Lehigh Acres Microtransit
LeeTran has called for eliminating the 515 fixed Route (solid yellow line below) and replacing it with an on-call flexible microtransit route. A $3.5 million dollar Park and Ride is proposed to be built off Roberts Rd. (indicated by the "P" symbol below,) subsidized with grant money. The idea is that passengers could be shuttled by the microtransit van to the Park and Ride to await pick up by the 110 Bus into Fort Myers. However, there are a number of concerns about this proposition which should give one considerable pause for thought!
First of all, travel times in and out of Lehigh Acres are so poor using LeeTran services that no one in Lehigh would ever opt to use LeeTran to take them anywhere in the County! For instance, a round-trip excursion to Lover's Key Beach from Homestead Plaza on a weekday takes LeeTran on average over seven and a half hours (456 minutes!) On Sundays, it takes LeeTran over eight and three-quarters hours (528 minutes!) Why provide transit service to the whole of Lehigh Acres with this unacceptable horrendous service? [For a full analysis, see: Lehigh Acres Analysis and Sunday Analysis.]
Secondly, Tindale admitted that the area marked in blue was too large to service with just one microtransit vehicle. It is probably too large for two! [See: Lehigh Proposal] The architects of this plan, Tindale-Oliver, admitted that they thought a van might only be able to cover an area five or ten minutes away from the Park and Ride. When asked how much such a service would cost, they simply replied, "I don't know." The exaggeration of the size of the coverage area is simply to obtain grant money to do research on the possibilities of providing service there. Now, if Tindale-Oliver gets the money to do the research, does it enrich itself by applying for this grant?
Thirdly, the perceived need for microtransit might be better addressed by re-configuring the 715 Route to provide service to the outskirts of Lehigh early in the morning and late in the evening. [See: 715 Route] It can be done, and thousands of dollars could be saved without the need for getting rid of fixed-route service.
The 515 Route, which the microtransit bus will replace, serviced 56,548 passengers in 2017:
The 515 Route averaged 11 passengers an hour in 2017 (56,548 passengers divided by 5000 yearly service hours equals 11.3 passengers per hour,) but it likely could have picked up more passengers if the route had been more streamlined and more multi-purpose, instead of a mere "circulator" (and even then, the "circulation" was not very efficient!)
According to the latest articles on microtransit, the maximum number of passengers microtransit has been able to service on the average has been about six passengers an hour.
Moreover, transit expert Jarrett Walker says fixed routes are, by their geometry and nature, always more efficient than flexible routes.
The 515 only carries 1.3% of the total number of passengers in the system (56,548 passengers on the 515 Route divided by 4,211,433 total passengers in the system equals 1.3%.) LeeTran is spending $500,000 on the 515 Route out of a budget of 23.5 million dollars which equals 2.1%, a loss of .8% which equals about $188,000 a year. While one microtransit route would cost only $300,000, ridership would go down by half. Microtransit represents 1.3% in expenditure, but it would service only .7% of ridership, so that would come out to a loss of $141,000 a year. Nevertheless, LeeTran would save $200,000 a year up front by doing away with the 515 Fixed Route, so together with the operational savings of running microtransit ($200,000 plus $47,000) close to a quarter-million dollars a year on LeeTran's operating budget could be saved. But is this a transit improvement, or a step backwards, saving money at the expense of serving the people of Lehigh Acres?
Is there any other way to salvage service to the people of Lehigh Acres without losing money? One possibility would be to utilize the 515 Route more efficiently by having it do triple duty: First, in servicing Leland Heights and Joel Blvd. up to 12th St. E. every hour, and secondly, by having it travel to the Hilton Hotel on Alico Road to meet up with the 250 and 260 Routes every third trip, and finally, servicing the outskirts in Lehigh for 90 minutes in the early morning and evenings. To see how this could be accomplished, please check out the page on Route 115. Adding the Daniels Road Corridor to the 115 Route would save literal hours for passengers commuting from Lehigh to FGCU, the Airport and Gulf Coast Town Center (and back) [see the Lehigh Analysis.] This would make the 715 a very attractive route, and it would be a definite incentive to increase ridership and help balance the budget for LeeTran.
For more information about how the 715 Route would work, click here.