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Up to Speed: Florida golf cart public transit option rises in popularity

Golf carts making rounds through downtown Lakeland are picking up in ridership. Other transportation agencies are considering the same.

LAKELAND, Fla. — If you think of something that’s "So Florida," a golf cart as a public transportation option might fit the bill, right? Well, that’s exactly what The Squeeze is doing for public transit riders in Polk County.

The Squeeze is Citrus Connection’s newest addition to its public transportation line — a golf cart shuttle service giving riders the opportunity to take advantage of everything the city has to offer.  

It’s part of a one-year pilot program we first told you about when it launched a couple of months ago. It originally started with a daily lunch route and a weekend evening service. Turns out, weekend rides are more popular, so Citrus Connection changed course to meet the demand.

Now The Squeeze golf carts run only on Friday and Saturday nights from 4 p.m.-11 p.m.

“People really enjoy it, and it looks cool too,” said Erin Killebrew, Director of External Affairs for Citrus Connection.  “When it gets dark, around 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. we turn on,” Killebrew said.  

Killebrew says ridership is continuously improving on the weekends.

“We’ve had really great ridership,” Killebrew said. “This past weekend we had close to 150 rides and the weekend before it was like 130 rides. We’re trying to change the face of public perception. If we can do that in downtown Lakeland hopefully, we can move it to other places in Polk County.”

That may soon become a reality. The Squeeze’s popularity is catching the eyes of transportation leaders in neighboring cities as well. The hope is for this pilot program to stick around a while longer.

“We all want to learn from each other,” Killebrew said. “What works in one area may or may not work in another area, but we want to see if it will so we’re all on the same page and we can move Florida along.”

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