Saturday, March 7, 2015

Start early on SunRail Sunday

Get an early start. That’s the best advice we can offer for anyone heading to the Orlando City soccer match at the Citrus Bowl stadium in Orlando.

Sunday, is a historic occasion, not just for our new Major League Soccer team that will play its first match on Sunday, but also for all of Central Florida. This is the first time SunRail has carried passengers on the weekend – a goal that we’ve been campaigning to achieve since last summer.

It’s also important to note that the soccer match is far from the only game in town on Sunday.

The Orlando Magic is playing at downtown’s Amway Center; there’s an event at downtown’s Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts; our friends in Winter Park are hosting their annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and the Mennello Museum of American Art at Loch Haven Park – near the Florida Hospital SunRail station -- is offering free admission on Sunday, plus a host of other activities throughout the area.

With all of that on the agenda, SunRail is sure to be crowded. We expect there will also be a fair number of riders who have never used our commuter train system before.
We want everything to go smoothly and safely.

A couple of dos and don’ts for those who have never used SunRail before.
1.    If you’re using the parking lot at a SunRail station, please be sure to lock your vehicle and don’t leave valuables where they can be seen from outside your car. The parking lots are generally safe, but from time to time vehicles have been burglarized.

2.    Please be sure to consult the special train schedule for Sunday because you don’t want to miss the last train home. (Don’t forget to change you watch/clock ahead one hour for Daylight Savings Time that starts early Sunday morning.)

3.    Don’t worry about buying tickets on Sunday. The ride is free.

4.    Please stay behind the yellow line on the platform because we want you to stay safe.
5.    Be careful whenever you have to cross the tracks, and only cross at the designated crossings. (This advice applies to motorists as well.)

6.    Please refrain from smoking on the platform.

7.    Please refrain from eating on the train, and only bring beverages in containers with lids to reduce the possibility of spills on the train.

8.    Please let riders get off the train before you try to board.

9.    It will be crowded, so please make room for others to sit – especially our senior citizens and those with disabilities. Hey guys, knock off the “man spreading” – close those legs and stop taking up so much space.

10. While riding listen out for announcements so you know when you’re about to arrive at your station, and please don’t wait until the last minute to get off.

See you on The Rail.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Please don't blow it on Sunday

We’re praying SunRail doesn’t blow it on Sunday.

This Sunday will be a historic occasion – the first time SunRail will carry passengers on a weekend. For months we’ve campaigned for weekend service and we want everything to go smoothly.

The special Sunday operation -- organized to support the Orlando City Soccer Club’s inaugural Major League Soccer match versus the New York City Soccer Club at downtown Orlando’s Citrus Bowl -- is sure to push SunRail and its station at Church Street -- to their limit.

Orlando City Soccer sold out tickets for the Citrus Bowl (#Fillthebowl) – 60,000 seats.
In addition, the Orlando Magic will play the Boston Celtics at downtown Orlando’s Amway Center on Sunday. Basketball fans also will be ride SunRail to the Church Street SunRail station. No doubt lots of leprechauns will ride SunRail to Winter Park’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday afternoon. Surely many other events will be held along the SunRail corridor. In addition, hundreds of residents will ride to check out SunRail for the first time.

We all remember what happened last May when SunRail launched with free rides.  Many stations and trains were overwhelmed. That was then, and this is now. We just hope the SunRail leaders are on top of their game, nimble and ready to respond to unusual situations.

The stakes are high.

International news media will be in town to cover the historic soccer match. SunRail lovers and haters from Washington D.C. to the Tampa Bay area will be watching closely. Attention will be particularly acute in the Tampa Bay area where our mass transportation allies have been fighting for years to get a commuter rail system.

If we have a SunFail on Sunday, anti-rail forces will gleefully smear SunRail as a taxpayer boondoggle, and that will be a major blow to commuter rail expansion here and throughout Florida.

SunRail needs to be prepared to add trains, as needed. It would be nice if they asked Lynx to be on standby to pick up fans at outlying stations and bring them to the Citrus Bowl in time for the soccer match if trains get overwhelmed. Fortunately people will ride for free on Sunday so riders won’t have to struggle with SunRail’s balky ticket- vending machines – a major chokepoint.

The SunRail bosses have an obligation to keep riders informed if there are problems. People tend to feel better if they know what’s happening and what’s being done to resolve the situation.

Before heading to the closest SunRail station riders need to take a chill pill. SunRail was built to be a commuter train, not a special-events train. On Sunday 25,000 people or more could try to use SunRail. Sunday is an unusual situation – very different from the generally smooth weekday SunRail experience.

Realistically the tracks, trains and stations have a limited capacity. SunRail trains aren’t like the New York City subway. The passenger coaches weren’t designed for standing-room only. On Sunday many people will be standing – it’s unavoidable. Things will go wrong. Patience and good humor can do more to solve problems than a bad attitude and angry words.

Now let’s go make history.

See you on The Rail.