Saturday, July 25, 2015

Why can't Sunrail run a train after downtown bars close?

Lots of people want SunRail to run a train after last call when downtown Orlando bars close at 2 a.m.
#LastCallTrain is highly unlikely, but it’s not entirely impossible.
Recently we kicked around the notion of a #LastCallTrain with an FDOT representative.
One of the biggest deal-breaker points he raised is that in order to launch SunRail, the state had to push freight train traffic off the tracks for most of the daytime and evening hours when SunRail is operating. To achieve that goal required a formal agreement giving freight trains exclusive use of the tracks between midnight and 5 a.m.
Freight trains might not be a big concern for the party crowd, but they are a big deal to businesses throughout Central Florida that depend on trains to bring in supplies and ship products. Our local and state economy depend on those trains.
Can that freight train agreement be modified? Perhaps, but it would not be easy.
Next hurdle, who pays for the #LastCallTrain?
Like almost every public transit system in the world, the passenger fare box only pays for a portion of the operating cost – typically 20 to 30 percent. The rest of the money comes from the public treasury. Making taxpayers foot the bill for a party train is – pure and simple – bad public policy and political suicide. The word boondoggle comes to mind. Central Florida is not New York City where the subway runs 24/7.
Maybe the downtown Orlando clubs would pick up the operating costs that aren’t covered by the fare box. Don’t bet on it.
The #LastCallTrain would probably be more expensive to run than your typical SunRail train considering that many 2 a.m. riders would be in a “festive” mood.
SunRail trains are crewed by two people – an engineer and one conductor. The conductor is responsible for passenger safety and checking tickets. Common sense and liability concerns would likely require an additional conductor and serious security – off-duty police officers. Anybody who has ever been in downtown Orlando after the bars close know outrageous antics are common — everything from fist fights to “adult activity” best kept behind closed doors.
Late-night merrymakers sometimes suffer “protein spills” – Disneyspeak for vomiting and accidental urination and defecation. Ugh. Who is supposed to clean up that mess?
Once the train arrives at stations in Lake Mary and elsewhere, will there be police on the scene to make sure that intoxicated people who get off the train don’t get into their cars and wind up killing themselves, or innocent people?
Do we really want SunRail bosses to waste time creating a #LastCallTrain, or working on expanding service to weekends, Osceola County and DeLand?
The logical answer is obvious.
See you on The Rail.

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