Using Central Florida public transportation, it takes a single mother 7 hours a day to get to and from work

From Kissimmee to Orlando one woman’s daily commute highlights the need for more options

It takes Verrisa Graham, a single mother of four, nearly 7 hours to get to and from work every day using Central Florida public transportation.

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – It takes Verrisa Graham, a single mother of four, nearly 7 hours to get to and from work every day using Central Florida public transportation.

Without a car, Graham, a single mother of four, relies on public transportation to get to her job in Kissimmee. If she had a car, Graham said, her commute would take her 37 minutes.

While Graham lives in the Conway area of Orlando she works overnights at a big box store in Kissimmee.

Here’s what Graham’s route to work looked like on an average workday. After catching a bus on Conway Road at 6 p.m. to the downtown Orlando Lynx station, she then hops on the 7:48 p.m. Sunrail train. The Sunrail takes her to the Kissimmee bus station where she then gets on another bus to her job just in time for her shift to start at 10 p.m.

“It’s very stressful,” Graham said at a Lynx bus stop Wednesday. “Then I’m there all night and come back and do the same over again.”

News 6 followed Graham’s journey home after her shift recently. On that day she stayed late at work and missed the last Sunrail train during peak times. Her options: Wait two hours for the next Sunrail train, or take the 3 1/2 hour journey home by bus, actually, four buses total.

More than 49% of Lynx bus routes come once an hour or more, according to numbers provided by Orange County. More than 70 Lynx routes cover Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties with 4,342 bus stops across three counties.

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“It’s too long, too long to get to where I need to go,” Graham said. “If they would make more buses, maybe every 20 minutes or every 15 minutes that would be better.”

Graham said she prefers the commuter rail because it is quicker. She would love to see the Sunrail extended to more parts of Central Florida and run on nights and weekends.

Because of her commute and work hours, Graham doesn’t get to put her kids to bed. Her oldest daughter, at 15, takes care of her three younger siblings while Graham is at work.

At $12.50 an hour and with $1,200 a month in rent, she can’t afford a car. It would cost about $40 to use a rideshare app like Lyft to her job, instead she pays $50 a month for a bus pass.

“I have like maybe $800 or $600 left to live off of,” Graham said.

Graham’s reality is one reason why Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings is pushing for a one-cent sales tax to cover transportation improvements. Orange County residents will vote on the measure in November.

Demings said Central Florida is lagging behind in terms of having a multimodal mass transit system.

The one-cent sales tax could help Orange County invest in infrastructures, adding more Lynx buses to meet high demands and expanding SunRail to encourage more ridership.

Over the last few months, Demings has hosted several town halls. More than 9,000 residents have filled out online surveys on the topic, according to the county.

"It's all about timing and I believe that the time is right, now," Demings said.

Graham said she supports anything that could get her to get home quicker to spend more time with her family.

“I think that will be a good idea to do that and see how it works,” Graham said.

Until then, “you got to do what you got to do and to get by,” she said.

Orange County residents can weigh in on what public transportation improvements they would like to see if the one-cent sales tax is passed in November. Orange County officials are encouraging residents to take a survey and share their comments before the survey closes on Friday.

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