak hours, as it can burden them needlessly, while alternative locations like the City Hall parking lot or public parks could be used for such events.

Rendered 05/22/2024 05:00