Florida Lawmaker Proposes Study of Public Transit P3 Plan

Published October 28, 2015

A Florida lawmaker is proposing a bill to reorganize and reform Orlando’s regional public transit system, which is operated by the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Bob Cortes (R-Maitland), would authorize studying how the public transportation agency’s bus system, Lynx, could be better run as a public-private partnership (P3).

Serving Consumers and Taxpayers

Cortes says Lynx should be reformed to better serve the public.

“You have a public transportation system mostly geared to serve those who either can’t afford their own transportation or [for whom] it’s an easier way to take public transportation than to use their own,” Cortes said. “We want to make sure that the operations and the upper management are serving the needs of these folks. We want to make sure that it’s commensurate to what the job does, … whether privatization of that makes it better, then we want to be able to explore those operational options with the board.”

Cortes says private-public partnerships are good for consumers and taxpayers alike.

“Anything that is government-related usually is subsidized by taxpayers,” Cortes said. “If we can find a way, by public-private partnerships to reduce the burden of the taxpayer, [such] that you have a private company investing to remove some of what taxpayers are paying and make the operation more effective and less burdensome, then we should be exploring that.”

‘A Step in the Right Direction’

Sal Nuzzo, vice president of policy at the James Madison Institute, says Cortes’ bill takes an important step toward private sector involvement.

“While it isn’t perfect, it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Nuzzo said. “Sometimes, reforms like these need to be rolled out incrementally to satisfy all of the stakeholders in a given area. Ideally, total privatization would result in the greatest degree of efficiency, being able to leverage better technology for routing, alternatives in fleet management, and other ways of better maintaining the service. Nevertheless, we live in a time that is in some way averse to big changes, and thus incremental reform is the best approach.”

P3s help make public service providers care about efficiently providing good service, Nuzzo says.

“In a private system, the innovation incentive exists in much greater capacity,” Nuzzo said. “The link is then able to be made tying compensation increases to external factors: increases in customer satisfaction, innovation, reductions in cost, etc.”  

Michael Bates ([email protected]) writes from Tulsa, Oklahoma.