Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday's SunFail

SunRail we still love you guys.

But Friday morning you dropped the ball --- big time.

Certainly it's tragic that someone was killed by a SunRail train late Thursday, but that's a sad reality that comes with running a railroad, and SunRail needs to be prepared to deal with it. If SunRail has a service-interruption plan, it didn't work Friday morning.

Alerted to the SunRail service interruption by one of our Twitter followers in Sanford we rushed to the Sand Lake Road station shortly after 6 a.m. Friday. Information at the station was limited and confusing.

People getting off Lynx buses at the station started walking toward the train platform while bystanders were yelling out that all trains had been canceled. Lynx bus drivers didn’t know that the trains weren’t running until they heard the announcements at the station.

Periodically recordings played on the station’s PA system telling riders that all SunRail service had been canceled this morning “sorry for the inconvenience.” There were no SunRail representatives at the station to assist riders because, you may remember, SunRail laid off the station Ambassadors a couple of weeks back. Many passengers and SunRail conductors said getting rid of the Ambassadors was a big mistake. Friday morning they were proven right.

Lynx, the regional public bus system, was the hero of the day. Shortly before 7 a.m. a Lynx supervisor arrived at the Sand Lake station and brought a convoy of buses with him to start shuttling stranded SunRail riders to their destinations.

But of course there was still no SunRail rep on scene. Then there were confusing recorded announcements saying there would be no SunRail train other than train P308. Who knows what that means? 

Then the announcer said there was a southbound train coming from Lake Mary – but no estimated time of arrival.

The good news is the first SunRail train arrived in Sand Lake at about 7:30.

Now some will say: What could SunRail have done?

1.    Provide real-time updates on what was going on. That means SunRail should have had representatives at the stations to help riders. That responsibility belongs to SunRail, not Lynx. Please bring back the Ambassadors!

2.    Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket. SunRail keeps all of its trains overnight in Sanford. That sets the stage for a disaster because if there’s a service interruption in or near Sanford, then the entire system comes to a halt. Why not store at least two trains on the southern end of the system in the Taft railroad yard south of the Sand Lake Road station? Those trains could have been running this morning to serve riders south of Sanford.

SunRail is not the Hogwarts Express theme park attraction ride. People depend on SunRail to get to work. “We apologize for the inconvenience,” just doesn’t cut it.

---- happens, everybody knows that. But we’re counting on SunRail bosses to be ready for it. Theme parks, hospitals, airlines and schools have plans to address emergency situations. Come on SunRail, we need you guys to step up your game.

Video shows Lynx riding to the rescue!

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