Communication Builds Our Community

Free Downtown "Squeeze" Shuttle Service Off to a Fast Start

Robert Connors

A crowd of officials involved in developing the four-way agreement that led to the new downtown "Squeeze" shuttle service gathered to cut the ribbon marking the official start of the free service.

The newly-bricked and landscaped Park Avenue served as the backdrop for a recent ribbon cutting marking the official start of service by the new downtown shuttle known as The Squeeze. A happy crowd of citizens and officials representing Lake Wales Main Street, the Citrus Connection, the City of Lake Wales, and the Community Redevelopment agency shared the moment, celebrating the rapid changes coming to the city.

The service is already earning great reviews from shoppers and lunch-time diners. The free service circulates between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on a 12-minute schedule, managing to carry passengers to or very near to most of the downtown area's businesses in the process. The hop-on, hop-off service is being operated by Citrus Connection under a four-way partnership among the entities.

Citrus Connection Executive Director Tom Phillips took time to praise city leadership for the proactive approach they have taken to helping people gain access to area businesses. The Squeeze is only the second service of its kind in the county and is modeled after a successful service being provided in downtown Lakeland.

Robert Connors

Lake Wales Mayor Jack hilligoss, Deputy Mayor and CRA Chairman Robin Gibson, Main Street Executive Director Ronni Wood and Citrus Connection Director Tom Phillips each had an opportunity to speak to the gathered crowd and television media gathered for the event.

Phillips's organization is the official provider of public transportation services county-wide. He has described Lake Wales as the "most progressive" of Polk's cities. Lake Wales initiated the county's second local circulator bus route less than a year ago and it has wildly surpassed ridership expectations, according to Phillips.

The local circulator route connects the southeastern and downtown areas of Lake Wales with Eagle Ridge Mall, where transfers are available to carry passengers to the far corners of the county and beyond. It was begun in part to address an identified "food desert" in the Northwest Neighborhood which left many lower-income residents without easy access to grocery stores.

 

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