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Maitland reevaluates SunRail-FlexBus partnership

Rail cars carry new rails through Maitland to stops where the SunRail system will add additional tracks.

Rail cars carry new rails through Maitland to stops where the SunRail system will add additional tracks.

Sarah Wilson

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As plans for SunRail continue to chug along the track, Central Florida cities including Maitland are reevaluating their decisions to jump on board with another commuter transportation system still in development.

FlexBus, a flexible “Intelligent Transportation System” that is set to launch along with SunRail to encourage commuter ridership, is planning its demonstration phase in partnership with Maitland, Altamonte Springs, Longwood and Casselberry. The system, powered by Lynx, would work on a non-fixed route and allow local residents to call or go online to schedule a bus pickup and have a vehicle respond to their stop location within 12 minutes.

An update on the FlexBus project will be given at the next Maitland City Council meeting, Monday, Aug. 13, in Maitland City Hall. For more information on the project, visit itsmymaitland.com

The system, Maitland Community Development Director Dick Wells says, is a key component for the cities when it comes to the success of SunRail, by it giving commuters a quick, efficient way to travel east and west to get to the stations, where the rail can carry them north and south. But what looked good on paper, members of the Maitland City Council are finding, is more complicated in implementation as the November 2013 launch date inches closer.

“We’re a year from deployment,” Councilman Phil Bonus said at the Council’s July 23 meeting. “And to not even be sure about the program, isn’t anyone else worried about this?”

As design plans move forward with all of the cities through consulting firm TranSystems, worries of cost, stop locations and plan implementation were brought up at Council.

“If we don’t have it when SunRail’s running, it’s going to kill it,” Schieferdecker said, noting the integral role FlexBus is projected to have on SunRail ridership.

Maitland’s current drafted budget for 2013 factors in $150,600 coming from public works to fund the city’s estimated 12 percent of the system’s operating budget starting in 2014.

City officials from all involved cities sent a letter to Lynx voicing their concerns on July 24. Wells said that the response, from John Lewis, the chief executive officer for Lynx, did calm some of their concerns, offering clarification on the goals of FlexBus as plans continue to evolve.

“A lot has changed over the last decade since this project first began,” Lewis wrote in the letter, dated July 31. “Economic conditions, demographic shifts, industry technology options and the introduction of the smartphone have all impacted the design and implementation of the FlexBus demonstration project.”

But, he said, Lynx is still committed to carry and support the project through the four-city launch next year. Members of the Maitland City Council will discuss FlexBus further after hearing an update from a TranSystems representative at the Monday, Aug. 13, meeting.