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!)
ADJUSTING TO THE SCHEDULE
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).
BECOME MORE ORGANIZED
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.
GET A SPIRITUAL LIFT
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,
GET "GREEN" POINTS
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
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
STAYING ON SCHEDULE
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.
THERE'S NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EXPERIENCE -- REPETITION HELPS
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.
This page was last updated on February 28, 2003