Sunday, November 24, 2019

Use SunRail to entertain out-of-town Thanksgiving guests


Here’s an idea: How about using SunRail as an inexpensive way to entertain out-of-town guests who are visiting you for the Thanksgiving holiday?

You already know that SunRail isn’t running on Thanksgiving Day. But it is running on the Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving.


Put your guests on SunRail -- or be their SunRail guide. Riding SunRail and checking out points of interest along the way will easily eat up much of the day. It will be fun, too!

It’s our bet is that Sand Lake Road will be one of the busiest SunRail stations because it’s a little more than a mile from fabulous Florida Mall – considered one of the most robust shopping malls in the nation. Riders can get a free transfer from SunRail to a Lynx bus that will take them to the mall.

At Sand Lake Road, riders can also transfer to the Lynx bus that will take them to Orlando International Airport – about a 10-minute ride. (This could spare you from having to drive a departing guest all the way to OIA and put up with the insane traffic.

Here’s a cheat sheet for points of interest near many of the SunRail stations.

·        DeBary – Gemini Springs Park is a leisurely bike ride from the SunRail station. You’ll need to bring your bikes with you on the train.
·        Sanford – At the train station there’s a free trolley that takes riders to downtown Sanford, which is filled with restaurants, craft breweries and a variety of shops. Sanford is situated on the St. Johns River and has a beautiful waterfront. This city also hosts the southern end of the Amtrak Auto Train service. People waiting for the train to leave can ride a free trolley from the Amtrak station to downtown Sanford.
·        Lake Mary – A restaurant and dining district is barely 2 blocks from the SunRail station. The town square at City Hall frequently hosts special public events.
·        Winter Park – This is Central Florida’s best-known boutique district. It’s filled with a wide variety of shops, restaurants and museums. Winter Park also hosts a golf course, several museums, tourist attractions, Rollins College and an Amtrak station. SunRail and Amtrak stop in the heart of Winter Park.
·        Advent Health/Florida Hospital – This station is down the street from Loch Haven Park, which is the home of the Orlando Science Center, the Mennello Museum of Folk Art; the Orlando Reparatory Theater; the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre and the Orlando Museum of Art.
·        Orlando – Downtown Orlando hosts the downtown campus for the University of Central Florida and Valencia College; the FAMU law school; the Orange County History Center; the Orange County Main Library; the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts; Amway Center, the Orlando City Soccer stadium; and a wide variety of shops and restaurants. There are 2 stations in downtown Orlando – Lynx Central and Church Street. The Church Street stop is close to the entertainment venues.
·        Orlando Health – This station is around the corner from ORMC – Central Florida’s largest hospital. It is also an easy walk to the Pulse memorial on Orange Avenue.
·        Kissimmee – Once the capital of Florida’s booming cattle industry, you can still find frontier flourishes in Historic Downtown Kissimmee, which features shops and Central Florida’s largest district of independent restaurants offering everything from barbecue to Mediterranean fare. The train stops a half block from the Broadway business district. The train station is also only one block from Lake Toho (Tohopekaliga), one of the nation’s best-known largemouth bass lakes.
·        Poinciana – This is the southern end of SunRail service. There is a Home Depot (more Christmas shopping) and a really cool ice cream shop within a block of the station.

Happy Thanksgiving. See you on The Rail.








Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Southbound Magic game-night service returns


Beginning with the Orlando Magic regular-season opener Oct. 23 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, FDOT is again running a special late-night SunRail train that leaves from the southbound Church Street Station. 

FDOT has decided to fully fund this additional train, as it enhances service for its southern customers who embraced this expanded service last season. The FDOT funding only covers the 2019-2020 regular season.

The later train service will coincide with all Orlando Magic regular season 2019-2020 home games at the Amway Center played Monday through Friday. If passengers—attending the game or staying downtown late—wish to take the southbound train home those nights, they should make their way to the southbound platform at Church Street Station, where the train will stage and leave for points south at 10:30 p.m. Regular fares apply.

The northbound route, where the last train normally leaves the northern Church Street Station platform at 10:30 p.m., will stay the same.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

When you gotta go, you gotta go!


Have you ever been waiting 30 minutes or more for the SunRail train, and suddenly you have an urge to use the bathroom?


You are not alone.

We’ve all been there.

One of the biggest complaints many riders express is that SunRail did not include restrooms in their stations (though there is a restroom on the train).

That said, we understand and support that SunRail decision because public restrooms are costly to maintain and become a breeding ground for illegal and undesirable activities.

But that explanation doesn’t help you answer the call of nature. So, we’ve prepared this cheat sheet to help you find relief at some stations.

Winter Park: Restroom inside the Amtrak station.
Lynx Central Station: Restroom inside the Lynx bus station
Orlando Health/Amtrak station: Restroom inside the Amtrak station
Sand Lake Road: (This is the mother lode) There are public restrooms inside the nearby McDonald’s, Burger King and Denny’s restaurants, and across the street at the Wawa convenience store.
Kissimmee station: There are restrooms a block from the station at the Hart Memorial Public Library (you can see the library from the northbound platform), down the platform at the Amtrak station, and a couple of blocks away at Lakefront Park.
Poinciana station: Restrooms across the street at the Wawa convenience store and at the Home Depot.

If you know of restrooms at any other SunRail stations, please share that information with us.

See you on The Rail, not at the restroom.


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Thursday, October 3, 2019

SunRail schedule change coming


SunRail is making some minor schedule changes effective October 14, and the schedule may be viewed here. This update does not affect all trains and, in most instances, only moves the departure time from one to five minutes later. This minor adjustment will alleviate traffic congestion by reducing the instances in which trains traveling north and south arrive at the Longwood station at the same time, tying up traffic signals.




There is one change of 30 minutes, affecting one train – P338, which travels northbound in the evening. After conducting surveys with riders and meeting with major hospitals, it was concluded that this adjustment will create more opportunities for shift workers to take the train to and from work.

Current bus schedules are not affected by this change and other connections such as the Kissimmee Connector and Sanford Trolley will agree with the update as well.


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Important news for SunRail riders

SunRail wants riders to know that some very important changes are happening today. Here is what they said:

"SunRail has a new way to capture data on riders not tapping on or off, or riding beyond their purchased zone fare. Beginning Monday, Sept. 30, riders demonstrating these types of misuse will have their SunCards hot-listed.




Riders with a hot-listed card will receive a red “X” at the validator and on the conductor’s handheld validator device. To keep the red X from making you an ex-rider, customers must then contact the call center: (Toll Free) 1-855-RAIL-411 (724-5411). Hours: Mon - Fri, 5:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.

"SunRail’s goal is for all riders to do the right thing; SunRail’s fare policy says a rider must have fare to board the train. And right from the policy, “Unless the ticket or pass has been validated, the fare media is not considered valid for travel.” Another positive outcome in tapping on and off, and promoting good rider habits, is it allows the ability to collect more accurate ridership data. This benefits the four counties in the system. And, managing your SunCard account is easier than ever with the SunRail app, where riders can even set up a recurring feature to automatically reload their card.

"On the front line, the ambassador team, and conductors are there to assist, and will explain that riders must tap on AND off each time they board and alight the train and must purchase the correct number of fare zones. This education effort is in anticipation of enabling max fare in mid-November, which means those who don’t tap on and off each time could end up paying full fare; $5 one way.

"Also, this week, and as a reminder to customers, the SunRail text alert service at 31,996 is coming to an end Wednesday, Oct. 2. Future alerts will be sent through the free SunRail app, as well as on Twitter and at SunRail.com.

"Customers are reminded to update their app and allow push notifications. The move to the service alerts on the app offers a place where customers can view train schedules, connectivity options and catch up on the latest SunRail news and information all in one location. Learn more at www.sunrail.com."

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Riders willing to pay extra for weekend SunRail


Many SunRail riders are willing to pay more on Saturday and Sunday for weekend train service.

That’s the result of a Facebook poll that SunRailRiders recently conducted.

Ever since SunRail launched five years ago, riders and the general public have been angry and frustrated that SunRail doesn’t provide weekend service.


For the Facebook poll we asked the question: Would you pay an extra $1 on a Saturday or Sunday for weekend SunRail service?

Of the nearly 400 who responded, 93% voted yes.

“I would be happy to get to downtown Sanford on weekends from SoDo without the I-4 nightmare,” John wrote on Facebook.

Many respondents said they would be willing to pay $5 or $10 more on the weekends for service because it was cheaper than taxis and ride-share.

There is a bone of contention, though.

People who have monthly or annual SunCards say it would be unfair to force them to pay more for weekend service.

“Why should I pay an extra dollar to ride on the weekend when I currently have a 30-day (SunRail) pass? I pay monthly and therefore I should not have to pay extra…A SunRail pass shortchanges the user at least 8 days,” Jeff wrote.

Those objecting to a weekend upcharge are right.

People with monthly and annual SunCards are SunRail’s ridership backbone.
They shouldn’t have to pay one penny more.

SunRail service isn’t cheap. An upcharge for those who use the train only on the weekends makes sense to help offset some of the operating costs.

SunRail is at a critical crossroad. In less than two years the Florida Department of Transportation will pass the management and financial responsibility for SunRail to the local funding partners – Orlando, Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties.

We posed the Facebook poll question to make sure that local leaders know what kind of service the community expects and deserves.

Weekend service should be basic.

Many people in Central Florida do not work a traditional Monday to Friday bankers’ hours' schedule. The caregivers at local hospitals, airport workers and those employed in the service industry need a full-time train service, especially on the weekends.

On the few occasions when SunRail offered weekend service, the trains were slammed with passengers.

Weekend service is great for business – especially small businesses, recreation activities, such as theaters, sports venues and cultural activities.

See you on The Rail!






Friday, September 13, 2019

Riders vote for Saturday SunRail, but that's only half the answer


If SunRail could only run on one weekend day, SunRailRiders unanimously voted for Saturday.

That was the response to a recent poll we conducted on Facebook.

Nearly 400 riders responded to the question: “If SunRail could only run either Saturday or Sunday, which would you prefer?”

Of those respondents, 93 percent voted for Saturday.

Comments left by respondents included:
Dale: “Saturday would make the most sense. More businesses and events are on Saturday than Sunday.”
However, most of the comments were like this:
Lisa: “For the love of God, please do both.”
Ilene: “Here’s a thought – the WHOLE WEEKEND.”
Diane: “Why is both not an option?”

Support for weekend service is especially strong among people who work at Orlando International Airport; the service industry and hospital caregivers. (There are a half dozen hospitals that are either at SunRail stations, or very close the SunRail stops.)

In less than 2 years, the Florida Department of Transportation will transfer the financial and operational responsibility to local governments. That creates a huge opportunity to improve SunRail service.

We want to ensure that local elected leaders clearly understand the level of SunRail service this community expects and needs.

SunRail service that is available only on weekdays, with a schedule focused on bankers’ hours, has been a major disappointment to everyone. Thousands of people who want to use the train have never been able to ride because the service is not available on the weekends.

The people have spoken.

Are local-elected officials listening?

See you on The Rail.