SunRail needs to stop blowing smoke when it comes to improving the passenger experience for its most loyal riders.
During the past 2 weeks we’ve attended meetings where we’ve heard frustrated riders complain about 2 major topics:
1. Several morning and evening rush-hour trains are packed – many people are left standing. Unlike subway cars – SunRail trains are not equipped with hand holds for standing passengers.
Riders want a 3rd passenger car added to those packed trains.
2. Passengers continue to have problems with their reloadable SunRail SunCards that they use to pay their fares. Due to these problems, some passengers have been “hotlisted.” That means the fare system shows that their pre-paid fare accounts have been overdrawn. Some riders have been kicked off trains because of this problem.
Yet SunRail has turned these issues around to somehow be the fault of riders.
On the crowded train issue, the SunRail managers say they’ll monitor the situation, but blame some riders who put their bags or feet on seats displacing fellow passengers.
OK, some of that does go on. But we’ve been on trains when dozens of people are standing – many more than the space occupied by seat hogs.
SunRail used to run a couple of rush-hour trains with a 3rd passenger. But then it stopped. At the time they said some passenger cars were temporarily taken out of service for maintenance.
OK that makes sense. They promised the 3rd cars would be returned to those rush-hour trains. That was more than a year ago, and the problem continues as SunRail ridership has gotten better than ever.
Privately SunRail insiders say the problem is SunRail does not have enough rolling stock – passenger coaches. If that’s the case, admit it but don’t keep stringing passengers along.
Adding a third car to a couple of trains is probably an operational hassle, but passengers deserve better. No one wants to start or end the day standing and swaying in a sardine can.
On the reloadable SunCard problem, riders are fed up.
SunRail says if you have a problem with your SunCard (the plastic card, not the daily paper ticket) to call customer service so they can “investigate.”
The problem is that sometimes when people tap in with the validator device on the station platform, the validator doesn’t indicate there is a problem. If the validator doesn’t show you tapping off it will charge the rider to the furthest destination on the direction they’re traveling. (Say you were headed northbound to Winter Park it will charge your account as though you rode to DeBary.) Then the next thing you know the next time you try to tap on your account is overdrawn and your card is “hotlisted” – and you can’t use it.
It can take several days to investigate because they need to figure out which platform validator you’re using and if there’s something wrong with the device. Sounds like a hassle, but riders should not be penalized. All conductors need to show some restraint and grace.
To make matters worse SunRail is urging all regular riders to get a plastic SunCard.
Why encourage everybody to get a SunCard when you know the system is flawed?
After we published video from a meeting showing the response from SunRail managers many riders unleashed their fury.
Several said they used to have SunCards, but they stopped using them because of the problems. What a train wreck!
While we’re at it, the SunRail fare system has been jacked up since the beginning of revenue service in 2014. It’s been a mixture of problems with the ticket-vending machines to “hotlisting” SunCards.
And while we’re at it, SunRail never followed through on one of its original selling points. SunRail said if you used the train you could get a free transfer to the Lynx bus.
That only works however, if you are using a daily, paper ticket you buy from the vending machines. SunCard users can’t take advantage of that perk.
Seems upside down to us, shouldn’t your most loyal riders – SunCard users – have that benefit?
These issues should have been resolved long ago.
Don’t get “hotlisted”! See you on The Rail.