Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Weekend and late-night SunRail service is (almost) on the way

They heard you.

The petition signing and riding SunRail on Black Friday to demand SunRail service be expanded to the weekends and later at night has made a big impression.

This (Wednesday) afternoon at a meeting of the SunRail Technical Advisory Committee Florida Department of Transportation bosses agreed that they were impressed by the turnout for #RideBlkFri and they openly suggested what expanded SunRail service might look like.

They’re talking about adding four trains (that means 4 round trips between Sand Lake Road and DeBary) on weekdays, and 9 roundtrips on Saturday and Sundays. Yup, real weekend service!

Don’t do a victory dance yet. The real devil is in the details, and as you might imagine getting that service expansion boils down to politics and money.

First, a quick history lesson. SunRail operations are being overseen at this time by the Florida Department of Transportation because this rail system was built to alleviate the huge traffic jams that are expected when the massive Interstate 4 construction project begins this coming February. In 2021 (that’s no typo) after the construction is complete, the financial responsibility for SunRail will go to the city of Orlando and Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties.

So before FDOT commits to expanding the SunRail service the state needs to get assurance that those local governments are willing to pick up the tab when the time comes. Here’s another little factoid to keep in mind, there is almost no public transit system anywhere in the world that pays all of its expenses from the fare box. That’s why local government money is needed.

How much is all of this going to cost? SunRail is currently tallying the estimate and plans to release a “white paper” in a few weeks that will get into all the gory details.

If all the stars are in alignment and those local governments agree, we could have weekend and late-night SunRail service in six months.

Sure, that’s a little frustrating, but we remember when no one really wanted to discuss expanded SunRail service? Now SunRail bosses are openly discussing the idea and even suggesting what that expanded service might look like.

You are responsible for pushing the expanded service idea this far. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.

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