Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Good news on that Church Street ticket machine

The Church Street SunRail ticket machine problem has been resolved.


When catching SunRail Tuesday at Church Street, a message flashed on the vending machine screen saying the machine ran out of tickets. We wrote about the experience.

Today a SunRail spokesman sent us a message explaining that the machine did not run out of tickets. The machine experienced a technical malfunction that caused it to jam and prevented it from dispensing tickets.

Good to know and glad that everything is back on track.

We’re also very grateful to the train conductor who assisted us Tuesday when we encountered the problem.


See you on The Rail!

Wow, the SunRail machine ran out of tickets

Right after noon on Tuesday (Aug. 7) we tried to buy a ticket on the northbound SunRail platform at Church Street. We got the weirdest message on the vending machine screen.

It said the machine had run out of tickets and then it printed the receipt shown in the accompanying photo.

Based on what we read on the receipt, it appeared SunRail charged our credit card, but we weren’t sure. In four years of riding SunRail we had never encountered a vending machine that had run out of tickets.

There was no SunRail Ambassador on the Church Street platform when we had this problem, though we know there were Ambassadors on duty at other stations. We used the call box on the platform to call customer service. After waiting a few minutes, an agent finally picked up.

The agent wasn’t sure if we were charged or not. She checked with her supervisor and then said we had not been charged. The agent went on to say we should check our bank account in a few days to make sure we had not been charged. Huh?

By the time we got done with her, we had to run to catch our train. We told the conductor what happened and showed him the receipt. Thankfully he allowed us to ride. He explained that since the Southern Expansion there had been a problem with machines running out of tickets.

Guess that’s a good problem, considering SunRail’s lackluster ridership before service began on the Southern Expansion.

But guys, you gotta do better!

Vending machines cannot run out of tickets by noon. If they do, then they need to be serviced more frequently. Better yet, we hope SunRail can step up the development of its app so that one day soon we can buy our ticket with our smartphone and not have to deal with the vending machines or ticket validators that have been a continuing problem.

Like they said in that old TV advertisement, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

See you on The Rail!


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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

SunRail ridership jumps on the 1st day of Southern Expansion

The numbers are in for SunRail’s first day of service with the four new stations and it looks very good!


Overall there were 6,326 boardings on the first day of expanded service.
To put that number into perspective during FY 2018 -- which ended June 30, 2018 -- SunRail's daily average was roughly 3,500

During the week of July 23, when expanded from 36 train trips to 40 train trips, SunRail had a few days when the boardings reached 3,800.

Based on what we saw at the Kissimmee SunRail station most of the riders were headed to work – not just joyriders checking out the new stations or folks just interested in a free ride.

In fact, many people boarding at the new stations were willing to pay for their rides even though SunRail was offering free boardings to the first 50 people at each of the new stations.

See you on The Rail!

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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Take SunRail to Emeril's favorite Kissimmee restaurant

SunRail and celebrity chef are two things we never thought we would see in the same article, yet here we are.

With the southern expansion of SunRail into Osceola County riders now will be able to take our favorite train to celebrity Chef Emeril Lagasse’s favorite Kissimmee restaurant – Savion’s Place.

Yes, that Emeril!

The owner of Savion’s Place – Chef Pouchon Savion -- was featured on Emeril’s Florida, a nationally broadcast TV show.

For years many Orlando area residents tended to look down their nose at Kissimmee as a “Cow Town” for its long history and heritage as one of the top livestock producers in the United States.

SunRail is not only providing a new transportation link for Osceola County residents, but it is pulling back the curtain on Kissimmee.

While some of the cowboy culture lives on in Kissimmee and elsewhere in Osceola, that community has become very diverse during the past three decades.

Savion’s Place is just one of many surprises awaiting those who take a day trip to check out Kissimmee.

The main drag in downtown Kissimmee is Broadway. That street and is maybe a half block from the Kissimmee SunRail station.

Along Broadway, and its side streets, there are all kinds of surprises awaiting visitors – from food to shopping. The food variety stretches from barbecue to Mediterranean – with a lot in between.

In addition, barely 5 minutes from the SunRail station is the spectacular Lake Tohopekaliga (Toho to locals) waterfront. Bring a picnic basket and blanket.

On Facebook you should like Kissimmee Main Street to keep up to speed on some of the great activities being held in the historic downtown corridor.

Before you can say it, we agree with you it would be great if SunRail ran on the weekends. It doesn’t. We still need your support to make 7-day service a reality.

Meanwhile, nothing should stop riders from making the best of what we have right now.

We think it’s noteworthy that the last northbound SunRail train departs the downtown Kissimmee station at 10 p.m., so it’s possible to catch a southbound SunRail train after work in downtown Orlando. Ride down to Kissimmee; have a nice dinner; do a little shopping and ride back in comfort to Orlando, Winter Park and points north.

Meanwhile, see what Emeril had to say about Savion’s Place by clicking here.
See you on The Rail!


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Sunday, July 22, 2018

SunRail is ready to start a new chapter

POINCIANA -- Sunday morning at 9, the SunRail trains are locked, loaded and ready to roll – on Monday morning.

The newest chapter in SunRail history starts – sort of – on Monday, July 23.
That’s when SunRail begins to run its new schedule – including scheduled stops at the new southern expansion SunRail stations.

While the trains will follow the schedule – they will not pick up or let off passengers at the four new stations – Meadow Woods, Tupperware, downtown Kissimmee, and Poinciana.

In other words, all southbound SunRail riders will be required to get off at Sand Lake Road (Yes, Joanne, that means you, too).

Once leaving Sand Lake Road, the SunRail train will continue its southbound run with brief stops at the new stations. No one will be allowed to board at those stations.

Think of this week (July 23 to July 27) as a dress rehearsal for the passenger service that will officially begin on Monday, July 30. When that service begins there will be a limited number of free rides offered to people who board at the new station. For details on those free rides, please click here.

To accommodate the new schedule, and for other logistical reasons, SunRail has established a small maintenance base in Poinciana where 2 SunRail trains will be stored – which is why they were there on Sunday morning. The rest of the SunRail trains are stored based in Sanford.

While we continue to lament that SunRail does not offer weekend or late-night service, the new schedule does offer a few improvements and changes.

To see the new schedule, click here.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

How come there is no development at the DeBary SunRail station?

Until now, DeBary has been the most disappointing SunRail station.

Even though Monday to Friday DeBary station – the only SunRail station in Volusia County -- typically has more boardings than almost any other station in the SunRail system it’s mainly just a big parking lot. Mind you, SunRail began operations in DeBary 4 years ago.

What DeBary could look like


Other than a no-name convenience store, and a few auto repair shops there is nothing at the DeBary station even though it was envisioned as the poster-child for Transportation Oriented Development (TOD).

Click here to see this TOD animation of the DeBary station that was created for the Florida Department of Transportation.

But don’t blame FDOT for DeBary’s failure to flourish. The state gave the local governments the freedom to lead the TOD effort at the stations and many cities, such as Lake Mary, Longwood and others have done an outstanding job.

Heck, even Osceola County -- which won’t get SunRail service until the end of this month -- has done a magnificent job with housing and even a medical center built close to the Tupperware/Osceola Parkway station.

What DeBary looks like today


But there is some hope for DeBary. We reached out to DeBary City Hall to find out what’s taking so long.

Roger Van Auker, TOD Marketing Director and Economic Development Director for the City of DeBary responded with these written comments: "The City of DeBary has been careful with the development of our SunRail area, we have engaged professionals, studied the market and are now implementing a plan that we believe will be sustainable and will enhance the quality the lives of our citizens now and the next generations.
  
"DeBary has several developments about to break ground near and within  our Transit Oriented Development District,

"Integra 289 Exchange is about to break ground on 289 units luxury apartments all the permitting is complete and ready to go ( hope to schedule groundbreaking in the next 2 weeks), we have a 700-unit planned unit development processing which is within a half mile from the train station. This development will primarily consist of townhomes and detached single-family homes connected via trail system and roadway network to the train station and to the two regional trail networks that traverse our TOD district and Gemini Springs Park, this development should break ground in approximately 9 months.

"The City is working with another developer in the planning process for another 50 plus acres in the TOD area, this development will feature high-density single family homes, commercial out parcels, grocer locations, parks and open space along with entertainment every area connected via trails, paths, and walkways, this development will break ground in approximately 9-10 months.

"The City of DeBary has entitled approximately 2,000 home sites in and around the TOD area these will all have a significant impact on the SunRail ridership, national builders are already building on many of these sites.

"People are discovering DeBary and what we have to offer."

Good to know, DeBary. What took you guys so long?

In general, SunRail service in Volusia County has been disappointing.
It’s a shame that DeBary is the only SunRail station in Volusia, even though a second station was proposed for DeLand, the county seat.

Many in Volusia are rightfully upset that DeLand station has not become a reality because there is no money available from the feds to get the job done.

Hopefully, serious development in DeBary will help get DeLand back on track.

See you on The Rail.

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Friday, July 6, 2018

Wanna free ride from SunRail's newest stations?

SunRail will be offering some free rides on the commuter train system to celebrate the launch of service on the railroad’s new southern leg at the end of this month.

The operative word is SOME.

Opening day crowds in 2014
When SunRail launched service on its first leg in 2014 the railroad offered free rides to all comers for the first couple of weeks.

Nice idea, but the situation nearly spun out of control. Trains were packed with joyriders who treated SunRail as though it was a new attraction at Universal or Disney.

It was difficult to keep the trains on schedule. You couldn’t find a seat unless you boarded at the beginning or the end of the line -- in DeBary or Sand Lake Road. SunRail had to add trains to ease the strain on the system.

Clearly, SunRail management wants to avoid repeating those headaches with the plan they have introduced to offer some free rides to people boarding at the new stations – Meadow Woods, Tupperware/Osceola Parkway, downtown Kissimmee, and Poinciana.

According to a press release from the Florida Department of Transportation that runs SunRail: “SunRail is offering a “First 50 Free” promotion to riders whose trip originates at any of the four new southern stations starting Monday, July 30, and running through Friday, August 17.

“The promotion is easy. Simply check-in at the designated ‘First 50 Free’ promotional gate at either the Poinciana, Kissimmee, Tupperware or Meadow Woods stations, and if you’re one of the first 50 riders for each train, your roundtrip is free. Tickets may still be purchased for any train, but if you want to secure your free SunRail roundtrip offer, make sure you arrive early.”

No doubt some will complain that FDOT is being stingy because it isn’t offering free rides to everyone who boards at the new stations.

Realistically, though, it would be irresponsible to offer unlimited free rides from the new stations. Folks riding the train for free could make it impossible for fare-paying riders at existing stations to board the train.

Given that the “First 50 Free” promotion will be held for three weeks there’s a reasonable opportunity for thousands to get a chance to ride for free.

Service on the new southern leg begins July 30. The southern extension required SunRail to introduce a new schedule that you can review by clicking here.

See you on The Rail!

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