Commitment to Accessibility: DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact

Orlando, Florida/Central Florida Light Rail System

View printer friendly version

Central Florida Light Rail System

Orlando, Florida

(November 1998)


The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX) is planning development of a light rail transit (LRT) system generally paralleling Interstate-4 along CSX right-of-way in Orlando, FL. The Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) is a 16.3-mile, 20-station system from Loch Haven/Princeton in the north to Central Florida Parkway in the south, with expanded local and circulator bus service in the corridor. The 14.6 mile southern segment of the corridor is being advanced as the projectís first Minimum Operable Segment (MOS). The MOS extends from downtown Orlando south to an interim terminus and station located southeast of the interchange of I-4 and the Central Florida Parkway. Estimated capital costs for the MOS total $600.1 million (escalated), with estimated daily ridership totaling 103,700.

The northern segment of the proposed LRT corridor would extend from the interim terminus at Loch Haven/Princeton to Sanford in north Seminole County. A future extension of the south corridor would extend from the Central Florida Parkway to southeast of I-4 and SR 417 in Osceola County.

Central Florida Light Rail Summary Description

Proposed Project Light Rail Transit
14.6 miles, 17 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $600.1 million
Section 5309 New Starts Share ($YOE) $330.0 million
Annual Operating Cost ($YOE) $31.5 million
Ridership Forecast (2020) 103,700 average weekday boardings
29,500 daily new riders
FY 2000 Financial Rating: Medium-High
FY 2000 Project Justification Rating: Medium-High
FY 2000 Overall Project Rating: Highly Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new start projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


FDOT and LYNX completed the I-4 Multimodal Master Plan Major Investment Study (MIS) in the Fall of 1995, which included both light rail and highway improvements along the I-4 corridor in Orlando. In December 1995, the Orlando and Volusia County MPOs adopted the I-4 MIS design concept and scope improvements as part of the Year 2020 Long Range Transportation Plans.

The highway and transit components of the preferred alternative are being analyzed in separate Preliminary Engineering (PE) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) efforts. FTA is designated as the lead Federal agency on the light rail PE/EIS, while the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is the lead agency on the highway PE/EIS. LYNX, in cooperation with FDOT, completed the PE/FEIS for the Central Florida Light Rail Transit System in November 1998. The FEIS addressed both the 16.3 mile LPA and the 14.6 mile MOS. A Record of Decision (ROD) on the project is expected January 1999.

TEA-21 Section 3030 (a) (60) authorizes the Orlando I-4 Central Light Rail System for final design and construction. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $51.0 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for this project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA's Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Information is presented for the proposed 14.6 mile MOS. N/A indicates that data are not available for a specific measure.


Mobility Improvements

Rating: Low

LYNX estimates that the MOS will result in the following annual travel time savings.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 0.9 million hours 0.5 million hours

Based on 1990 census data, there are an estimated 523 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed 17 stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

The Orlando area is currently classified as an attainment area for both ozone and carbon monoxide. LYNX estimates that in the year 2020, the project would result in the following annual changes in emissions.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) decrease of 1,605 annual tons increase of 591 annual tons
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) decrease of 119 annual tons decrease of 33 annual tons
Hydrocarbons (HC) decrease of 178 annual tons increase of 30 annual tons
Particulate Matter (PM10) N/A N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) N/A N/A

LYNX estimates that in the year 2020, the project would result in the following savings in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units - BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) decrease of 700,000 million annual BTU N/A

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

LYNX estimates the following systemwide operating cost per passenger mile for the No-Build, TSM, and New Start in the year 2020.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (1997) $0.41 $0.42 $0.42

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium-High

LYNX estimates the following cost-effectiveness indices for the project compared to the No-Build and TSM alternatives.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $9.26 $9.72

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High Land Use rating reflects existing conditions within the corridor (major attractions anchor each end of the project) as well as the positive steps that local jurisdictions and the private sector have taken to better integrate transit in planned development along the corridor. The MOS connects two major trip generators (the Orlando CBD and the International Drive tourist area--includes Universal Studios, Sea World, and other attractions). Population in the South Florida Light Rail System corridor was 349,000 (29% of the region) in 1996, while corridor employment was 452,000. Orlando and Orange County have both adopted specific policies (management of parking, policies for infill development and redevelopment) which will serve as incentives for transit development to foster high growth, and numerous private sector developments.

The corridor is expected to sustain high growth, and numerous private sector developments are planned which will result in infill and redevelopment opportunities in the corridor. LYNX is working with several property owners and developers to coordinate new development plans with the LRT. In addition, the City of Orlando and LNYX are exploring joint development opportunities in the CBD. New developments within the International Drive area are expected to include extensive parking. Orlando and Orange County have both adopted specific policies and incentives for transit development and managing the supply of parking.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 45%

LYNX proposes a $330.0 million Section 5309 New Start share (55 percent) of total project capital costs. The financial plan includes $135.1 million (22.5 percent) in State funds and $135.0 million (22.5 percent) from a variety of local sources including private sector investments.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: High

LYNXís financial plan for the Central Florida Light Rail System is rated High for demonstrating strong state, local, and private sector financial support for the MOS. All local funding sources for the project are committed and currently in place. FDOTís contribution to the project is committed and includes an up-front grant to fund construction and a 20-year light rail car and capital equipment lease financing program. Innovative financing covers about 19 percent of total MOS project costs. Both the Orange County Convention and the International Drive Master Transit and Improvement District (MSTU) - a special taxing district established by Orange County on behalf of property owners along the corridor - are contributing significant resources to the project. A State Infrastructure Bank funding mechanism is in place, although the city of Orlando and Orange County have not yet identified revenues for loan repayment. Capital cost estimates appear reasonable.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium operating plan rating reflects both the local commitment to financially support operations of the project and the uncertainty of a regionwide dedicated revenue source proposed to replace local operating subsidies. LYNX estimates annual operating cost for the MOS at $18.6 million (escalated dollars) in 2003, and $31.5 million (escalated) in 2020. The City, County, and State have each committed to fund approximately 17 percent of LRT operations (totaling 50 percent). Farebox revenues are assumed to cover 39 percent of costs. Universal Studios has committed to provide 7.4 percent of annual operating costs. The financial plan assumes that City and County contributions would eventually be replaced by a dedicated regionwide ½ cent sales tax, which is included in the adopted regional long range transportation plan. The tax would require voter approval, and a referendum on the tax may be pursued for 2003. If such a referendum fails, the City and County have committed to continue to financially support the projectís operations, and have the financial capacity to do so.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Section 5309 New Starts $330.0 $51.0 million appropriated through FY 1999.
FDOT $135.1

County/City (SIB Loan) $22.0

Orlando Downtown Development Board $16.4

Orange County Convention Center $73.6

International Drive MSTU $23.0

Total: $600.1

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Any errors are due to rounding.

[Central Florida Light Rail System Map (PDF)]

Commitment to Accessibility: DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact