Both individual and community mobility have huge implications for how people, ideas, and culture(s) are valued and integrated into broader society. The dominance of automobility directly impacts our access to basic needs as well as our sense of self and community. Car culture especially in car-centric cities like Orlando ultimately places emphasis on the experiences and voices of the “person in the automobile” versus the person. The car is an appendage of the person or vice versa – fused to an idea of respectability, status, and even worth.
To be carless, to be a person walking or biking, to ride the bus is almost a disoriented way of living – a queer way of moving in Orlando. Welman (2014) writes that “the rise of personal automobile, some scholars suggest, sustained old inequalities like segregation and lack of access, and promulgated a new type of inequality—an inequity over the power of space and time” (p. 334). To occupy space outside of personal car ownership in Orlando and other cities like it with limited alternative transportation options means to embody a coerced slowness of movement – to experience limited mobility that perpetuates inequality and encourages social isolation, ostracism and even violence towards bodies perceived as straying from the valued norm of travel.
It’s quite easy to find yourself stranded in Orlando without a car. Carless/car free living in Central Florida can be a challenge at best – utterly incapacitating at worst. My TrIP 2013 project – @deadquarewalking – harped on this issue. I rode the bus to the Parliament House on Halloween night and then walked home to UCF since the buses weren’t running (approx. distance of 13 miles over the course of six hours). Below is a 15-minute montage of Instagram video I took on the walk.
@deadquarewalking, in many ways, was a protest walk. I was pissed off that I felt my life and my desire to feel connected to communities that mattered to me were insignificant to Central Florida’s transportation plan. All because I didn’t have a car – my community was off limits to me. Though I purposely stranded myself for @deadquarewalking, there were many times prior where I had been stranded for real – and it was not fun. The limited transit schedule continues to be an issue two years later.
There is hope. Since TrIP first launched in 2013, the landscape of mobility in Orlando has definitely changed for the better.
More options (if you can afford them). SunRail. Juice Bike Share. Über. Lyft. These new arrivals to O-town can help connect many gaps left wide open for years by an underfunded public transit system and a regional, taxi cab/shuttle service monopoly. Unfortunately, SunRail has its own limitations (no weekend service for starters), and I’d argue that much has not changed with LYNX service over the past two years. Still no dedicated funding. Still no real-time tracking. Still no competitive, digitized ticketing system (SunRail managed to get a reusable card that you can load money on to from the get-go even though LYNX has existed for over three decades). So many awesome BRT projects collecting dust on the shelf stuck in prioritized project list hell (the 192 BRT may be making progress).
More still needs to be done. Especially about these gaps – gaps in service, in speed, in information-sharing, in basic access to getting around town. It amazes me how many LYNX bus routes…
- only run hourly (two of the three LYNX fixed route buses connecting UCF to Downtown Orlando and other destinations only run hourly)
- have limited to no evening, late night or weekend service (this includes SunRail which only runs Monday – Friday)
- can’t be tracked on a mobile phone app (ALL with the exception of some routes undergoing beta testing such as the LYMMO)
- accept cash only (ALL…the limited sale of bus passes is also perplexing. It would be nice to be able to buy a pass at Publix or other local businesses versus just LYNX Central Station)
I could probably go on a long, long, long rant about who’s at fault, what we need to do to fix this and so on and so on but I’ll save that for another day. Let’s talk about my TrIP Biennale project instead.
My contribution for TrIP 2015 is still a work in progress called The Dark Hours. It’s an interactive website that visualizes the times Central Florida’s transit system is not operating. The first phase I am developing focuses specifically on LYNX fixed routes connected to the University of Central Florida as well as SunRail. Below are screen shots of two, abstract transit maps – one of the routes when they are dark and one when they are operational.
For my solo TrIP Biennale ride, I took the “late-night” train (last south-bound train of the night leaving at 9 p.m.) out of DeBary to the Sandlake station then rode the LYNX bus back to downtown (Link 18 which also happened to be the last bus of the night around 11ish p.m.). I worked on The Dark Hours website design while I rode (and took lots of #sunrailselfies). Photos from my TrIP are below:
SunRail selfies I took at each of the 12 SunRail stations while I worked on The Dark Hours:
More photos from the SunRail and LYNX rides:
PS: Two major concerns of The Dark Hours project are:
- How the current system fails to serve non-9 to 5 commuters
- How the current system fails to provide a late-night alternative to drinking and driving, driving with a lack of sleep and distracted driving.
Wellman, Gerard C. “Transportation Apartheid – The Role of Transportation Policy in Societal Inequality.” Public Works Management & Policy 19.4 (2014): 334-339.