I got back from Orlando yesterday, and that means a Service Change post with way too many pictures (and an insanely long title)! I wanted to take the Silver Line to Logan Airport, but since we were only going to be gone for three days, we took the car instead (darn). Anyway, at Orlando International Airport, the layout is a main terminal with two smaller areas for the gates. To get to the gate areas, you have to take a free monorail to get there (at least in Terminal B; I don’t know what the layout for A is). It’s a very short ride, with the automatically driven monorail shuttling between the two areas. However, you do get some nice views of the airport on the ride.

The stations are actually quite nice.

Interestingly, the monorail uses the same (or at least similar) rolling stock as the Atlanta airport train! They are both automatically driven, they both have the same shape, and they both only have two seats – one at each end. The resemblance is uncanny, but I don’t know if they’re exactly the same. The stations are very nice and modern, but the monorail can be very crowded. Overall, it’s a nice way of getting to your gate, and trains come every minute or so.

Adios, Mr. Train!

To get to the Universal Orlando amusement park from the Crowne Plaza (an excellent hotel, by the way) and a number of other hotels, you have to take the Super Star Shuttle. Sure, there are other ways of getting to Universal, but the Super Star Shuttle is direct and FREE! You just get a boarding pass from your hotel and get on. Unfortunately, my parents and I were late finishing breakfast. The woman at the front desk told us the bus left, and missing one is catastrophic, since the bus only goes every hour for a limited time. We had to make a mad dash across the street to get to it.

The buses are wrapped in an ad for the “Orlando FlexTicket,” making it impossible to see out of the windows.

Once we had gone to all of the hotels, the bus driver stood up with an introduction. At first I thought it would be a stupid lecture about safety, but it was actually quite entertaining. The driver made his safety instructions interesting, and he gave us some interesting facts about the park on the ride back. Speaking of which, don’t use this bus if you’re not planning to spend the whole day at Universal. The first bus to go back to the hotels is at 6:45 PM, so plan to spend a while at the park.

The buses have comfortable seats, but they get extremely crowded. They also have TVs in them. On the way there, the TVs showed a commercial for the FlexTicket on a continuous loop. On the way back, it showed that live action Garfield movie, which was considerably more entertaining. Overall, the Super Star Shuttle is a great, easy way to get to Universal.

This picture was taken during the commercial. See the TV?

I, of course, wanted to take a bus in Orlando. Preferably, I wanted to take the system that the locals use, the LYNX bus. A really nice woman at the hotel printed out schedules for us since we didn’t have a WiFi-equipped device. I noticed that one of them, the 42, was conveniently very close to our hotel and went to the airport! I managed to talk my mother into it (my father thought it was a good idea already), and we planned the trip.

It took a while to get the camera out, so the result is a shot that’s up close and personal.

Since almost all of the LYNX routes run every hour on Sundays, we had to know exactly where to pick up the bus. My mother and I went on a scouting mission, when we found the first con of the system: poor signage. Here on the MBTA, the bus sign tells you the route, as well as its destination. On LYNX, however, it only tells you the route. My mother and I had to ask three people to find out which way the airport was! However, almost all of the LYNX stops I saw had shelters and the LYNX logo, a paw print.

I wanted to take a picture of the I-hop sign, but the LYNX sign got in the way!
…Just kidding.

While waiting at the bus stop, I noticed that all LYNX buses are different colors. I thought that was an interesting idea, and you can still tell it’s a LYNX because of the large logo on each bus. My father and I were trying to see if the buses have a system for their coloring, but we couldn’t figure it out. It was when the 42 pulled up that we realized another flaw in the system: exact fare only. It’s really annoying having to have exact change to get on the bus, and it slows things down, too. Couldn’t LYNX introduce an Automated Fare Collection system like we have to speed things up?

The 8 runs every half-hour on Sundays? Sign me up!

I know I’m starting to sound like a LYNX hater, but that’s simply not true. The newer buses are very nice, with cushioned seats that are relatively comfortable. The 42 was a very interesting ride, plus it was practical for us! Along the route, there are stop announcements for major stops, but they’re kind of hard to hear. Anyway, we got on the 42 close to the start on International Drive. It was straightforward, running alongside the I-Ride Trolley (more on that later). International Drive is the main drag of that area, with numerous restaurants, stores, and theme parks along it. However, once the 42 turned off of International Drive, we were crossing a huge field. This is the interesting thing about Orlando, with plenty of things to do on one street, then nothing on the one next to it.

There weren’t many people on the bus…yet.

The 42 gets crazy after that, making a bunch of weird turns. One of the highlights of the ride is going on a bridge over a train yard. For every-hour service, the bus was very crowded. All together, there were about 42 fare-payers (coincidentally), which makes me wonder if the Sunday headways are a bit too spaced out. There was a surprising amount of people going to the airport, where the bus pulled into a parking space and we all got out. It was very quick and easy, with my parents describing it as “the least stressful trip to the airport I’ve ever had.”

In the International Drive Resort Area, however, the LYNX is relatively overshadowed (at least for tourists) by the I-Ride Trolley. When my mother was telling me about how our hotel is served by it (this was before we knew about the Super Star Shuttle), I thought it was a light rail train, or perhaps a trackless trolley. What I wasn’t expecting was a bus with a really creepy face plastered onto it. I mean, seriously, this overly-detailed smile looks like one that belongs to a psychopath. It doesn’t help that the bus is branded as “the fun way” to get around. Is it supposed to make kids happy? Because it creeps me out.

Hey, I-Ride Trolley, I hear Thomas the Tank Engine is hiring.

Nonetheless, despite not actually riding the I-Ride Trolley, it seems like a good deal. It runs every 20 minutes, every day (on the Red Line; the Green Line runs every 30 minutes), and it’s $1.50 over LYNX’s $2.00. It doesn’t serve all of the major theme parks (like Universal and Disney World), but it serves some major ones like SeaWorld. Overall, it seems like it’s a good way to get around if you’re staying in the International Drive Resort Area.

So that’s it on my Orlando trip. If I ever go back, I might have a post on the proposed Tri-Rail extension to Orlando. But until then, it’s back to the good ol’ MBTA for me.

This is a different kind of transit in Orlando.