Saturday, May 29, 2004

The mind is wandering while the rest of the family is sleeping this early Saturday morning, so let me share what's on my mind while I've been reading the morning news...

Sad to hear the Citrus Connection, the Lakeland/Winter Haven area's mass transit service, is planning to discontinue it's Night Ride program as of July 1. Night Ride offered workers from 9 PM until midnight who didn't have other transportation options a way of getting to and from their jobs. Unfortunately, a lack of riders and loss of grant funding means no more service.

There were a couple of problems. First, the Citrus Connection hardly promoted the service at all. According the the Lakeland Ledger story this morning, transit director Steve Githens admitted it was marketed on a shoestring budget. Not quite the way you want people to know about your service, Steve! Then a representative of the Downtown Development Authority was quoted as saying ridership would increase if people would people would catch a bus after hours to dinner and movie without worrying about the after dinner drink. One problem with that: the Night Ride service was marketed only for nighttime workers.

In order to ride you had to 1) Go to the Citrus Connection office and fill out an application stating your place of employment, 2) have their staff verify your employment, and 3) wait for you to be mailed a card which you have to present to the driver when boarding the Night Ride bus. It only provided door-to-door service to and/or from your workplace. That was the purpose of Night Ride, as it was funded by welfare reform grants...which are now going, going, gone.

Thanks, Jeb! Thanks, Dubya!

And speaking of Jeb, it looks as though he will veto part of the budget that provides funding for restoration of publicly owned historical sites at Cypress Gardens. Sounds like the state is beginning to balk on it's commitment to preserve the Gardens, Florida's first theme park which was closed last year after over 70 years but scheduled to reopen later this year under new owner Kent Buescher. It'll be truly interesting to see the place when it does reopen. Buescher owns Wild Adventures Theme Park near Valdosta, Georgia, and plans to make Cypress Gardens more family-friendly instead of an attraction for senior citizens and wedding parties while keeping intact the original botanical gardens created by Dick and Julie Pope so many years ago.


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