A big component of the plan to move people to their final destinations once Sunrail is up and running is called flex busing, but the state's top transportation official says only a test program will be paid for by the state.
Here's how the flex bus concept would work. You would be riding Sunrail to a stop like in Altamonte, Maitland or Lake Mary where there is very little within walking distance of the station. On the train or at the station where you got on, you would call for a small bus called a flex bus. It would arrive within 15 minutes of your arrival at the station, and then take you to a final destination like the Altamonte Mall, or Maitland Summit Tower for free or for a small fee. We asked Congressman John Mica if the federal government could bear the cost of the smaller buses and he ducked the question completely.
"They have to make applications, and a lot of that goes through the state."
He was standing right next to Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad and Mica preferred we ask Prasad, so we did.
"It doesn't make sense for the state or the federal government to spend a lot of money into the concept that we don't know if it's going to work or not."
Lynx would provide the buses and operate the program. They tell me it is the transportation equivalent of landing a man on the moon. You will have to have hundreds of buses arriving at exact times to ferry hundreds of people around to their arrival points and do it all quickly. Lynx is willing to give it a shot, but only if they get state or federal money to do it. Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad says the state is willing to at least try it once.
"What we want to do is do a demonstration project, fund it for those cities to operate a flex bus, and see how that works."
At least 4 cities in Seminole County alone want to have flex buses, but none of them believe they can afford the flex bus concept without financial help. When they turned to the state Prasad gave them the cold shoulder.
"We don't want to, right off the bat, depend on a concept that's never been tried, and put all our eggs in that basket for Sunrail's success."
No flex buses should not be a problem for cities like Orlando and Winter Park where you can easily walk to multiple destinations from the Sunrail stops. Unless the test works out well, it will be a huge problem for Maitland, Altamonte and others in trying to attract visitors, plus get out of town workers to take the train to their cities.