On the morning of Sunday, November 24th, I rode the LYNX 24 from the Orlando Premium Outlets, which are located at the end of I-Drive near Universal Studios, to the Washington Shores SuperStop, a rundown stop containing room for multiple buses by John Young Parkway and Columbia Street. The route also stops at the Mall at Millenia. The ride lasted half an hour. At Washington Shores, the bus takes a half hour break, which I spent taking notes and pictures of the area, and then I rode the bus back. I plan on creating a comic about the route. I apologize for no sketches with this post (there will be some later).
My project isn’t about my specific ride, which was uneventful. I was the lone passenger heading into Washington Shores. The bus was packed on the way back to the outlets with men and women going to work, but they kept quiet. What interested me is the clientele of the bus as well as the stops.
Washington Shores is one the poorest and most crime-ridden areas in Orlando. There was another shooting there just a couple of weeks ago. The crime in the area is about 40% higher than the average in Orlando, and Orlando’s crime index is over 100% higher than the rest of Florida. A person has a one in nine chance of being a victim of a crime in Washington Shores. The section of Orlando consists of mainly African American households and the median income in the area is less than $20,000. The rest of Orlando is around $40,000. So the basic idea is that one end of the route is poor and full of crime.
The other end of the route is the Orlando Premium Outlets, an area heavy with tourists. I was there an hour before the stores opened, but the tourists were already lining up. As of 2008, there are over 40 stores in the outlet center, which has five bus routes servicing it. They have a money exchange to help make it easier for tourists to spend their cash. In 2011, the center had sales exceeding $1,300 per square foot. The center is 550,00 square feet.
So on one end of the route we have a place bringing in millions upon millions and the other end is ravaged by poverty.
Now, no one was on the bus leaving the outlets and the bus was packed heading into the outlets. Every passenger, but myself of course, was in uniform for places like Pollo Tropical.
There are many bus stops in front of the outlets, but we didn’t stop there. We stopped at two places by the outlets, both off to the sides. The last stop, and where I got on and got off, was around back, far away from the main entrance. Across the street were an empty field and the back of another strip mall. When we stopped at the Mall at Millenia, it was out of the way as well. In Washington Shores, the SuperStop is a large block in front of two churches and just a few feet from houses. My father drove a bus for Broward County Transit in South Florida for many years, and I know he drove right up to a mall’s entrance. Yet, this bus seems to be operating to purposefully drop its passengers out of sight of the tourists.
I’m still researching the route and the history of Orlando and the outlets, and so much more, so my project is still a bit of ways off from being finalized. But I feel filthy when I think about this. I know of a route in South Florida that was built to bring maids from out west to the rich houses along the beach. I know of a route that was built to pick up the mayor’s maid and only the mayor’s maid. Politics play into how these routes are made. There’s no other purpose for this route other than to bring people to work at the outlets and then back home. It doesn’t connect one side of the city to the other. It’s a short route that doesn’t even go to I-Drive, but around back and out of the way directly to the Mall at Millenia and the Orlando Premium Outlets.
Don’t get me wrong, on one hand the route allows for people to get to work. By working, they can feed and clothe their families. Great. Yet, the city is busing in people and paying them minimum wage, or near minimum wage, having them work to bring in millions and millions and millions to the outlets and to Orlando, and then they get bussed back to the ghetto. None of that money is being used to help out Washington Shores. I’ve researched and so far nothing has come up. I plan on continuing the research. Washington Shores is out of the way of downtown and the theme park area. It seems to just have been given up on years ago. Many of the businesses and houses are boarded up and are slowly falling apart. When I got on the bus, on its way to Washington Shores, the driver asked where I was going. When people got on the bus heading out of Washington Shores, the driver asked no one where they were going. I just keep asking myself how can people be making millions and have their employees go home to poverty and crime.
With my project, I’m hoping to explore this issue with a combination of images and research. I hope to bring out the complexities of the situation.