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.


  1. I am praying Sunrail doesn't try to get away with running two car train sets. They really should be running four, but three is minimum. With the limited schedule for 60,000 soccer fans plus 20,000 NBA fans this has the making of a massive fail. FDOT: you still have a day to plan this out. Make it work! DON'T leave people stranded at the station, have a backup plan.