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Mass Transit in Orlando

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County envisions I-Drive transit hub

By Jason Garcia | Sentinel Staff Writer

Posted April 16, 2005

One day, tourists arriving at Orlando International Airport may be able to catch a train to International Drive, where they pick up their luggage and take a shuttle ride to their hotel.

Locals could park their cars in a garage and hop on a bus or trolley to visit I-Drive shops and restaurants.

Those possibilities could become reality under a plan to build a transportation hub just south of the Orange County Convention Center.

County officials are moving ahead with design plans for the hub, which ultimately could incorporate everything from bus terminals and rental-car lots to monorail and train stations. Officials already have dubbed it the "Gateway to Downtown Orange County."

"I-Drive is an area that is ripe for further development of mass transportation," said Tom Ackert, the convention center's director, who called the project a "grand-central concept."

County commissioners approved a $2.2 million deal earlier this week to have a consultant begin design plans. The money comes from a state Department of Transportation grant. The hub would be built on 50 acres of county-owned land straddling the Bee Line Expressway.

Bureaucrats and business leaders have struggled for years to ease traffic on the car-choked tourist strip. Officials have looked at everything from installing bus-only lanes to a monorail, but plans have stalled on drawing boards.

More than 37,000 cars travel on I-Drive in an average day, according to a 2004 Florida Department of Transportation study. The problem is exacerbated during major trade shows, such as January's International Builders Show at the convention center, which drew almost 105,000 people.

County officials think that building the hub will relieve the problem and give the county an added advantage if the I-Drive area becomes a stop on future rail lines.

Although plans for a local light-rail system and a statewide bullet train have faltered in recent years, stops in the I-Drive area were included in many of the proposals.

"This project is a good project whether light rail or monorail or whatever comes to this area," Commissioner Bob Sindler said.

It remains unclear how the county would pay to build the hub, which could cost tens of millions of dollars even without rail links.

One of the planning consultant's tasks will be to cobble together a financing plan that could include money from federal and state agencies and partnerships with private developers, said Carla Bell Johnson, the project's manager with the county's public-works department.

But that unanswered question -- plus the uncertainties about future rail lines -- has some people questioning whether Orange County is getting ahead of itself.

"This is kind of like if you were building an exit ramp to a road hoping the road will come to it someday," said Commissioner Homer Hartage, who voted against awarding the hub-planning contract.

But county planners say it's important to get the project started instead of waiting until transportation problems worsen. The hub would give people easier access to mass transit, the planners say.

"Ideally, people would arrive in the I-Drive area and then be able to choose what modes of transportation to use as they move around," Johnson said.

Initial plans include rental-car offices, taxi stands, trolley stops and possibly a baggage checkpoint for OIA. Longer-range plans would add train stations should light rail or an International Drive monorail become a reality.

Work on the transit hub comes as Orange County considers borrowing millions of dollars to speed up a slew of road projects, including an overhaul of the I-Drive-Sand Lake Road intersection and widening John Young Parkway to six lanes in the area.

Officials are discussing borrowing through a special I-Drive tax district, though county commissioners would first have to sign off on such an arrangement.

Jason Garcia can be reached

at jrgarcia@orlandosentinel.com

or 407-420-5198.

When will Orlando get its act together?

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The county has all the money and they build everything outside of the city limit when all those money supposed to be Orlando's. Orlando is alone.

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First Crotty declares himself "The Mayor" and now I-Drive is going to be "Downtown"....bullcrap.

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Would any of you guys show Crotty a little love if he built a skyscraper downtown to accomodate county government ?

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I would show him a little love if he stopped working against the city outright.

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Just wanted to let you all know that i quit Orange County Fire Rescue last month because i could not stand all the political BS that is going on there. After Orlando backed out of annexing that area due to political pressure, Orange County leaders initiated a "Downtown Orange County" concept which is that coveted area of tax dollars. They instructed staff to increase Sheriff deputy patrols in the area and increase the Fire Rescue response in that area and do whatever it takes to kiss #$@ of all the local I drive owners and developers. Thats not what made me quit, i just lost the love i had of being a firemen while at Orange County Fire Rescue. I plan on continuing in the fire service but right now i am unemployed living off of a cashed out ICMA account. But you know im alot happier not working for them. :)

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What was the purpose of the new Lnyx Terminal in downtown? I've never seen a county so hell bent on competing with its largest city......I-Drive as the gateway to downtown Orange County? Give me a break.

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What was the purpose of the new Lnyx Terminal in downtown?  I've never seen a county so hell bent on competing with its largest city......I-Drive as the gateway to downtown Orange County?  Give me a break.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'm sure there's no other county where's there is such a large purse at stake.

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The worst part of the new transit center for I-Drive is that it has not been placed well. Way far away from the convention center and any hotels. They might as well sweep transit riders under a doormat. In fact, it's not the gateway to the "downtown of orange county", its the doormat! Remeber, grand central station is built in the middle of development, not off a freeway ramp.

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The worst part of the new transit center for I-Drive is that it has not been placed well.  Way far away from the convention center and any hotels.  They might as well sweep transit riders under a doormat.  In fact, it's not the gateway to the "downtown of orange county", its the doormat!  Remeber, grand central station is built in the middle of development, not off a freeway ramp.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Where did they suggest to place it?

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There are few modern cities without mass transit either in place, or under construction. The most hilarious thing to me is that Orlando is a proving ground of sorts with the Walt Disney Resort monorail line. Orlando is losing millions of dollars each year in possible revenue from a tourist oriented line tied in with a regional line for tourist.

When i lived in Orlando, i would have given anything to be able to ride to work at Disney on a comfortable air conditioned monorail from Winter Park to the Magic Kingdom. That was the future as i, and many others, envisioned it. Any city that you go to in Europe or Asia allows you to move freely and conviently from destination to destination.

Eventually, Orlando's drawbacks will being to mount and seem uneconomical for tourists. Overcrowded highways, lack of mass transit, overpriced car rentals due to rising fuel costs, expensive toll roads etc. etc.

The late Walt Disney must be turning over in his grave.

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Where did they suggest to place it?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The last I saw was that it was just south of the convention center and straddled the Beeline ... half on the north side and half on the south side. I believe there was some kind of crossover.

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The location proposed is greater than a 1/2-mile walk from the convention center entrance.

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well that is what "Downtown Orange County" is going to be like, a half-mile walk here, a half-mile walk there... you would think that the city of Orlando would start a major ad compaign throughout the county, billboards, commercials, etc., promoting the city itself and its alternative attractions. I'm sure a good majority of tourists would be interested in what else Orlando has to offer if they even knew that it existed. When I worked at Universal it was quite common that most tourists didn't even realize that there was a downtown Orlando.

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Having moved from Orlando a couple years ago and just moved back, what is their plan for this?

I always thought Orlando would benefit greatly from a mass transit system but I always thought it needed to be major and the government officials were always thinking too small.

Here are my plans for a MAJOR system:

1. Travels the I-4 Corridor. From Altamonte (at first, eventually Sanford) all the way to Disney. Stopping along at College Park, Winter Park, Downtown (several locations), I-Drive (several), Sea World, Premium Outlets and Disney locations.

2. Has an East-West line crossing at downtown. From UCF/Oviedo to Ocoee, stopping at major intersections like Semoran.

3. Has another East line from I-Drive to the Airport.

Keys to this system are:

1. Parking outside of the city. Provide enough parking so the system is a benefit for commuters.

2. Security. People don't travel mass transit systems in many urban areas because of security reasons. Just keep it safe.

3. Speed.

A system like this could ease congestion on both I-4 and the East-West Expressway greatly by both benefitting commuters and tourists.

Oh well... it's just a dream.

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you would think that the city of Orlando would start a major ad compaign throughout the county, billboards, commercials, etc., promoting the city itself and its alternative attractions.  I'm sure a good majority of tourists would be interested in what else Orlando has to offer if they even knew that it existed. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

i couldn't agree MORE! This is such a simple objective, yet obviously completely overlooked. I HATE how whenever I tell people where I live, the automatic response is "oh, Disney..." NO! not Disney. I don't live in Disney, nor do I spend my weekends there! :angry: sorry, just venting....

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^ its funny, some of my friends from Boston came down with me for Spring Break in March and they obivously had pre-conceived notions about Orlando. They had no idea there was actually a city that existed before Disney, before the 70s, and so of course they were pleasantly surprised with downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, and when it came down to it, they all elected to not go to the attractions and spend more time around the city (of course that consisted a lot of intoxication at LAVA lounge, but you get the idea).

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For a community as young as Orlando, I would think thati now is the perfect time to educate and ween the population to the idea of mass transit. If properly implemented, the system could easily serve residents and tourists by providing a safe, sleek, and speedy alternative to ground transportation.

My vision:

--A trolley-like rail car (think Amsterdam or even San Diego) that services the downtown core)

--An updated version of the WDW monorail, or other elevated system, that runs down the median of I-4 (or close to) from the new Lynx complex to Lk. Buena Vista. Stops would include an OBT station, Mall of Millenia, Belz & International North, Universal Orlando, Sand Lk. & I-4, Convention Center, Sea World, with a terminus somewhere south of Sea World ( as close to Disney as possible, but we all know how that can be). Eventual spurs would include an Altamonte Town Center run to the north, and Disney to the southwest.

--an express Maglev or High Speed train system that runs from MCO to the convention center area, then splits to serve Tampa and Miami. The far future would include a line of the same system from the convention center area to the east coast (Jacksonville) via downtown Orlando.

Yes this would be expensive, and would take time to implement, but it is not impossible. Getting the private sector, government, and communities along the way involved, could help burden some of the cost. Maybe even naming rights? The Waterhouse line? The Hyatt Express?

lol

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I dont know if these plans still exist but check this out!

transit2iy.jpg

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^^ Aw man, that would be so sweet... i would ride those lines just for fun! B)

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^^ Aw man, that would be so sweet... i would ride those lines just for fun! 

You would see me riding too, every day. :D

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That would be incredible. The combination of those particular lines on those routes would probaly insure high ridership. That's definitly something to work towards.

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I posted that months ago... you may want to e-mail Tawny Olore, FDOT's rail/transit project manager, and ask for copies of the most recent briefing booklets on central florida transit/rail projects. Her e-mail is tawny.olore@dot.state.fl.us Cheers,

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The commuter rail is the way to start, IMO. It can be implemented the fastest, and its cost effective.

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well that is what "Downtown Orange County" is going to be like, a half-mile walk here, a half-mile walk there...  you would think that the city of Orlando would start a major ad compaign throughout the county, billboards, commercials, etc., promoting the city itself and its alternative attractions.  I'm sure a good majority of tourists would be interested in what else Orlando has to offer if they even knew that it existed.  When I worked at Universal it was quite common that most tourists didn't even realize that there was a downtown Orlando.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

praha,

You are so right. No one wants to walk a half-mile in the Orlando heat. When I host visitors and show them the real Orlando, even those that have been to I-Drive and WDW Resort many times, they are suprised by Orlando as an authentic and vibrant City. No matter how many hotels and chain restaurants they create around the convention center, they can never create an authentic urban experience. You will get those drawn to theme parks and the convention center, but not an authentic urban experience. To the sophisticated traveler, this wears thin very quickly.

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