One Person's Experience Riding the Bus in Orlando

My Experiences Riding the Bus in Orlando
by Roger Werner

I have been riding the bus to work more or less regularly since about 1993. For me, the difference in cost to ride vs. drive does not justify the additional time or inconveniences of riding, but there are other benefits which can justify riding.

Commuting by bus takes longer because the bus must stop in more places and may not take the most direct route. It is not economically feasible at this time to have an express route direct from my home to my destination. If your bus runs only once per hour, it is important not to arrive too late; so you must plan on arriving early and spending some time waiting for the bus. Does this sound like a lot of wasted time? It doesn't have to be.

If there are activities which you normally do at home which you can reschedule to do while waiting for or riding the bus, then the wait/ride times need not be wasted. An obvious example of such an activity is reading. Riding the bus has forced this reading time upon me. As a result, I have read many books, both professional and for pleasure, which I would not otherwise have read. This has made me more competent, professionally, and, I feel, a more "well-rounded" and interesting person than I was before. When I have an especially good book going, I have actually looked forward to my riding/reading time.

If you already do a significant amount of reading, then what difference does it make whether you rush to work early, rush home and then read, or read some in the morhing, get to work a little later, leave a little later, read some on the way home, and get home a little later, and then your reading is finished? In fact, you may have more reading time available this way because you won't have to take time out to drive and pay attention to the traffic. At first, reading is slower and more difficult due to the sometimes bumpy ride, but it gets easier with practice. Writing is a bit more difficult, but one can use the time to proofread and edit documents (such as this one).

Sleeping on the bus can be done, but it is not of good quality. Sleeping is made difficult due to the unsuitable posture which is forced by the seats. When you do sleep, it is not very deep sleep, and you can also miss your stop. (That can happen when you're reading something especially interesting, too!)

I did not expect that I would adjust well to the rigidity of the bus schedule (vs. flex-time), but in my experience, it was surprisingly easy to adapt. At first, I became a clock watcher out of fear of missing my bus. and having to wait another hour for the next one. That was somewhat stressful, but after 2-3 weeks, I adjusted and a "groove" began to form in my routine. During that time, I learned when the buses came, how long it took to get up or shutdown and get to the bus stops. With practice, this groove gets deeper and easier to follow, and this beginners' stress goes away. (The bus stops on Alafaya and Science drive are about a 12-15-minute straight-line walk from NAWCTSD. The stop at UCF is about a 23-30 minute walk, but you would be wise to get some areal photographs with which to map out the route - or I can show you the way.)

The selection of businesses which are convenient to visit on the way home is different when riding vs. driving. Places which were convenient by POV are no longer convenient by bus, and new places become convenient by bus which were not convenient by car. In this sense, the topology of what's "near" or "far," convenient or inconvenient, is different when riding vs. driving. The best routes to take are not always the shortest (see discussion of #30) vs. #1013, in "Bus Routing," below).

Since commuting by bus takes longer than driving, on riding days it becomes impossible to patronize businesses which don't stay open in the evenings. As a result, many personal errands tend to get moved to RDO days instead of trying to rush them in through rush-hour traffic after work. I make more lists to make sure these days are well utilized, and as a result, my life has become more organized.

I no longer hear the news on the radio as I did when driving, but I get more detailed news by reading.

Using a bicycle can greatly expand the domain of places which are practically accessible by bus. Bicycles can now be taken on the bus, but be forwarned that the racks are limited to two bicycles, and if the rack is already full and it is crowded inside, you may not be allowed to bring your bicycle onboard unless it is a fold-up bicycle. In such cases you may have to wait for the next bus in order to take your bicycle with you. (I've never seen this happen, though.)

Do you get enough exercise? A bicycle ride to/from the bus can be pleasurable, and it provides some "forced" exercise at the same time. If it is part of getting to work and getting home from work, then it is harder to put off than exercise at a gym might be. It will probably also take less time out of your schedule, than going to a gym (though it is admittedly less exercise and does not include the social benefits one might get from exercising with others). Walking is good exercise too.

A bicycle with a flat tire is inconvenient at best. It's a good idea to carry a tire pump. If the leak is small, you may be able to pump the tire up and ride home on it. Even if you have to stop and repump 2 or 3 times, it beats walking.

If you go to the bus before dawn, it's dark outside. This means that it can be difficult to identify the key for a bicycle lock; you can't read while waiting for the bus, and when you get on the bus, it is hard to see outside because it is brightly lit inside the bus and dark outside (more inside light reflected back from the windows than outside light getting in). The key problem can be fixed by filing a distinctive notch in the key. There are often streetlights at or near busstops. Recognizing your stop gets easier with experience, and if you sit on the right side of the bus, you can see well out the front window.

If you leave your bicycle in the same place every day, people who see it during the day may begin to think it has been abandoned. In my 8+ years of riding, I have twice returned to find my bicycle had been removed by a certain shopping mall and had to go to their security or local police to get it back. If you leave your bicycle tied up somewhere every day, try to make sure that won't become a source of annoyance anyone (e.g., businesses, lawn mowers, etc.)

Riding a bicycle isn't as fun when it's raining. It's a good idea to have an umbrella in case of rain. Fortunately, most of the rain in central Florida occurs in the summertime, so if you get wet, at least you won't also be cold. It also usually occurs in early afternoon and is over by the time one goes home. A good rule of thumb for avoding getting wet is: it's probably going to be raining at the same time tomorrow as it is today. When it rains at commuting time, I drive until the rain at that time of day is gone. Using this rule, I get wet perhaps 2-3 times per year, and it's always in the Summer when it happens.

When it rains, buses get into more accidents and are more likely to run late. Normally, my bus arrival times fall with a 5-10 minute window. About 3 to 4 times per year, it will be 40 to 50 minutes late. This usually implies an accident earlier on that route.

I often get a spiritual lift from my morning walks from the bus to work. To me, dawn is the most beautiful part of any day, and I get to see it many days out of the year when walking to work from the bus stop in the morning. (These walks also used to include a short stretch through the woods between here and the bus stop until they were removed to make way for new buildings and parking lots. Some woods are still available though, if you go the right ways.)

I also avoid all the stress of driving in rush-hour traffic, and I avoid a lot problems with parking. Though my days are longer from the time I leave my home until I return, they are less hectic. In fact, it feels like the whole pace of my life has slowed down since I started riding. I "smell the roses" more now than I did before.

When one can use the public-transportation system, car breakdowns are no longer the emergencies they once were. After mastering bus-riding, I am less dependent on my car and therefore more independent. As a result of this, some car problems can be ignored longer than is feasible if they are the sole mode of transportation. (A tank of gas lasts a lot longer, too! :)

Did you know that for each gallon of gasoline you burn, you put up to 21 pounds (175 cu.ft.) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere?

Note: Route 101 has been discontinued, and the scheduling of Route 30 have changed since this was written, but the concepts still hold. Check your schedules carefully in order to find the best routing. The routing information you get over the phone from the bus office is not always the most efficient. For example, you can get from NAWCTSD to the Orlando International Airport by using Lynx routes #30 (to SR436 & SR50) and #41 (to airport) OR #101 (to downtown station) and #51 (to airport). Which combination is better may depend on when you need to go. #101 and #51 each run every 1/2 hour, and their connection are close and reliable at the downtown station. #30 runs only once per hour. It's connection with #41 at 436, though, is too close (in time) to be reliable. You may have to wait up to 30 minutes for the next #41 at that point. You may also have to cross SR 50 at that intersection to get on #41. At the downtown station, there is good shelter from rain. There is no shelter from rain when crossing SR 50, and any shelter which might be availabe at the #41 stop will be limited. #30 will also make a detour to Valencia, east campus, on the way to SR 436. #101 loops around Waterford Lakes but then uses the E/W expressway to get from Alafaya to the downtown station. The Lynx information line could give you either combination of routing or something entirely different. I would expect them to recommend the #30/41 combination because that is closer by distance traveled. Going all the way downtown is more distance "out of the way," but it may be easier and faster. This is an example of the "time/space warp" mentioned above. The suggestions you get over the phone are not likely to consider timing ramifications.

For another example, to get from NAWCTSD to the SISO conferences on International drive, one could take #101 every half hour to get to the downtown station. Then there are two busses which go from there to International drive: #8 follows city streets and goes into a lot of neighborhoods, shopping centers, etc. It will take about an hour to get from downtown to I-drive, and you may begin to be seasick by the time you get there from all the maneuvering. #38 is an express bus. It takes I-4, and will get you there in about 20 minutes. Both #38 and #8 also go by the Orange County Convention Center. Obviously, for this transit, the #38 is the preferred one to use for this transit, but the information service will probably give you the first routing combination that will simply get you there. After studying the routes and schedules a bit, you may be able to do better.

#52 is a direct Lynx bus from downtown to Disney, where you then have free Disney shuttles between the various Disney parks. (No parking, no walking to/form the car in parking lots, and no losing your car in the lot!)

Lynx buses generally leave the downtown terminal on time or within 1-2 minutes late. Away from the station, and returning to the station, the ones I have used are usually 5-10 minutes late, but not always. Depending on the consistency of these late factors, this can make or break close connections. For example, concerning routes #30 and #40, discussed above, their scheduled and actual arrival times at SR50 and 436 will vary throughtout any day. Close connections between them will depend on their actual arrival times at that intersection. If they are both running behind by the same amount, the schedules will be useful in predicting which transfers are possible at that point. If they are running behind by different amounts, which transfers are possible and which are not possible may be different from those suggested by the schedules.

One reason for running slightly behind the schedule may be to avoid getting ahead of it and thereby missing passengers who get to the stops on time. Drivers can actually drive the routes slightly faster than the schedules. This is even easier to do in light traffic or when they don't have to stop for passengers to get on or off. In order to not have to wait a short time at each stop in order to stay on schedule, a driver may deliberately delay a departure until it is 3-5 minutes late so that when he does have to wait again, it can be at a convenient location and not in heavy traffic. There is typically about 10-15 minutes of slack time at the end of each route.

It is easy misread the bus schedules. Many routes go both ways along linear tracks. Some routes loop. Some loop different ways at different times. At some locations, buses going opposite directions on the same route may park in the same place, facing the same way at or nearly the same time. Many schedules are different on Sundays, holidays, or Saturdays. At the downtown station, it is easy to misread the route-bay tables and identification of the parking bays at the downtown stations, and sometimes the buses do not display their correct routes. For example, if the bus has just been put in service, it may still be showing "Out of Service." Sometimes, their sign is just not working. If something doesn't seem right, ask the driver.

It's probably wise to expect total transit time to take 2-3 times longer than it should the first time, but as your knowledge of the system improves, things will get better. You'll learn when the bus runs and how long it takes to get to the stop and waste less time getting there far too early. You'll make fewer mistakes. You may also identify more efficient routings. Other bus riders can also be very knowledgeable and helpful.

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This page was last updated on February 28, 2003