TAVARES — As gas prices locally and nationwide spiral upward, Lake County's new public transportation service, LakeXpress, is offering the most economical ride along the U.S. Highway 441 corridor.
"With gas prices in Florida averaging nearly $3.13 a gallon, it's hard to beat a free ride," said Ken Harley, Manager of the Lake County Public Transportation Division.
Until Friday, Aug. 17, LakeXpress is offering free fares. According to officials, this free introductory period will help build interest in the service. After its first week of better-than expected participation, the trend of increased ridership could continue for the foreseeable future.
"Historically, what happens nationwide is when gas prices begin to soar, ridership in public transportation also increases," Harley said. "To say the least, LakeXpress couldn't have started at a better time for Lake County residents. During the first day of service more than 80 individuals rode the bus, and the first week we counted approximately 700 passengers."
The LakeXpress fixed-route service began on May 21. LakeXpress is referred to as a fixed-route service because buses run along established paths at preset times picking up passengers. Currently, LakeXpress does not feature established bus stops, but riders can "flag" down a bus anywhere along the route.
To "flag" down a bus, a passenger needs to raise their hand and motion to the driver as the bus approaches. The driver will determine the most safe and convenient spot to allow passengers to board. Passengers may depart the bus in a similar manner by notifying the driver of their desired drop-off location. The driver will again determine the most safe and convenient spot to allow passengers to exit the bus. In the future, passengers may board and exit the bus at designated LakeXpress bus-stop locations, which will be installed in phases along each route.
LakeXpress operates Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. Buses do not run on Saturdays, Sundays and the following federal holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for LakeXpress will take place on Monday, June 11, at 9 a.m. at 315 W. Main St. in Tavares. For more information about LakeXpress, call (352) 326-8637 or log on to www.RideLakeXpress.com.