Tuesday, September 29, 2015

SunRail could go to Polk County

Folks in Polk County want to jump aboard SunRail, and who can blame them because thousands of them work in the Orlando area and have to endure the mind-numbing congestion on Interstate 4.

A study to extend SunRail into Polk County – sandwiched between Osceola and Hillsborough counties – was prepared earlier this year.

The SunRail feasibility study states: “There are significant movements of people between Polk County and areas to the east. Connecting to SunRail would provide travel alternatives for the tens of thousands of people who move between Polk County and its neighbors to the north and east. The 2035 Polk County Mobility Vision Plan extending SunRail into Polk County.”

Catching SunRail in Polk County is far from a done deal.

The study lays out a 4-phase plan to connect Polk County residents to SunRail. It starts with express-bus service to the future SunRail station in Osceola’s Poinciana, and graduates to extending actual SunRail train service to Haines City, then to Auburndale and finally to Lakeland.

Expanding SunRail to Polk County is a very long road, as people in Osceola County and DeLand know.

Papers will be signed this month to finalize the full-funding grant agreement for the Osceola County SunRail expansion due to be completed in 2017. DeLand residents are still waiting to see if a federal grant will come through to extend commuter-train service to their Volusia County city.

Under the best of circumstances Polk County will have to come up with tens of millions of dollars, plus hopefully get money from the federal government to extend train service. Then there’s the matter of acquiring access to freight tracks for use by the SunRail in Polk County. Getting access isn’t cheap. The Florida Department of Transportation had to pay a king’s ransom to buy the tracks it now uses in Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties.

SunRail service to Polk County is doable. It all depends on the political will of Polk County residents and their leaders.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Latest news on Deland extension

At Wednesday’s (9/23)

meeting of the elected officials who oversee SunRail it was announced they expect to find out whether FDOT will get the $35 million TIGER VII grant it’s seeking from the federal government to extend SunRail service to DeLand, the Volusia County seat.

Currently DeBary is the only Volusia County city with a SunRail station. Money for the DeLand extension was not included in the federal budget, which is why FDOT is seeking the TIGER VII discretionary grant. More than 1,200 people supported that grant application by adding their names to an online petition posted by www.SunRailRiders.com 

Competition for a piece of the $500 million grant pot is still because hundreds of communities across the country made grant requests. Expanding SunRail service to DeLand would increase employment, economic and educational opportunities in the region.

Monday, September 7, 2015

4 SunRailRiders winners

Alan Crawford, David Geisler, Erin Maciejewski, Nancy Sepulveda won the SunRailRiders.com drawing for complimentary tickets to attend Monty Python’s SPAMALOT at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Loch Haven Park, just a short stroll from the SunRail station at Florida Hospital. More than 200 people entered the contest. The winners were picked randomly.

Performances of the musical begin this Wednesday and continue through Oct. 11. Please click the link to order your tickets. https://orlandoshakes.secure.force.com/ticket

You can ride SunRail to and from weekday performances.

Alan Crawford

David Geisler

Erin Maciejewski

Nancy Sepulveda

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Weekend SunRail means more than fun and games

Most of the time when people lament the lack of weekend SunRail service would-be riders talk about all the fun places – farmer’s markets, athletic events, restaurants and such -- they would visit if the train ran on Saturday and Sunday.
But for many riders the lack of weekend service is about much more than fun and games.
On Saturday we corresponded with a rider who needs SunRail weekend service to get to and from work. He is not alone, many people in Central Florida work weekends and many either don’t have cars or don’t drive.
The rider we corresponded with lives in the Sanford area. On weekdays he takes SunRail to the Sand Lake Road station and then catches a LYNX bus to his job on Destination Parkway – that’s off International Drive, just past the Orange County Convention Center.
On the weekends when SunRail isn’t running he has to take three buses. The trip takes three hours – one way. During the week, SunRail cuts that travel time in half. Oh, and by the way, during the week he uses the #NightTrain, SunRail’s late night service.
Each weekend day this fellow spends 6 hours on the LYNX bus. That’s a dreadful waste of this man’s time.
Weekend SunRail service isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. Central Florida deserves weekend service.

Ridership stats -- read 'em and weep

Read ‘em and weep, and weep we did when we looked over this summer’s SunRail Ridership stats.
SunRail was expected to exceed an average of 4,000 daily riders within its first year. That first year ended four months ago and we’re still not there yet. SunRail has certainly had some impressive ridership spikes along the way, but a bright future can’t be built on spikes.
·        June 2015 the average daily ridership was 3,660.
·        July 2015 average daily ridership was 3,904.
·        August 2015 daily ridership was 3,635.
Certainly a ridership dip was expected in August when children returned to school, but enough with “the dog ate my homework” excuses. With hundreds of thousands living and working next to and near to the SunRail corridor reaching 4,000 average daily riders shouldn’t be an impossible goal.
More development – both businesses and residences – are coming on line along the SunRail corridor and we’re confident that will help ridership. In addition, two years from now the southern extension of SunRail will add four stations to the train system. Hopefully the northern extension up to DeLand, and the extension to Orlando International Airport, will come on line in the near future.
Right now we know SunRail haters are happily clucking about the ridership numbers, but those of us who love SunRail are determined to have the last laugh. In 12-step programs the first step they say is to admit the problem. So we’ve admitted it. The SunRail bosses have hired a consulting firm that’s supposed to be working on increasing ridership. Hopefully the consultant is using the right strategy and tactics. We wish them luck.
Meanwhile all of us need to continue to encourage friends and colleagues to ride SunRail.