Monday, August 31, 2015

Transportation volunteers needed

By Chris Carson
Special Correspondent

Here’s a chance to play a role in improving “multimodal” transportation in our community. “Multimodal” includes sidewalks, bicycles, buses and trains.
Dangerous pedestrian crossing at Church Street SunRail station.

Metroplan Orlando, a regional transportation partnership, needs volunteers – lots of volunteers – to count bicyclists and pedestrians throughout the area during September.

The volunteers will be assigned to specific locations throughout Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties where they will count passing pedestrians and bicyclists during a two-hour period on Sept. 17 and Sept. 19.

The data gathered will help plan safety improvements and future transit projects. Several of the locations that will be monitored are near SunRail stations. One of SunRail’s biggest challenges is how riders get from the train station to their ultimate destination. Figuring out how to make it easier for people to safely, ad easily walk of ride a bike is critical to SunRail’s ridership success.

There is a mandatory training session for volunteers on Sept. 14, 5 p.m. at the Metroplan office in downtown Orlando on Robinson Street, across the street from Lake Eola Park.
If interested, please contact Gabriella Arismendi at (407) 481-5672 ext. 312 or

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Don't wreck LYNX to benefit SunRail

We’re getting indigestion from a public transit proposal that seems to be gaining some traction – having a private company run LYNX, the public bus system that serves Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.

State Rep. Jason Brodeur, a Republican from Sanford, is the local latest leader to pitch the idea in a Sentinel My Word column. He wrote that a private management takeover of LYNX is essential to SunRail’s success.

The thinking is that private management is more efficient than the government. Don’t fall for the hype. Private management aims to make a profit. Government’s mission is to serve the public. Big difference between those two missions.

LYNX is critical to SunRail’s success because there needs to be reliable transportation waiting at train stations to take SunRail riders to their ultimate destination. We worry that private management would turn LYNX into SunRail’s stepchild. That would be WRONG and UNFAIR.

Too often private management makes its decisions based on spreadsheets with little consideration about what’s fair. The overwhelming majority of LYNX riders use the bus because they have no choice – too poor to own a car, or can’t drive. Many of bus riders don’t travel anywhere close to a SunRail station. Those bus riders need more, not less, bus service.

We worry that a private industry takeover of LYNX will mean cutting service for needy riders to provide more bus service to support SunRail.

Clearly we’re huge SunRail supporters but we have to admit that despite its shortcomings LYNX is currently much more effective than SunRail. Every day LYNX provides 105,000 rides -- 26 times more than SunRail. Our goal is to help grow SunRail ridership, but we don’t want longtime LYNX riders to get shortchanged in the process.

LYNX has struggled for years because it doesn’t have a dedicated funding source. That’s why LYNX doesn’t have enough buses and riders are forced to wait for long periods in all kinds of weather. SunRail faces the same funding fate in 2022 when the Florida Department of Transportation stops providing the subsidy needed to run the trains.

As we suggested in an earlier article, now is the time to create a true transportation system – buses and trains – by uniting SunRail and LYNX into a single robust mass transit agency. This approach is essential to get the dedicated local funding needed to keep Central Florida moving forward.

Save SunRail

Come 2022 we could be reading SunRail’s obituary.
No not due to lack of ridership, but rather due to lack of money.
Under the deal that launched SunRail, the Florida Department of Transportation is shouldering much of the financial burden for commuter train through the completion of the I-4 Ultimate construction project.
Once construction is completed SunRail becomes the financial responsibility of Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties and the city of Orlando.
Last year it cost $35 million to run SunRail. The fare box covered about 20 percent of the cost. Like schools and public safety, almost all public transit throughout the world has to be underwritten by taxpayers. The overall cost for running SunRail is certain to rise as train service is expanded into Osceola County, and hopefully to DeLand in Volusia County.
It scares us that so far we’ve heard very little discussion of how money will be raised to pay for SunRail when FDOT’s commitment ends.
2022 seems far away, but anyone who has watched a child bloom from an infant to a young adult will tell you that the years flash by. No doubt some of our current elected officials figure they will have left office by the time the bill comes due. And then what?
Our elected officials have neglected public transportation for decades.
LYNX, the public bus system serving Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, has been scraping by like a pauper. Now SunRail faces the prospect of joining LYNX in line with a beggar’s cup.
The core problem is there is no dedicated funding source – such as a sales tax -- for public transit. Every year LYNX has to plead for operating dollars. The result is there are only 300 buses in the LYNX fleet. Realistically LYNX needs at least 600 buses to provide reasonable service – 15 to 20-minute waits – to all bus stops, including those at SunRail stations. VOTRAN in Volusia County is in the same boat with LYNX. It has fewer than 60 buses in its fleet that serves communities from DeBary to Daytona Beach.
Shortcomings in the public bus system undermine SunRail’s ridership. Many people are reluctant to use SunRail because they know when they get off the train they will have a long wait or difficult time getting from some SunRail stations to their final destination.
The first step is to reunite LYNX and SunRail under the same roof. Currently one local authority is limited to overseeing the bus system and a new authority was established to oversee SunRail. This arrangement is the result of a big flap back in 2002 when some local transit authority officials were caught goofing off during a business trip. This embarrassment occurred more than a decade before SunRail was born.
As Taylor Swift would say: “Shake it off.”  What happened in the past is ancient history. It’s time to recreate a single entity to run both commuter trains and buses. That’s the first step to get proper funding for both Lynx and SunRail. Anything less would invite officials to shortchange commuters by playing trains against buses. We need both trains and buses
Traffic in New York City is nothing to brag about. But travel conditions there would be much worse if the city didn’t have a unified public transit system.
Central Florida deserves a unified transit system that will serve our community well for the next 100 years.

Friday, August 14, 2015

SunRail to Orlando Shakes

It's just a short walk from the Florida Hospital SunRail station to the Orlando Shakespeare Theater.

When you get off the train walk to the Rollins Street end of the station and take the pedestrian walkway east past the hospital and continue down the street to the theater at Loch Haven Park.

Here's a map that will help you find your way.