New Local Bus Service Begins in Lake Wales
"Circulator"Route Will Remain Within City Limits, Connect to County-Wide Service
Last updated 10/30/2023 at 1:40pm
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 News.net.
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.
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).