How does a city go from a bus-only transit system to a multi-modal network in a decade? Despite early setbacks, metropolitan Orlando is well on its way to getting connected. In the next few years, public and private projects -- mostly on existing rails -- will shape the way Central Floridians get around.
Florida has a bit of a history when it comes to transportation funding, to say the least. In the 1990s, Florida politicians rejected federal funds that would have helped build the state’s first light rail project in Orlando. Then, just last year, Florida infamously turned down another opportunity: to become the poster child for high-speed rail in the U.S. by linking Orlando to Tampa. Nonetheless, it seems that amid concerns over rising gas prices and environmental sustainability, transit projects are sprouting up all over Central Florida.
Two public projects are set to reshape the city’s transportation landscape. Often called the “spine” of Central Florida’s future rail system, the 61-mile SunRail commuter train is currently under construction with Phase 1 beginning service in 2014. To complement SunRail, cities to the northwest of Orlando have been looking into a train of their own. Feasibility studies for a 32-mile Orange Blossom Express (OBX) route using existing tracks are currently being undertaken.
Similarly, the private sector has expressed interest in Orlando’s transportation scene. Engineers from American Maglev Technology are proposing to construct and run the nation’s first magnetic levitation train in the city’s tourist corridor, connecting places like Walt Disney World and the convention center with Orlando International Airport. From the airport, a fourth line could soon take visitors and residents down to Miami on a train called All Aboard Florida.
Like any true multi-modal community, Orlando isn’t stopping with just trains. Locally, bus routes and the free downtown circulator Lymmo are expanding; regionally, new bike lanes are in the works. Overall, Orlando’s diverse transit future is looking bright -- as long as people ride it.
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Credits: Images copyright of Alex Lenhoff. Data linked to sources.