Tuesday, May 12, 2015

When do we get SunRail every weekend?

Everyone keeps asking us: When will SunRail start running every weekend?
Considering the official tally that 26,000 people rode SunRail on Saturday and Sunday during the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, providing trains every weekend should be a no-brainer. But it’s not.
So back to the basic question: When will SunRail start running trains every weekend?
The answer: No time soon unless we – the riders and Central Florida community – put some serious skin in the game.
The most formidable roadblock to weekend service is money — or lack of it.
Under the existing agreements the state is providing a lion’s share of the money required to offset SunRail operating expenses. The money riders pay at the fare box only covers a fraction of the expenses. Almost every transit system in the world relies on government subsidies to provide train and bus service.
The state of Florida already made it clear that it will not pay for weekend service because SunRail was conceived as a commuter train to provide a rail alternative for  weekday rush-hour commuters during the I-4 Ultimate construction project.
At a recent meeting of the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission, which oversees SunRail, we were told that adding weekend service would cost $5.5 million.
In the grand scheme of things that’s not an insurmountable amount of money to raise. And a big part of the solution begins in our wallets.
During the Winter Park Art Festival special train operations we spoke with numerous riders who said they would have willingly paid for the free train service that was sponsored by the event organizers and Florida Hospital. It cost those the sponsors $32,000 to run 12 trains over that Saturday and Sunday period.
Check this out: If the 26,000 people who rode SunRail during the art festival weekend had to buy tickets for $4 a head – ticket prices vary depending on where you board the train – that charge would have raised $104,000.
In addition, hundreds of visitors to our Facebook page said they were willing to pay slightly higher ticket prices for weekend SunRail service.
Considering the passion around the issue of weekend SunRail service, we’re confident that Saturday and Sunday ridership would be higher than weekday ridership.
So let’s play with some numbers. If a total of 8,000 people rode SunRail every Saturday and Sunday and paid a roundtrip fare of $6 that would raise nearly $2.5 million over a year.
Surely there’s got to be away to gather a coalition of businesses, government and Central Florida individuals to raise the remaining $3 million needed to offer SunRail service every weekend.
The real question IS NOT: When will SunRail start running trains every weekend?
The real question IS: How bad do we want it?

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