Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Will SunRail make it to DeLand?

Ever seen a swarm of hornets go on attack?
If not, one lunch time this week drop by a restaurant on Woodland Boulevard in DeLand and tell a server or a fellow diner you heard a rumor that the state decided NOT to extend SunRail to DeLand.
Within hours DeLand residents and leaders would go after state officials like a swarm of furious hornets … and we don’t blame them because we’re passionate supporters of plans to extend SunRail service to DeLand. That SunRail expansion can’t happen soon enough.
Last month there that was an ugly rumor that SunRail service wouldn’t be extended to DeLand because there was not enough ridership to make it worthwhile. Fortunately Florida Department of Transportation officials up took the podium during a public meeting in DeLand and assured residents that SunRail is coming to DeLand. Thank goodness!
No one can afford to rest easy until the first SunRail commuter train arrives at the DeLand train station in 2017. The existing DeLand station, shown in the accompanying photo, currently serves 4 Amtrak trains daily.
DeLand’s existing train station is in the middle of nowhere – miles from downtown. That’s why naysayers insist that few DeLand residents will ride SunRail. We believe the naysayers are wrong because many DeLand residents currently travel miles from home, through Orange City to DeBary to use SunRail. That’s one of the reasons why DeBary is currently one of SunRail’s busiest stations.
Contrary to yapping from naysayers the Old New York Avenue location of the DeLand train station isn’t a curse – it’s an opportunity for Deland and Volusia County. Currently Volusia has only one station in DeBary, which is barely 5 minutes from the Seminole County line.
Expanded SunRail service will give DeLand residents and other neighbors in western Volusia hassle-free access to downtown Orlando – Central Florida’s economic powerhouse.  
There are some long-range planners who are thinking of Deland SunRail service as a possible launching pad to connect commuter train service to Daytona Beach. Wouldn’t that be sweet?
SunRail service to DeLand makes lots of sense for so many reasons, such as greater opportunities for employment, education and entertainment. Let’s not forget that DeLand is also the home of Stetson University. Imagine Stetson students riding the train to attend symposiums with their counterparts at Rollins College in Winter Park and at the University of Central Florida’s downtown campus and vice versa.
DeLand has a robust downtown and we bet that day trippers from Orange, Seminole, and Osceola County would enjoy checking out dining and shopping on Woodland Boulevard.
Woodland Boulevard, hmmm, that’s one of the challenges because Woodland Boulevard in DeLand and Park Avenue in Winter Park are completely different situations. Woodland is far from the DeLand train station. A problem? Yes, but it’s not insurmountable.
Sanford faced a similar situation, and solved it by running a free shuttle van from its SunRail station to its historic downtown business district.
DeLand can go one better. Imagine a vintage streetcar linking the train station to downtown. Now is the time to start lobbying local, state and federal leaders to find money for streetcar service.
It’s also a good bet that developers see future SunRail service as a draw to construct housing and businesses in the corridor between downtown and the train station. The best part is that DeLand has the gift of time – two years to work out thoughtful development and transportation plans to support SunRail service.
We can’t wait to see what DeLand comes up with.

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