The vast majority of visitors to the Orlando area arrive by either airplane or private auto. But have you considered getting by without a car when you get here?
By bus, specifically.
It’s an often overlooked option.
Actually, there’s a growing trend for visitors to arrive here by bus. That long-ago movie image of tubercular pimp Ratso Rizzo (played by Dustin Hoffman) dying in the back of an overcrowded bus from New York to Miami at the end of the movie Midnight Cowboy is a thing of the past. Spurred on by passengers weary of the security hassles at airports in the post-9/11 world, bus travel is growing four times as fast as airlines and nearly eight times as fast as railroads.
But even if you don’t arrive here by bus, why should you consider it for getting around Central Florida? The Interstate known as I-4 conveniently brings motorists to most of the area’s major attractions, with exits usually just five minutes away. But there are advantages to taking a bus to get around. The main highway through Orlando, and the only interstate serving it, is Interstate 4 (runs NE-SW). In recent years, major construction on it has widened it through areas south of SR528 making it a commuter-friendly highway (except for traffic during rush hours and Friday and Saturday evenings). Downtown Orlando; International Drive; Amway Arena; the Mall at Millenia; and theme parks such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, Discovery Cove, the Holy Land Experience, and Wet n’ Wild are all conveniently located along or near I-4.
But the downside of all this is that expansion is near. Construction should start this summer on new toll lanes, with predictions that traffic tie-ups will have more extended hours than rush periods.
So that brings us to buses.
The best viewpoint to do that is from your room at International Drive. The visitor-rich collection of shops, rides and mega tourist attractions known as I-Drive has their own Trolley system. It runs frequently. The I-Ride Trolley Red line travels along a 24-mile circular route. It primarily goes north and south along International Drive, beginning at Orlando Premium Outlets south to Vineland Avenue. There are major dining and accommodation stops along the route. It also stops at popular pointe Orlando, the Orange County Convention Center, Sea World and others.
Since it began, the I-Ride Trolley has been one of the most popular attractions in the I-Drive Area. It’s often fittingly described as safe, convenient and even cheap. At $2.00 for a single adult ride, it is the best bargain to be found on an Orlando vacation. It also saves gas money.
A fleet of 15 trolleys is equipped with a vehicle location system (AVLS) known as NextBus. Branded as “NextTrolley,” Visitors can obtain predicted Trolley arrival times and live maps. This information is obtained from several sources: the internet at www.IRideTrolley.com, mobile devices at iDrive2Go.mobi or by simply SMS texting the Trolley stop code which is found at each Trolley stop.
The trolleys operate from 8 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. daily. Fares: Single cash fare, $2.00 per ride; child cash fare, $1.00 per ride (ages 3 to 9 with paying adult); senior fare 65 and over, $0.25 per ride. Unlimited ride passes are available: one-day pass, $5.00 per person; three-day pass, $7.00 per person; five-day pass, $9.00 per person; seven-day pass, $12.00 per person; 14-day pass, $18.00 per person.
Each I-Ride Trolley includes two wheelchair positions and an ADA-specified hydraulic lift system.
A more expensive option is to stay at the Disney or Universal theme parks, where bus transportation is included in the hotel prices. Disney’s magical express, for example, will shuttle you and all the bags you want from the Orlando International Airport to your Disney hotel. Reservations are required. Universal also has a shuttle. So do many area hotels.
Lynx is the general bus system serving the area. Standard fares are $2 per person. Daily passes are still inexpensive: $4.50; or $16 weekly. Most buses come and go every half or hour on most well-traveled routes. Buses will also take you to theme parks. Unlike driving a car, you will have to wait for a bus. But there’s also waiting for a car to be brought to you in some parking lots. And then there’s the expense of parking (not to mention full parking lots at times).
If you’re in downtown Orlando, there are free bus rides. For more information, check www.golynx.com or call 407-841-LYNX.
If you or your family are easy rider, a new option is the BikeShare program. There are now four different locations for inexpensive bicycle rentals with more than a dozen new ones scheduled for the near future.
If you are still wedded to your car, as many admittedly are, keep in mind that Orlando is already ranked among the top ten in traffic congestion among US cities. Most local radio stations have traffic warnings or you can call 511 for a free automated traffic services. And then, there’s the planned expansion and update of I-4 to consider…###