Communication Builds Our Community

The "Squeeze" Starts Service on Monday, Making Getting Around Downtown a Breeze

Lunch-hour diners and shoppers will find getting around downtown Lake Wales a breeze beginning Monday as the newest city service arrives in town.

Courtesy Citrus Connection/ Tom Phillips

"The Squeeze" has proven popular in Lakeland, its only other location in Polk County. Lake Wales is only the second city in the county to offer the Squeeze, and the second to offer a local bus circulator.

Described as "fast, frequent, and fun," The Squeeze will offer free transportation around the city's center, ranging between Central and Crystal Avenues between First Street and Market Street. The service will utilize new 8-passenger open-air "golf cart" style vehicles to shuttle guests to and from area businesses. The shuttles will initially operate on weekdays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The service will operate from a parking lot at the Lake Wales Police Department, where vehicles will be stored when not in use. The vehicles are expected to complete the planned looping route in about 12 minutes, meaning wait times should be short. Pickup locations are at 2 South Second Street next to Polk State College, as well as at 44 West Central Avenue, 53 West Stuart Avenue, 90 North Wetmore Street, 221 North Market Street, 198 North First Street, and 10 North Market Street.

Lake Wales City Manager James Slaton has described the innovative service as a "four way partnership" between the Community Redevelopment Agency, Lake Wales Main Street, the city, and Citrus Connection. The city will pay its share with funds from a "Mobility Impact Fee" that was enacted by the commission in August of 2022.

Erin Killebrew, a representative of the Citrus Connection, told commissioners that the route offers some flexibility, and could be adjusted depending upon demand. The new shuttle is expected to connect to bus stop locations downtown, easing movement throughout the city.

Courtesy Citrus Connection

The eight-passenger open carts will provide a cooling breeze for passengers as they are transported along downtown streets to points close to their destinations.

Killebrew said that Citrus Connection was approached by Lake Wales Main Street to consider the service, and Main Street has offered to pay half the $56,000 operating cost for the one-year pilot program. The other half will be borne by the Citrus Connection, with the city contribution coming in the form of the purchase of the vehicles.

The Citrus Connect began a new local "circulator" bus route around the city last October that has far exceeded ridership expectations, Killebrew told commissioners.

Courtesy City of Lake Wales

City manager james Slaton spoke at the dedication of the Citrus Connection circulator route in October as the city became only the second in Polk County to offer local bus service. The service is one of many proactive actions taken in Lake Wales in recent years.

The bus service recently added a new stop at the Lake Wales Library, one of several in the downtown area. It serves locations between the Winn-Dixie/Walmart area on SR 60 East and the Eagle Ridge Mall on US 27 North, including Lake Wales Medical Center, the Austin Center, and the county health department facilities on West Central Avenue. A regional transfer connection occurs at Eagle Ridge Mall for points outside the city.


Reader Comments(1)

Nonanita writes:

Great news! Congratulations to Lake Wales Main Street, the CRA, and the Commission. for thinking outside of the box and making one more step toward revitalizing the downtown area.

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