Thursday, April 14, 2016

'Try the train' campaign fizzling?

Those who attended Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s State of the City speech received free SunRail tickets to “Try the Train.”

While we don’t know how many of the speech attendees tried the train, the “Try the Train” ridership-building initiative isn’t new. The initiative, which is being managed by a SunRail consultant, has been underway since the beginning of this year.

Between Jan. 19 and March 15 the consultant distributed 5,515 of the paper tickets through downtown Orlando employers, according to a spokesman for SunRail.

As these are one-way tickets, most people took two tickets. One to ride the train to work in the morning and the other to return home after work. In other words, the distributed tickets were enough to provide round trips to a little more than 2,700 people.

Records provided by SunRail showed that of 5,515 free tickets distributed, a total of 1,105 were actually used. Based on our own independent reporting we know that at least a few people who received free tickets gave away their second ticket to fellow riders, or strangers on the platform.

The million-dollar question is: Of those who used the tickets to try the train, how many of them became regular fare-paying SunRail riders?
The SunRail spokesman wrote: “Obviously, this is a difficult metric to create with 100 percent accuracy.

“But,” the spokesman continued, “we are working with employers to distribute post-try-the-train day surveys that (among other questions) specifically asks our first-time riders if their experience has motivated them to adopt SunRail as their full-time commuting method.”

While the spokesman didn’t give us a definitive answer on how many of those who tried the train became regular riders, he noted survey results showed that 17 percent of the “Try the Train” riders from Orlando Health “adopted SunRail based on the experience."

To be clear, the consultant provided 2,700 tickets to Orlando Health. Only 300 of those tickets were actually used. Considering that most people supposedly rode round trip, that means 150 people at Orlando Health tried the train in response to the campaign. Of those who tried the train, 25 people “adopted SunRail based on the experience.”

25 people out of 2,700 tickets! That’s not much of a return on the investment.

Considering how many people work at Orlando Health and Florida Hospital, most officials expected the hospital stations would host thousands of riders daily. Instead those stations have the weakest ridership because SunRail is America’s most inconvenient train.

The train’s schedule – no late-night train, no weekend train service -- don’t come close to meeting the real-life work schedule demands of hospital caregivers.

Giving away tickets won’t substantially improve SunRail’s ridership. Improving the ridership requires a sensible SunRail schedule.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

SunRail ridership disappoints

SunRail ridership is supposed to be going up, not down.

Yet when you attend SunRail meetings, like the Technical Advisory Committee talkfest this week, the SunRail bosses sound so cheery when talking about how many people are riding the train.

NEWS FLASH: The total January, February and March 2016 average ridership was 736 people lower than the same three months in 2015. (See the accompanying chart of average daily ridership) Yet the SunRail bosses act as though the decline makes perfect sense. Gas prices are lower and there was bad weather, they say.

Then bosses at the LYNX bus system say, they noticed the same decline and agree with SunRail on the reason for the decline. That’s bull. The overwhelming majority of people who rely on LYNX don’t have a car, so they aren’t affected by gas price fluctuations or bad weather. When those bus riders need to get somewhere they’re forced to use the bus.
As for SunRail, did they ever consider what getting rid of the #NightTrain in December 2015 would do to overall ridership?

We know lots of people who really enjoyed using SunRail at night to travel to and from events along the corridor and in downtown Orlando. Now that the train service ends so early, they can’t use SunRail. Duh!

SunRail’s ridership problem is easy to understand and fix. Provide service at the times when people want it – hourly during the day, late at night and on the weekends – and they’ll have no shortage of riders.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What grade does SunRail deserve?

SunRail will celebrate its second anniversary on May 1.

Most people holding a salaried position in Corporate America know what that means. It’s time for the dreaded annual Performance Appraisal.  In most big companies performance appraisals can determine if you get a raise, or if you get fired.

As riders, voters, taxpayers and residents, we’re SunRail’s boss, so let’s do the evaluation. On a scale of A to F, how would you grade SunRail?

While some might be tempted to shoot from the hip, fairness demands we suggest some criteria for the evaluation.

Customer Relations:

How are you treated by SunRail staff -- train crews, station ambassadors and other staff and officials?


Does SunRail do a good job keeping riders and the public informed of service changes and when there are delays or problems?


Are SunRail trains, stations, parking lots and platforms adequate and properly maintained?


How is the functionality of the ticket vending machines, the tap-on tap-off ticket validators, the SunRail website and the onboard wifi system?


Can you count on SunRail to meet its schedule with a minimum of service interruptions?

Is SunRail doing enough to get more riders?


Can you count on SunRail trains to be available when you need it?

Does SunRail live up to your expectations?

Areas of opportunity:

How can SunRail improve to make it better for the public?

So how would you grade SunRail? We’d love to see your results. Click here to email us.

SunRail plays leading role in state of the city

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer had a lot to say about SunRail on Tuesday during his State of the City speech.
“To be the city that defines the 21st Century,” Dyer said, “we must become America’s new home for mass transit.
“Imagine Orlando a short 10 years from now.
“Our mass transit options make it easier and less expensive to move people to and from the places they live, work and play.
“In this future, SunRail is the backbone of a transit system that ties downtown, our airport, Lake Nona and all of our major employment sites together.
“We see thousands of professionals use SunRail to commute to work every
day – as well as the airport for business travel.”
What do you think of Mayor Dyer’s vision?

Click here for more of Dyer’s comments on SunRail and other issues.

Congresswoman Brown has a SunRail question

We were delighted to chat with Congresswoman Corrine Brown Tuesday in Orlando at SunRail’s Lynx Central Station. Congresswoman Corrine Brown was instrumental in getting the federal dollars to build SunRail.
She was delighted to see the train fare is very reasonable and happy to see people waiting at the station.
However, Congresswoman Brown can’t understand why each station only one ticket machine that takes cash. She said everybody – especially poor people – does NOT have a debit or credit card. She also noted that some people are reluctant to use their cards in vending machines because they fear getting their bank accounts hacked.

This is a problem that we’ve noted before, but the SunRail bosses don’t care. We don’t understand why the managers refuse to make it easier for people to use the train.