Saturday, December 15, 2018

Why are train-vehicle crashes happening at Colonial Drive

After experiencing two collisions on Thursday (Dec. 13) at the same SunRail Colonial Drive crossing, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) conducted a safety evaluation at that location. One collision involved a SunRail train and the other involved Amtrak.

Here is what FDOT reported:

"Westbound traffic on Colonial Drive is extremely heavy during certain times of the day. Under current traffic conditions, back-ups could remain-even with further optimization of signal timing. However, the I-4 Ultimate team is exploring signal timing options. Drivers should not stop on the tracks, as traffic will still need sufficient time to clear during peak travel times. The I-4 Ultimate team is also examining additional pavement marking and signage enhancements in the construction zone to alert motorists not to stop on the tracks, or too close to them. It is extremely important that drivers stay behind the white stop bar facing the tracks and only proceed to the other side when there is a safe distance to fully clear the tracks. A train can come at any time and from any direction."

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

SunRail's southbound special rides again and again...

SunRail leisure riders just got an early Christmas present.

SunRail announced it will offer special late-night southbound service to support at home Orlando Magic games and some holiday-themed events in downtown Orlando.

The special southbound train will leave the Church Street station at 10:30 p.m. after the Orlando Magic games on Dec. 5, Dec. 7, Dec. 19, Dec. 26, Dec. 28 and Dec. 31. 

This train will begin its run at Church Street, not DeBary. It is a welcome service to people whose home stations are south of downtown, all the way to Poinciana.

This builds on the success SunRail experienced with the special late-night southbound service offered this (November) month.

There’s already a regularly scheduled northbound SunRail train that arrives at Church Street at 10:30 every weekday night.

The special southbound service will also benefit riders who plan to attend the Nutcracker performance at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 7 and the White Christmas performance at Dr. Phillips on Dec. 19.

No, this isn’t the same as weekend train service, but it is a step in the right direction because it builds ridership and helps the community demonstrate that we want more service.

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Monday, November 19, 2018

The Friday after Thanksgiving is perfect to ride SunRail

This coming Friday (Nov. 23) offers a unique opportunity for Central Florida residents to experience SunRail.

The biggest complaint that most people have is they never have a chance to ride SunRail during the week because the train doesn’t pass near their jobs, and that SunRail does not operate on the weekends.

This Friday (Black Friday/Nov. 23) is special because many people have that day after Thanksgiving off from work. On Friday SunRail will be offering its regular daily schedule.




In the past, Black Friday ridership on SunRail has been huge! Encourage your friends and neighbors to ride this Friday, too. It’s lots of fun and a great way to explore Central Florida.

For those who are unfamiliar with SunRail and where it goes, here’s a quick primer:
·        SunRail trains run from DeBary in Volusia County to Poinciana in Osceola County.
·        The SunRail route is 61 miles long.
·        There are 16 stations on the SunRail corridor.
·        You must purchase your ticket from vending machines on the platform before you board the train and don’t forget to tap on and tap off.

Don’t just ride the train as though it’s the Hogwarts Express, get off and experience the destinations.

Two destinations we recommend are Historic Downtown Kissimmee and Historic Downtown Sanford.

The Florida Hospital SunRail station in Orlando is the gateway to Loch Haven Park -- home of several museums (such as the Orlando Science Center) and theaters.

Every time you ride, those ridership stats help move us closer to 7-day service – something we all want to see happen.

See you on The Rail!


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Thursday, November 15, 2018

What's next for SunRail with Gov. DeSantis?

If you ride SunRail and grasps its potential to boost the local economy and ease traffic, then the question you should be asking yourself is: What’s next?



Now that the ballot counting is pretty much over, Ron DeSantis will become Florida’s next governor. DeSantis has minced no words expressing his disdain for rail as a transportation option in Florida.

In an interview with a television reporter during the campaign DeSantis, a former Congressman who represented part of Volusia County, which is served by SunRail said, “I’m skeptical of some of the ideas that we’re going to create some big train and everyone will be happy.


That attitude doesn’t bode well for SunRail, which depends on money through the Florida Department of Transportation to fund operations through 2021.
In just 2 years it will be up to the local funding partners – Volusia, Seminole, Orange, Osceola counties and the city of Orlando to fork over about $30 million to continue SunRail operations.

Florida Department of Transportation executives currently manages SunRail, with advisory oversight from the SunRail Commission -- local elected officials from Volusia, Seminole, Orange, Osceola counties and the city of Orlando.

Contrary to what some may think, SunRail can’t pay its operating costs solely with revenue from the fare box. No public transit system in the world can pay for operations solely from the fare box. Typically, a transit system can pay about 30 percent of the costs from fares. Beyond that, they need government support.

Are the local governments prepared to take over the management of SunRail?

Not yet, but during the past year, the SunRail Commission started working on a transition plan.

At the last couple of commission meetings, however, there has been discussion and some sharp words over changes needed in the local operating agreement that stipulates – among other things – what each local government would pay.

Until this past summer, SunRail’s ridership has been disappointing. Things changed in late July when SunRail extended train service down to Poinciana in Osceola County. That expansion increased ridership by almost 2,000 – up to 5,300.

Anyone who drives knows that our roads have reached the crisis point, regardless of whether you’re in downtown Orlando or in DeBary. Improved public transit won’t end traffic jams, but it offers an alternative to driving.

People who ride SunRail say they arrive at work relaxed and save thousands of dollars in car repairs and other expenses.

Despite naysayers, SunRail has been a great investment because it has spawned more than $1 billion in Transportation Oriented Development near SunRail stations. Those developments range from apartment communities to new workplaces.

There’s another $1 billion in investment in the development pipeline. People want to live and work near transportation.

There’s much work that still needs to be done for SunRail reach its full potential. That includes:
·        Adding weekend train service. Riders have been begging for weekend and late-night service since SunRail launched. But SunRail currently does not have money in its budget to meet that demand.
·        Creating a dedicated funding source – such as a surtax on rental cars -- to provide the money SunRail and Lynx need to provide prompt and convenient public transit.
·        Merging SunRail and Lynx into a single regional transportation agency to improve coordination and make better use of resources.
·        Connecting SunRail to Orlando International Airport. It’s estimated that such a rail connection would cost around $200 million. Until now, locals hoped they might get some of that money from the federal government. However, the Trump administration is unlikely to provide help.
·        Extending SunRail service to DeLand in Volusia County – as pledged in SunRail’s original plan. However, just like to airport, it’s unlikely the Trump or DeSantis administration would be much help.

The long-term fate of SunRail rests with our local elected officials, not with Tallahassee or Washington.

Central Florida needs to pull up its big-boy pants and git ‘er done.

During the past 30 years, Central Florida’s local political and business leaders found the resources and will to build two basketball arenas, a performing arts center, a soccer stadium; expand and improve Camping World Stadium, the Orange County Convention Center and the University of Central Florida.

Isn’t about time those leaders did something that will benefit average people?

Central Florida deserves a public transit system that works. Let’s get to work!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Please clean Lynx Central Station

Mayday! Mayday!

The SunRail platform at Lynx Central Station needs to be rescued. It’s gross!

A regular reader of SunRailRiders sent us a photo of the messy SunRail platform late Monday (Nov. 12). We posted the photo on our Facebook page and received an avalanche of comments from riders angry about conditions at that station. When the weather is hot, they say you can smell the stench of human waste. One woman said she has seen rats at the station.

Way before sunrise on Tuesday (Nov. 13), we went to the SunRail platforms at Lynx Central Station. The photo sent to us on Monday didn’t do justice to mess we found.


While some blame the messy conditions on riders using the Lynx bus terminal, Lynx seems to do a reasonably good job of keeping their area clean. The problem appears to be most severe on the SunRail platform that is furthest from the Lynx buses.

Everything from soiled diapers to beverage containers littered the fenced enclosure between the northbound SunRail platform and the grassy courtyard at Central Station on Orange apartment complex that is across the street from the Orange County Courthouse.

Pavement on the SunRail platform is smeared with unknown substances that are best left untouched by bare hands.


This train station is one of the busiest in the SunRail system. It is in the heart of downtown Orlando, and the present conditions should be an embarrassment to SunRail.

The root problem appears to be a major problem with homeless people camping at the SunRail station overnight.

Early morning riders report that the SunRail Ambassador at the station wakes up more than a dozen homeless people sleeping at the station and asks them to move.

On Tuesday morning we saw nearly a dozen people sleeping on the plaza at the Central Station on Orange apartments that opens onto the SunRail platform.

Despite the homeless camping problem, the maintenance staff at Central Station on Orange apartments does an outstanding job keeping that private property clean. Wish we could say as much for the SunRail platform.


The rider experience begins and ends on the train platform. The conditions at SunRail’s Lynx Central Station are unacceptable.

We don’t know how often the station is supposed to be cleaned. But it needs to be cleaned every morning and every night.

Picking up litter is not enough.

The platform, the benches, and all the hard surfaces need to be power-washed daily.
A permanent solution is needed for the fenced-in area between the platform and the apartments where litter accumulates. Pave it over or add some grass. Make it look nice.

A SunRail manager needs to do quality-control checks daily to ensure problems at the station are being addressed.

Homelessness is a complex and awful problem. SunRail can’t solve homelessness, but it should be working with Orlando police and social workers to stop people from camping overnight in the SunRail station.

Please improve the rider experience at Lynx Central Station. The riders deserve better.

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Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Magic Southbound Special is getting popular

SunRail’s Magic Southbound Special looks like a winner to us.

We’re referring to the special southbound train service SunRail is offering after Orlando Magic home games.

The first night the service was offered – with little advance notice – on Oct. 30, the train had 4 riders.

A few days later -- when the service was offered again -- there were 29 riders.


This service is noteworthy because until Oct. 30th there was only a northbound train stopping at Orlando’s Church Street SunRail station. That train -- part of SunRail’s regularly scheduled weekday -- is great for Magic fans who live in Winter Park and points north. The train picks up more than 100 people at Church Street and Lynx Central station on game nights.

Until this new service, fans who live near Sand Lake Road, Kissimmee, Poinciana and such were out of luck.

Executives at SunRail and Bombardier (the contractor that operates the train) decided to introduce a southbound train on game nights to see if there would be any takers. They committed to offering this service through the end of this month.

Fans and others are delighted. Some people who rode the train didn’t attend the Magic game (they won for a change) but used it as an opportunity to explore downtown and get back home.

The special doesn’t run the entire southbound route from DeBary. SunRail stages the train at Church Street’s southbound platform shortly before 10 p.m. and the train departs at 10:30 p.m. -- around the time the northbound SunRail train arrives at Church Street.

Some riders want to know why the southbound train can’t leave earlier – which goes to show that you can’t make everybody happy. The 10:30 departure makes sense in case the Magic game goes into overtime and give people a chance to walk from Amway Center to the station and maybe even stop for a drink along the way.

If you want to leave earlier, call Uber.

This schedule is not perfect. Many people, including us, would like to see much later train service on Friday nights. We proposed a Last Call Special after the bars closed. Realistically, that’s not going to happen any time soon.

And no, this isn’t weekend service that everyone – including us – has been clamoring for since SunRail launched in 2014.

As we’ve explained, there is no money in the budget for weekend service. Providing the operating money SunRail needs for weekend service is the responsibility of the federal, state and local elected officials who represent Central Florida.

Everyone should be grateful that SunRail has stretched its limited resources to provide this special southbound train. The more people ride SunRail, the stronger we make the argument to turn SunRail into a full-service railroad.

See you on The Rail!


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Sunday, November 4, 2018

Please ride SunRail home from Orlando Magic games

If you’re an Orlando Magic fan, please use SunRail to go to and come home from games.

In case you missed the announcement, SunRail has made it easy for fans to leave their cars parked for free at a suburban SunRail station and then ride the train to Orlando’s Church Street for an easy walk to the Amway Center.

Thanks a schedule change to support the Southern Extension, a northbound train is scheduled to stop at Church Street every night at 10:30 in time to pick up fans headed to destinations, such as Winter Park and points north. Until last week, there was no southbound train for fans to take after the game.

But SunRail bosses decided to add a southbound train as an experiment and they’re committed to providing that service for all the home games this month. (This train only operates on game nights.)

SunRail introduced the late southbound train last Tuesday. There were 4 passengers on Tuesday. On Friday, there were 29 riders. We’re looking for that number to continue to grow. This service is a blessing for fans who live near the Sand Lake Road, Meadow Woods, Tupperware, Kissimmee, and Poinciana stations.

It’s critical to use the train, or else we’ll lose it. The southbound train is scheduled to run Monday night (Nov. 5) and Nov. 7, 9, 14 and 20. For more details, click here.

Like the northbound train, the southbound train leaves Church Street at 10:30 p.m. Please see the accompanying schedule for the special southbound train.
This special train will begin its southbound run at Church Street, and regular fares apply.

The great thing is that this schedule allows enough time for overtime in the games, and maybe even a post-game drink. Hopefully, the Orlando Magic will win Monday night so there will be a reason to celebrate with a drink.

Cheers!


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