Sunday, November 30, 2014

SunRail riders, your help is needed

Calling all SunRail riders, a local official needs our help.

Bob Wesley, Public Defender for Orange and Osceola County, has a big problem. He’s running out of clothes to give defendants that his lawyers represent in court. Everyone the Public Defender represents is needy and many defendants don’t have anything better than a T-shirt and jeans to wear for court proceedings. Clearly that’s not appropriate attire for serious business. Research shows that juries can be adversely affected by a defendant’s attire.

In this country, everybody is innocent until they’re proven guilty. Cases need to be decided by the facts, not by what a defendant looks like.

So here’s the big ask: Do you have some clean, gently worn clothes in your closet that you’re not planning to use anymore. If so, would you consider donating those items?
Specifically the Public Defender’s Office needs slacks, jackets, dress shirts, dress pants, and professional dresses in all sizes for men, women and children. (Please no swim suits or ball gowns. Believe it or not, people have donated such items in the past.)

Bob and his lawyers will be collecting the clothes this coming Saturday in front of the Orange County Courthouse in downtown Orlando, but since SunRail doesn’t run on weekends, we’ll collect them this coming Friday at the southbound Church Street SunRail station between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.

If you can help, that will be great.  You’ll be able to spot us on Friday, we’ll be in the station with a stack of clothes. Your generosity is deeply appreciated.

Lake Mary's Station House is now boarding new residents

Lake Mary’s newest, most exciting address will soon be getting its first residents. Since accepting lease applications toward the end of this month (November), luxury apartment community Station House is now becoming “home” to an increasing number of people who appreciate its unique concept as much as its upscale amenities.

The concept that sets Station House apart is that it was planned as a transit-oriented development (TOD) located in close proximity to the Lake Mary SunRail station – a less than 60-secondwalk away, in fact. The defining characteristic of a TOD is that its residents live, work and play within a specific geographical area that’s accessible via some means of mass transportation.

The beautiful property, which currently consists of 44 graciously appointed apartment homes (with a final scheduled build-out of 200), is also just a short, scenic stroll to downtown Lake Mary’s captivating array of shops and restaurants. Residents enjoy the convenience of living in the heart of this thriving town center and the ease of participating in the district’s many activities and regular events – such as the Lake Mary Farmer’s Market. Beyond convenience, however, comes the feeling of being part of a close-knit community where neighbors and shopkeepers know your name.

Each apartment home in Station House includes today’s most desirable features, such as a gourmet kitchen with granite countertops, designer custom cabinetry and stainless steel appliances; wood plank flooring, spacious walk-in closets and 9-foot ceilings with ceiling fans. There are 10 floor plans in sizes ranging from 664 to 1,411 square feet. Configurations consist of the following plans:
·         Four one-bedroom/one-bath
·         Four two-bedroom/two-bath
·         Two three-bedroom/two-bath

The community itself offers outstanding amenities that make it ideal for relaxing, entertaining, and working – as well as working out! Residents can enjoy the following advantages (among many others):
·         Oversized swimming pool
·         Outdoor summer kitchens
·         Social lounge
·         24-hour fitness center
·         Conference room and library
·         Computer-equipped business center

“Breakfast on the Go was a great opportunity to meet the Lake Mary community,” Hoffmeyer said. “We want the effects to be long-reaching, so that people feel a sense of connection with Station House, and its role in the town’s economic development. We’re excited to process these initial applications, and look forward to signing many more residents.”

Station House is at 188 E. Crystal Lake Ave., Lake Mary. For more information, visit the website:, or call 855-229-5085. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

It's a shame SunRail isn't running on Small Business Saturday

SunRail and small businesses should go together like a hand and glove.

There are small businesses near almost every SunRail station, yet today on Small Business Saturday SunRail is not running. That’s a real shame because this is the one day of the year when the nation spotlights small businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of our nation’s economy and they deserve our support.

Please make a special effort patronize small businesses today and every day. The big box stores and corporate restaurants are great, but in our experience small businesses frequently offer a little something extra. If there is a small business near a SunRail station that you can’t get to today, please patronize that business on Monday. Small businesses depend on regular patronage by you, so do we.

See you on The Rail.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Attention SunRail bosses: Please give us weekend and night train service #RideBlkFri

SunRail riders we salute you.

A week ago we challenged you to show your support for weekend and late-night SunRail service by riding SunRail today – Black Friday (Nov. 28th).

The rationale was that many people would have the day off from school and work so they could use SunRail to reach the destinations they would visit if the train ran on the weekends. We asked you to ride to show how much demand there is for weekend and late-night SunRail service.

When you challenge people to take action you never know what will happen. We should have known better. So often in the past many of you have passionately called for expanding SunRail service hours. Today you put those words to action. The train was absolutely packed.

We were on a southbound train from DeBary at midday. There was no place to sit before the train reached Winter Park.  Heck, the train was packed at Sanford. It got even more jammed in Lake Mary. People were sitting on the steps as the train left Longwood. It was amazing! Many people told us they were riding as part of the #RideBlkFri campaign. It was both gratifying and humbling.

Regular riders said they haven’t seen the train so full since back in May when SunRail launched the service with two weeks of free rides. The big difference was that today people paid, and they were happy to “tap on and tap off.”

We always say “See you on The Rail,” and today we got to meet so many of you.  We thank everyone – individuals, organizations and businesses -- who helped us spread the #RideBlkFri campaign through your social media channels. Couldn’t have done it without you!

Keep posting photos and your experiences while riding SunRail on Black Friday. Special thanks also goes out to SunRail train crews and ambassadors who patiently assisted riders – many of whom were new to SunRail.

We are delighted – not for us – but for the Central Florida community. One day – sooner or later – the SunRail bosses will decide to expand the service to weekends and late-night hours.  What riders did today will certainly play a role in future SunRail operating schedules.

Bravo, to each and every one of you. Please take a bow.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Let's make a SunRail statement on Black Friday #RideBlkFri

What a difference a day makes.

One of the accompanying photos shows what the Sand Lake Road SunRail station looks like on a busy weekday during normal train operations. The other photo shows what the same station looks like on a weekend when the SunRail train isn’t running.

The SunRail bosses are currently conducting a rider survey and preparing a “white paper” report to determine if weekend service makes sense. They want to figure out how great the demand is for weekend and late-night service.

We know anyone reading this article can tell SunRail bosses the demand is huge. Instead of telling them, we (the riders) have a unique opportunity to demonstrate the gigantic demand for weekend service.

This coming Friday – the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 28) – is almost like a weekend day because many people have Black Friday off from work. SunRail will be running its normal schedule on Black Friday.

So make believe Black Friday is a Saturday, and let’s ride the train to the places we would visit if SunRail ran on Saturdays. We need everyone’s help to make a big impression on the SunRail bosses.

Everyone who usually rides needs to ride on Black Friday. You need to get all your friends, coworkers and neighbors who haven’t had a chance to check out SunRail to ride the train on Black Friday too.

We’re calling this campaign Ride Black Friday and when you ride we’re asking you to Tweet selfies and other photos with the #RideBlkFri hashtag. Post to your Facebook Page. Post to our Facebook page Sunrailriders-Florida.

Together we can make a big impression and have some fun.

Allow us to suggest a few destinations you might consider exploring when you ride SunRail on Black Friday.

·        Historic Downtown Sanford
·        Downtown Lake Mary
·        Park Avenue in Winter Park
·        Downtown Orlando
·        Beth’s Burger Bar
·        Orlando Brewing
·        Lucy Bleuz cafĂ©
·        Bauern-Stube German restaurant
·        Oak Ridge Gun Range
·        Florida Mall
·        Artegon Marketplace (This just opened. It’s not your typical mall, check it out)
See you on the Rail.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Get "Breakfast on the GO" Friday at Lake Mary SunRail station

Whether you’re a SunRail rider whose commute takes you to the Lake Mary station, or live in the Lake Mary area (or would like to), Station House invites you to a free “Breakfast on the Go” this Friday, November 21, from 5 to 10:30 a.m.

Located just steps away from the Lake Mary SunRail station, the new luxury apartment community by Epoch Management wants to introduce itself and acquaint people with its numerous amenities. And what better way to make friends than to serve up complimentary food, coffee, and other refreshments and goodies – especially just before the workday begins?

Although the breakfast event has a clear appeal to SunRail commuters, all are welcome to visit and partake – regardless of how you get there. Station House staff will be on hand to answer questions about the beautiful, upscale property. Leasing application forms will also be available, as well as an iPad to apply online or join Station House’s mailing list. Maybe we don’t need to mention it, but the iPad stays onsite – you can’t take that home!

Speaking of taking, if your eyes are bigger than your appetite – or you don’t have time to dine on the property – Station House will provide bags for neat, convenient transport of your food. So don’t be shy about snagging that extra muffin!

“Everyone is welcome to stop in, enjoy a complimentary breakfast, and chat with us,” says Mallory Hoffmeyer, Station House Property Manager. “We will be passing out coffee, drinks, treats, and Station House goodies from the first train of the morning to the last. Leasing information will be available, but our main reason for doing this is to say hello, and let people know that we are happy and proud to be part of the Lake Mary community.”

Station House is at 188 E. Crystal Lake Ave., Lake Mary. For more information, visit the website: or call 855-229-5085.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Make your SunRail opinion count

SunRail wants your opinion.

Hard to believe, but SunRail actually wants to hear what you think of the train service.
SunRail reps are boarding trains and distributing survey forms to get your opinion. Now is your chance to let SunRail bosses know what you think.

It’s also an opportunity for you to tell SunRail that expanding service to weekends and late-night hours should be a priority.

The form asks where you board and get off. How you get to the SunRail station? If you use Lynx, Lymmo or Votran bus service? If you use reloadable SunCards? (This opens the door for you to blast Lynx for selling a 7-day SunCard, but only providing 5 days of service.)

The one-page form is very clear and easy to complete. (They don’t ask for your name.) The SunRail rep who distributes the forms will pick them up. Please take this seriously and complete the survey form to help make SunRail service better.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hey everybody, let's ride SunRail on Black Friday

Riders always ask us what they can do to convince SunRail to run trains on the weekends and later at night.

For one thing, please sign the petition calling for expanded SunRail service. (Add your name to the petition by clicking here.)

The other thing we can do is: Ride SunRail as much as possible. Ridership numbers make a big impact. Politicians and bureaucrats pay attention to numbers – big numbers.

We know there are many people who want to ride SunRail but it’s not convenient for them during the week because the train doesn’t go near their home or job. However, those people usually have a long list of places they would catch SunRail to visit on the weekends.
Well, their prayers are answered. Next week there’s a weekday when SunRail will be running and that’s almost like a weekend because many people will have the day off. SunRail won’t be running on Thanksgiving (Nov. 27), but it will run the next day – Black Friday (Nov. 28).

Many people are off from work and plan to go shopping on Black Friday. That’s great, so let’s go shopping and avoid the overflowing mall parking lots by riding SunRail.
You can catch SunRail and transfer to a Lynx bus to reach Florida Mall, Altamonte Mall, Mall at Millennia and Seminole Towne Centre mall.

Oh yes we did! We actually suggested riding the Lynx bus. You might enjoy it. Recently we rode Lynx from the downtown Lynx Central Station to the Sand Lake Road SunRail station in south Orange County. It was easy. The Lynx buses are new; the driver was courteous and helpful; the ride was very quick, and the fare was only $2 (exact fare, please.)
Don’t roll your eyes at the thought of riding the Lynx bus. Easing traffic congestion, saving energy and reducing air pollution in Central Florida requires all of us to support a unified mass transit system that fully utilizes SunRail AND Lynx.

Besides the mega malls, SunRail is an excellent way to reach shopping areas in Central Florida’s smaller cities. Everybody knows that SunRail lets passengers off on Park Avenue in Winter Park. But did you know Lake Mary has a wonderful shopping area that’s just a five-minute stroll from the Lake Mary SunRail station?
In Sanford, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., the city provides a free shuttle van to take riders from the SunRail station to downtown Sanford where there are great places to shop and eat.

The timing of this SunRail rider campaign is especially important for businesses in Central Florida’s smaller cities because Saturday, Nov. 29th is Small Business Saturday – a national observance when people are encouraged to spend money will small, locally owned businesses. However, as we all know, SunRail doesn’t run on Saturdays and Sundays. So let’s ride SunRail on Black Friday and give our small-business friends some love.

OK, so maybe you don’t want to take SunRail to go Black Friday shopping. Well then ride SunRail just to do it. Get off at Loch Haven Park or downtown Orlando to visit some cultural venues. Or take your bike on the train and ride up to DeBary to explore some of the bicycle trails.

Are you in? Pass the word and ask your friends, neighbors and coworkers to ride SunRail on Black Friday.

Instead of complaining about SunRail not running on weekends and nights, let’s show everyone how much we appreciate SunRail. Let’s pack those trains like we did right after the train service started back in May and June.

Mark Nov. 28th on your calendar. See you on the rail!

SunRail factoid: How long can the train be?

Volusia County Council Chairman Jason Davis asked a great question at last week’s Central Florida Commuter Train Commission meeting.

Assuming that SunRail ridership grows, what’s the maximum number of passenger coaches SunRail can have in a single train? As you probably know, SunRail usually pulls two passenger coaches, but sometimes adds a third coach during heavy ridership times in the afternoon.

Tawny Olore, the FDOT engineer who serves as the SunRail project manager, said the SunRail locomotives are capable of pulling up to five passenger coaches. She went on to explain that SunRail’s current platforms are long enough for three passenger coaches. That said, there are strategies to handle additional passenger coaches, such as having passengers enter doors of the three coaches at the platform and then walking through to a fourth coach that wouldn’t open its doors.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

SunRail can make this a world-class community

Central Florida has all the makings of a world-class community.

Last week we cut the ribbon to open the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando.

That opening was celebrated last Saturday by an open house for the public and a free concert by Grammy-award winner Sheryl Crow. While that concert was underway on the center’s front lawn, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra performed inside. Meanwhile -- just three blocks away from the performing arts center -- the Orlando Solar Bears hockey team played the Greenville Road Warriors in the Amway Center, home court for the NBA’s Orlando Magic basketball team.

There’s so much going on, not just in downtown Orlando, but throughout Central Florida.
But Central Florida still isn’t a world-class community, because we still function like a small town.

Six months ago we launched the SunRail train system at a cost of $1 billion, but it doesn’t run on weekends, or late at night.

SunRail has a station that is within a 5-minute walk of the performing arts center and the Amway Center, but the train wasn’t running on Saturday night when it could have offered a wonderful transportation alternative to the thousands of people who attended downtown events.

In addition to the downtown venues, weekend and night SunRail service opens the door for people to experience a host of other entertainment and cultural venues from South Orange County to Volusia County.

The board that oversees SunRail is scheduled to meet on Wednesday. It would be nice if those officials demonstrated some world-class leadership and put SunRail on a 7-day schedule.

Crooks hit SunRail parking lot

We’re really pissed off.

Sunday afternoon while visiting the SunRail station at Sand Lake Road we discovered that some dirtbag broke into three cars left in the station parking lot.

The crook smashed out the side window of three cars parked in one section of the parking lot. Keep in mind that SunRail warns drivers that they park at their own risk. Some people park cars in the lot to drive to their workplaces after they get off the train. Others use the lot to park their cars while flying out of nearby Orlando International Airport.

We just hope this sad experience won’t sour the riders on SunRail. What happened in the SunRail parking lot could have happened overnight in anyone’s driveway. Still, it makes us furious to see the damage caused by the low life crooks.

There were four other cars parked elsewhere in the lot that don’t seem to have been touched by the crooks. The section where the cars were burglarized is in a remote corner of the lot.

Going forward, we suggest that riders who park overnight and over the weekend leave their vehicles in the section near Orange Avenue, across from three 24-hour restaurants. Even parking there is no guarantee against crime, but crooks are like cockroaches. They hate light and the possibility that someone will spot them breaking into vehicles. We also hope that Orange County deputies make a note to patrol the lots over the weekend to scare off the lowlife crooks.

What issues should be addressed at this week's big SunRail meeting?

The Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission will hold its quarter meeting this Wednesday morning, Nov. 12. That commission oversees the SunRail commuter train system.  What issues do you want to see them address and resolve at the meeting?

The commission members are: Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Seminole County Commissioner Carlton Henley, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Volusia County Council Chairman Jason P. Davis and Osceola County Commissioner Frank Attkisson. Ms. Jacobs chairs the commission; Mr. Henley serves as vice chair and Mr. Dyer is secretary.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Welcome back SunRail Ambassadors!

We are so happy to see the SunRail Ambassadors back on the job this morning.

During the past two months we sure missed you guys.

Hopefully the SunRail bosses will never again underestimate the important role you play in the success of our new commuter train system. Frankly, we think SunRail's decision to end the Ambassador program back in August contributed to the ridership decline.

As regular SunRail riders know, you Ambassadors are than just smiling faces. You are the faces of customer relations for SunRail.

If not for you guys, there would be no one at the stations to answer questions. We know how lost new riders felt when they arrived at stations and couldn't find anyone to explain how the tickets work, or what platform to wait on. And we know many more new riders will be joining us soon when construction begins on the I-4 Ultimate project.

We really appreciated all the times you've helped us when we had problems with the ticket-vending machines and the ticket validators. Believe it or not, we appreciate your gentle reminders to tap on and tap off the train. We know that tap on and tap off transaction is essential to keep an accurate ridership count.

Now and then when there are delays and other operational problems, we know we can count on our station Ambassadors to keep us informed.

And you’ve always been great at reporting maintenance problems at the SunRail stations.

Welcome back, friends!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

All aboard SunRail for a great event on Thursday

Let’s catch SunRail to the best showplace in Central Florida.

This Thursday we’ll have a unique opportunity to ride SunRail to a historic event – the ribbon cutting for the new $514 million Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, in downtown Orlando.

People have worked 30 years to turn the dream of a first-class center for music and dance to reality. Think of this as our Lincoln Center.

Our new performing arts center contains two performance theaters, a community theater, outdoor plaza and performance place, rehearsal room, educational programming space and a community facility. Wow!

The ribbon cutting will be held, starting at 10 a.m., at the center on Orange Avenue at South Street. It’s across the street from Orlando City Hall, just a 5-minute stroll east on South Street from the Church Street SunRail station.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony the center will be open to the public for tours.

The timing of this event provides a rare opportunity to use SunRail to attend a historic event in downtown Orlando. This can be a great team-builder outing for folks who work in Heathrow, Maitland Center, Winter Park, Florida Hospital or ORMC.

A southbound SunRail train arrives at Church Street at 8:21 a.m., and a northbound SunRail train will arrive at Church Street at 8:25 a.m. Usually it’s impossible to use SunRail to attend popular events in downtown Orlando because the train doesn’t run on weekends, or late at night.

We strongly recommend using SunRail to attend Thursday’s event because downtown Orlando traffic and parking are sure to be a mess.

The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is an asset for all Central Floridians, not just Orlando residents. That’s why it’s critical to expand SunRail service hours to the weekends and late-night hours to make it easy and affordable for Central Floridians of all ages -- teens to seniors – to enjoy performances at this new center.

In addition to the ribbon cutting ceremony there will be a number of other events over the next few days to celebrate and enjoy our new performing arts center.

They include:
·        Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. the center will be open for a community open house.
·        Saturday, 8 p.m. there will be a free Sheryl Crow concert
·        Sunday, Nov. 9, community open house and tours starting at noon.
(Remember SunRail doesn’t run on the weekends so you won’t be able to catch the train to attend any of these events. Good luck finding inexpensive parking downtown.)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Don't get tricked by SunRail naysayers

During the last few weeks some naysayers have been invoking the name of SunRail to derail the Greenlight Pinellas voter referendum in Pinellas County (St. Petersburg, Fla.) that would create a regional transportation system, complete with a new light rail train.

The naysayers are clucking: “SunRail is failing because the ridership has declined.”
Hopefully Pinellas County voters won’t fall for the hype and they will approve Greenlight Pinellas on Tuesday -- Election Day.

SunRail hasn’t failed – far from it. Thousands of Central Floridians use SunRail Monday to Friday every week …and they love it.

Are there things that the SunRail leaders can do better? Sure, and we write about those issues all the time. We’re like sports fans who yell at our hometown team’s coach and players – not because we hate them. We just want them to do better.

We also don’t believe the SunRail official ridership decline is serious, or permanent. Based on what we and other riders we know have seen – SunRail ridership remains very strong, despite the official numbers.

Everybody with any common sense knew SunRail would experience a ridership dip in August when the kids went back to school and the “Harry Potter effect” – newest ride in town – wore off.

But we also think a number of other factors that have skewed SunRail’s official ridership count.

For one thing, SunRail’s has been dogged by problems with the ticket-vending machines in the stations. We’ve been in stations early in the morning when none of the vending machines were working. We still boarded the train. We wanted to buy a ticket, but the machines weren’t working.

Sometimes the conductors are so busy with train operations and safety concerns that they don’t have a chance to count heads or inspect tickets.

And then there are dishonest riders who have figured out how to game the system – ride the train without buying a ticket.

It’s noteworthy that the ridership decline began during the same month that SunRail laid off the station Ambassadors who worked on the platform to answer questions and assist riders. The Ambassadors did a great job of gently reminding riders to tap-on and tap off the trains. Everybody knew the Ambassadors were watching and we bet that helped discourage cheaters from trying to board a train without a valid ticket Fortunately, SunRail bosses recently decided to bring back the Ambassadors.

Granted the reasons we cited here are speculation on our part. But we’re absolutely certain that SunRail is not a failure.