Sunday, September 14, 2014

SunRail needs a better boss

Central Florida’s Lynx public bus system should be running SunRail.

That notion may seem off the wall, but it makes sense because Lynx is in the mass transit business, and the Florida Department of Transportation – which built and oversees SunRail – is in the road-building business. Those are two completely different disciplines.

FDOT is top notch when it comes to building roads. They’re engineers. They care about things, but they’re not exactly warm and fuzzy when it comes to caring about living and breathing people.

A couple of weeks ago there was a tragic situation at SunRail when a dead body was found early in the morning on the tracks near the Sanford station. The public address systems at SunRail stations announced that SunRail service was canceled for the morning. “We apologize for the inconvenience,” the announcer added.

We were flabbergasted. SunRail announced service was canceled as though it was no big deal.

Lynx would have never done that, regardless of the tragic circumstances. They know people are counting on them to get to work. To their credit, SunRail did resume service that morning. But why did SunRail think canceling service was an option?

Customer service at SunRail is a joke. When SunRail launched they had station Ambassadors to answer questions from riders. But they got rid of the Ambassadors so there’s no one to talk to face to face when you have a question.

At Lynx Central Station in downtown Orlando there is a Lynx representative who answers questions and sells bus passes. Oh, and did we mention that customer service booth is in the bus system’s air-conditioned passenger lobby. That’s right, air-conditioned – something to think about next time you’re standing under the skimpy canopy on a SunRail platform in the blazing sun, or in driving rain.

In addition, Lynx has a platoon of supervisors in marked cars who patrol the bus routes checking on drivers and answering rider questions. When SunRail failed a few weeks ago and announced service was canceled for the morning, it was the Lynx supervisors who led a convoy of buses to rescue stranded SunRail riders.

Lynx runs 7 days a week, albeit abbreviated service on the weekends. SunRail provides 4,200 rides daily. Lynx provides 105,000 rides daily. And as we all know, SunRail doesn't run on weekends, or much during the middle of the day.

SunRail is new and sexy. Lynx is not.

The overwhelming majority of people on Lynx ride because they don’t have a choice. They can’t afford a car, or for one reason or another, they can’t drive. It takes a long time to get from Point A to Point B on Lynx because of traffic congestion and the Lynx bus fleet is too small. Lynx has 299 buses to serve Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. Lynx really needs about 700 buses to provide more convenient service. The problem is that Lynx doesn’t get enough funding, but that’s a story for another day.

Central Florida won’t get the mass transit it deserves until bus and rail service is being managed under one roof. Clearly Lynx knows more and cares more about mass transit than our friends at FDOT.

1 comment:

  1. Lynx no longer services any part of Volusia County. When Sunrail went live on May 1st, the 200 Express (which ran from the Orange City Park and Ride to downtown Orlando) went away... it no longer exists. The only way (utilizing public transportation) to leave Volusia County is via SunRail. The DeBary station has VERY limited bus service to it via Votran (last bus in the morning arrives at the DeBary SunRail station about 7:45 AM, and another bus isn't seen until about 4:30-4:45 PM)