Sunday, August 31, 2014

Communicate, communicate, communicate

SunRail has one major responsibility: Provide safe, reliable mass transportation.

SunRail is top notch when it comes to safety.

SunRail also deserve very high marks for reliability. But sometimes things go wrong that are beyond its control, such as people and vehicles on the tracks -- where they’re not supposed to be.

Granted SunRail is only 4 months old, but the railroading is nearly 200 years old, so service interruptions aren’t new. That’s why SunRail’s response to a service interruption on Friday morning was so disappointing. Inadequate communications was the major problem.

Passengers arriving at SunRail stations at 6 a.m. were greeted with a number of confusing messages on the public address system. Initially riders were told all train service had been canceled for the morning. That proved to be incorrect. To SunRail’s credit, service resumed around 7 a.m.

Some will say SunRail was being cautious when it said train service was canceled for the morning. How many passengers heard that announcement, threw up their hands and went home, or called in sick.

It would have been better if SunRail was more forthcoming and said, “Service has been interrupted, but we’re working to restore it as quickly as possible.”

SunRail kept playing recorded messages so it was impossible to know if conditions had changed. During an emergency, people want real-time updates, so it would be better to have live announcements, and to let riders know the announcement is live. Begin it like this: “Good morning passengers, the time is 7:10 a.m. and we now have a southbound train approaching the Maitland station.”

You can’t communicate too much during an emergency.

SunRail also needs to do a better job keeping its transportation partners in the loop. Lynx drivers bringing passengers to the Sand Lake Road station had no idea SunRail service had been interrupted. There are 2-way radios on the buses. Let the bus drivers know so they can alert their passengers.

SunRail is an important part of the Central Florida community. We count on SunRail to take care of us.

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