Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Zoo totally misses the SunRail train

This is the time of the year when parents send their kids to visit the grandparents in Florida.
After a week of theme parks the grandparents come up with a new idea. Enjoy a ride on SunRail and spend the day at Sanford’s Central Florida Zoo.

There’s only one problem. There’s no easy way to get from the Sanford SunRail station to the Central Florida Zoo.

Central Florida Zoo entrance
As the crow flies the zoo is only about 2 miles from the SunRail station. There’s even a sign posted at the SunRail station that lists the zoo as a place of interest near the train station.
Let’s make one thing clear: This is not SunRail’s fault. The train is a wonderful resource. Even though SunRail has been running for a year we’re disappointed that a number of Central Florida institutions don’t seem to realize that the train can benefit their mission and bottom line.

Capitalizing on SunRail requires creative thinking by leaders and transportation partners. For example, even though a fleet of LYNX buses serve the Sanford SunRail station, there is no bus stop near the zoo.

We don’t understand why LYNX doesn’t serve the zoo because LYNX currently stops at Central Florida Regional Hospital -- just down the road from the zoo. LYNX says the zoo doesn’t generate enough ridership to justify service.

When you call the zoo and ask them how to get there from the Sanford SunRail station staffers chuckle and tell you to catch a cab. For the record, it’s about a 3-mile walk from the train station. It would be dangerous to walk there because there are no sidewalks on the busy road leading to the zoo. So if you can’t afford a car or a cab ride you’re not going to the zoo.


We would love to see the zoo launch an on-demand shuttle service from the SunRail station. SunRail riders could call the zoo in advance to tell them what time they will arrive at the Sanford station and a van would be waiting to pick them up.

Or, heck why isn’t the zoo partnering with the city of Sanford that currently runs free shuttle van service between the train station and historic downtown Sanford.

Now that sounds like a zoo that’s eager to host lots of visitors.

Responding to our questions, zoo spokeswoman Shonna Green wrote: “Of course we would love to have a shuttle from the SunRail station. However as a small 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit we do not have the funds available to support such an endeavor.  And, SunRail does not operate on the weekends when most families are looking for outdoor family entertainment. 
“We have indeed spoken to the team at the city of Sanford and we are working closely with them as opportunities arise and ridership increases,” she wrote.    

“Our administration recently changed and we are in the process of introducing our new CEO to the Central Florida area.  I am sure as he settles into his new role he will work closely with SunRail, the city (Sanford) and the entire Central Florida region. …
“On a side note,” Green wrote, “we’d love if SunRail ran on the weekends!!!”

Seriously? What difference would it make if SunRail ran on weekends, people still can’t get from the SunRail station to the zoo.

See you on The Rail, as long as you’re not trying to visit the Central Florida Zoo.

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