Thursday, January 17, 2019

Once again SunRail insults the memory of Dr. King

It is a disgrace that SunRail will not be operating on the Monday (1/21), the national observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

Dr. King came to national prominence as a public transit activist in 1955, when he helped lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

For more than a year, hundreds of black people in Montgomery didn't ride the buses because they refused to sit in the back. In 1968, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. where he went to support sanitation workers who were striking to protest dangerous working conditions and poor pay.

Dr. King was a champion for working people, poor people – the very same people who get screwed when SunRail is not running. SunRail is not a theme park ride, it's public transportation that real people depend on.

The MLK Holiday is a bank holiday and a holiday for federal workers (let’s not even get into that). Most other people, especially hourly workers and those who work in the service and hospitality industry must work on that holiday.

Many people who use SunRail -- especially those who do not own cars -- say an hour or more is added to their travel time when the train is not running. So how the heck can SunRail honor MLK while screwing working people? It’s cynical. (The Lynx bus will be running.)

We raised this concern several times in the past, including earlier this month at the SunRail Customer Advisory Committee meeting. SunRail CEO Nicola Liquori, who came to her present role long after the schedule was established, said she would find out why MLK Day was a SunRail holiday.

Her interest and concern are deeply appreciated. It’s time for SunRail to provide the community with the level of service we need and deserve.

Sadly, we won’t see you on The Rail on the MLK holiday because the train won’t be running.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Wi-fi problems on SunRail?

Had problems with the free wi-fi on SunRail?

You’re not alone. We’ve heard several complaints about the wi-fi system not working, or people having a difficult time connecting.

A member of the SunRail Customer Advisory Committee asked about wi-fi issues during a recent committee meeting.

SunRail CEO Nicola Liquori acknowledged there have been issues with the wi-fi that they have called to the attention of the company that provides that service.

In addition, Ms. Liquori said they have been considering retaining another company to provide that service.

Free wi-fi has always been one of the cool things about SunRail. You can get work done on your way to work, or on your way home, or just spend time Facebooking on the train.

Hopefully, this will be resolved sooner, rather than later.

See you on wi-fi and The Rail!

Friday, January 11, 2019

SunRail could be headed for a financial wreck

SunRail riders should be alarmed by the recent TV news report about the $21 million deficit facing the Lynx public bus system that serves Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties.

In 2 years SunRail will likely be facing the same deficit jam. In 2021 the Florida Department of Transportation turns over the financing and management of the rail system to Orlando, Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Volusia counties.

As you’re reading this article, there is no plan for how those local entities will run the railroad.

One of the main reasons Lynx is in a jam is because it has no dedicated funding source to subsidize its operating costs.

It costs roughly $40 million a year to operate SunRail.

Last year SunRail collected about $8 million from riders’ fares and other sources, such as grants, fees paid by Amtrak and other railroads that use the SunRail tracks. Right now, FDOT is picking up the difference.

In 2021 the difference between the income and expenses becomes a local responsibility. Most public transit systems around the country rely on a dedicated local funding source to pay that difference. Central Florida does not have such a fund for SunRail, or Lynx.

A dedicated funding source could be a penny sales tax; a surcharge on rental cars (Orlando is the nation’s largest rental-car market), or a slice of the expressway authority tolls.

No public transit system can support its operations solely from the fare box. Typically, a public transit system can get about 30 percent of its operating money from the fare box.

It is the responsibility of our elected officials to provide that funding source to subsidize our public transit. Politicians don’t want to touch it because they don’t want to be blamed for a tax.

Let’s not forget that all transportation -- from the airlines to the street outside your house -- is supported by taxpayer subsidies.

Public transit is a service just like the police and fire departments, which are also expensive to run. Unlike police and fire, public transit does generate some income through the fare box.

SunRail is an amazing community asset that has not come close to meeting its full potential with weekend, late-night and airport service.

We need a strong SunRail. Indeed, we need a strong Lynx bus system – as Lynx helps many SunRail riders connect with their train stations. Anyone who drives knows we need more transportation options because our local roads have exceeded their capacity.

Public transit in Central Florida will not survive unless we come up with a dedicated funding source.

Time is running out.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Why isn't there a fast way to reach Disney with SunRail?

Our bad!

Later we learned the bus ride from the Kissimmee Intermodal Station (used by SunRail and Lynx) to Disney could take an hour or more. In a car, that same ride would take 30 minutes give or take -- depending on the time of day and the traffic.

The Link 56 bus uses U.S. Highway 192 and makes stops so you can see why the trip takes so long.

It would be much quicker if Lynx ran an express bus straight from the Tupperware SunRail station down Osceola Parkway to Disney. That trip takes 20 minutes or less.

Lynx has said it has considered such a route, but that has not been included in the bus service changes that go into effect this month.

People need the bus service now, not some time in the future.

That’s why we’re asking people to CLICK HERE to sign a petition to launch a Lynx express bus connecting SunRail to Disney.

This bus service would boost the ridership of Lynx and SunRail.

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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