The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) revealed which projects it will be funding under the TIGER II grant program, discretionary allocations that fall under the purview of the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood. (Check out LaHood’s blog here.) The grants divide $600 million between 40 states and 33 projects around the country. The majority of funding was allocated to small-scale projects in small to midsize cities for “street improvements, the construction of transit centers, and the rehabilitation of freight railway lines” says Yonah Freemark of the TransportPolitic.
Orlando’s 13 year-old free BRT system, LYMMO received funding from USDOT. The service has dedicated bus lanes, controls its own traffic signals and operates from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on weekdays and from 10:00 a.m. until midnight on weeknights. According to its website, LYMMO runs buses every five minutes during the office hours and every ten minutes during other hours.
With the TIGER II grant, LYMMO will have additional funding to extend its service by 1.9 miles from its terminus downtown to a low-income and isolated neighborhood, Parramore. Currently the system is 2.5 miles long and the service consists of 13 stations. Parramore, a neighborhood that the city has sought to revitalize in recent years, will now have access to increased educational and job opportunities according to the USDOT project description. In addition to establishing connectivity to neighborhoods like Parramore, long isolated by the Interstate 4 highway, the system will link with regional bus systems and other transportation options in the city.
Another exciting element of LYMMO, coordinated by the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, called LYNX, is both its high ridership and its branding. In 2009, bus ridership was up seven percent from the year before, to 1.25 million.
According to Erik Weber, who works on marketing and branding issues at EMBARQ (the producer of this blog), Orlando’s LYMMO service offers several good examples of marketing and branding best practices: “The name, a play on the shorthand vernacular for Limousine, evokes high-class, luxury transportation of its namesake at the same time that it builds on the brand of its parent agency, LYNX. Furthermore, offering a truly high-quality transit option in the city center for free, has the additional benefit of attracting discretionary riders to public transit and reducing short trips in the central business district that might have otherwise been taken by car,” say Weber. Hopefully LYMMO is successful in bridging neighborhoods and continuing to increase ridership.