Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Don't expect much from #SaturdaySunRail

By now you know that #SaturdaySunRail is scheduled to operate on Nov. 5th.

Like you, we’re gun shy after the first attempt at #SaturdaySunRail got blown away by Hurricane Matthew on Oct. 8th. Then we learned that there wouldn’t be Saturday service for a month.

Despite the disappointment, we strongly urge all Central Floridians to take advantage SunRail on Nov. 5th. SunRail’s long-term survival depends on ridership – lots of it.

To avoid the frustration expressed by so many after officials admitted that despite earlier statements SunRail service would NOT be offered on “most Saturdays” we want to set expectations low.

#SaturdaySunRail is funded by Team SunRail – a public-private partnership – not the Florida Department of Transportation which operates the train. The Saturday train is being provided to benefit large-scale events – mostly in downtown Orlando.

The most important advice we can offer riders and would-be riders is pay close attention to the Nov. 5th schedule (for arrivals and departures) because the Saturday train does not run like the New York subway, or weekday SunRail.

For example, we know people want to ride SunRail to Winter Park’s fantastic farmers’ market. Forget it. On Nov.5th SunRail won’t make its first stop in Winter Park until 2:36 p.m. The farmer’s market closes at 1 p.m.

Still, it’s not as though Winter Park rolls up the sidewalk after the farmers’ market. We can think of countless things to do Saturday afternoon and evening around Park Avenue. In addition to Winter Park, there are many other places to visit – eat, drink and have fun -- along the SunRail corridor at the Church Street, Florida Hospital, Maitland, Altamonte Springs, Longwood, Lake Mary and Sanford stations.

The schedule could certainly be a lot better, but there is one big plus. The last scheduled northbound SunRail train  departs downtown Orlando after midnight Saturday and completes its run in DeBary at 1:18 a.m. Sunday. Though that late service is not as good as the #LastCallTrain we’ve proposed, it certainly offers some hope for downtown Orlando’s party people.

Let’s make good use of the train on Nov. 5th, because as of Wednesday afternoon, we don’t know when #SaturdaySunRail will be offered again.

See you on The Rail.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

SunRail needs some Disney pixie dust

SunRail can use some Disney pixie dust to attract thousands of new riders for Central Florida’s struggling commuter train.

Having spent 7 years working for Disney we’ll let you in on the big secret: How The Mouse keeps his amusement parks packed.

Disney focuses an insane amount of time and resources to understand who their customers are and what those customers want.

Disney doesn’t only want to know what customers like. Disney wants to know what those customers don’t like. Then the Mouseketeers figure out how to give the customers exactly what they want.

Anyone who has visited the Magic Kingdom recently knows that customers use Magic Bands to get into the park, pay bills, open their hotel room door and so forth.

Those wrist bands are a result of exhaustive research that told Disney how to eliminate hassles and make Disney vacations more enjoyable.

The result of this research is that 365 days a year thousands of people line up at Disney’s front gate eager to pay hundreds of dollars to get in because they know they will be getting the experience that they want.

SunRail needs to follow Disney example to get more riders on the trains.

Since we love SunRail, we’ll spare them the millions Disney invests in customer research.
Central Floridians want a SunRail they can use when they need it. That means 7-day service, late-night trains and hourly trains at off-peak periods during the day.

Give residents what they want and they’ll line up to ride SunRail.

One thing we know for certain. What SunRail has been doing for the past 2 years is not working. To keep doing the same thing is the definition of insanity.

It’s time for some pixie dust.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

#SaturdaySunRail? Don't count on it

Remember when we were all so excited that SunRail was going to start running trains on Saturdays?

Well, never mind.

The first #SaturdaySunRail was supposed to happen Oct. 8th, but it was cancelled because Hurricane Matthew came to Florida.

Then Team SunRail – the public-private sponsors of Saturday operations – and FDOT said the next planned #SaturdaySunRail operation won’t be until Nov. 5th. FDOT explained they are working on critical track maintenance projects on the weekends.

So after Nov. 5th, when will the next #SaturdaySunRail operation be?

Who knows.

Will there be #SaturdaySunRail for the massive Come Out With Pride festival at Lake Eola on Nov. 12?

Don’t know. FDOT’s not saying, so don’t count on it.

How about #SaturdaySunRail to support the massive Florida Classic FAMU-Bethune Cookman football showdown Nov. 19th at Camping World Stadium?

Don’t know. Don’t count on it.

So maybe we won’t be seeing you on The Rail.

Monday, October 17, 2016

How #SaturdaySunRail turned into a cluster

Hate to write this, but #SaturdaySunRail has turned into a cluster almost as big as regular SunRail.

Team SunRail photo op
Why in the heck did Team SunRail – the public-private partnership offering Saturday train service – hold that big dog-and-pony show last month announcing the Saturday service if they didn’t have everything figured out.

Hasn’t Team SunRail heard you’re supposed to under promise and over deliver?

Team SunRail promised to run the train on Oct. 8th, but that plan got blown away by Hurricane Matthew.

OK, we understand and support the decision not to run the train on Oct. 8th. But never in our wildest imagination did we think Saturday service would not be offered again for a month.

You have got to be kidding us!

We spent the better part of last week trying to find out if the train would run last Saturday – Oct. 15. We didn’t get the official word the train would not run until last Friday (Oct. 14) – yeah, the day before Saturday.

That’s no way to run a railroad, or treat the public. Last Saturday people were spotted waiting at the Sand Lake Road SunRail station for a train that wasn’t coming. Sweet!

As of 5 a.m. today (Oct. 18), Team SunRail has not even updated their website that’s still announcing Saturday service will begin on Oct. 8.


We don’t understand why Team SunRail can’t provide a preliminary schedule of the Saturdays when train service will be offered.

Judging by comments on our Facebook page, riders have lost confidence in Team SunRail before the first Saturday train rolled.

Poor communications, lack of customer service and piss-poor planning are all reasons why SunRail is a disaster that’s headed for total failure.

FDOT's official comment on Saturday's missing SunRail service

Saturday, October 8, 2016 was going to be the kick-off for the select Saturday service. Hurricane Matthew impacted that.
·         At present, the next scheduled running of Saturday service is set for Saturday, November 5, 2016 
·         Service on select Saturdays is based on major venues, availability of staff and equipment, as well as windows of time to allow for track work and construction to occur on the corridor
·         SunRail’s primary responsibility is Monday-Friday commuter rail service. Saturday service cannot adversely impact the staffing that’s needed for Monday-Friday service
·         SunRail is examining bringing on additional staff to meet the needs of running select SunRail service on Saturdays
·         SunRail is working with the Downtown Orlando Partnership to meet the desire for Saturday service, while taking into consideration adequate staffing to meet Monday-Friday needs, as well as the needs for adequate windows of time to perform construction during weekends.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Which Saturdays should SunRail run?

With the exception of Nov. 5th, the private-public Team SunRail partnership has yet to post a full calendar showing which Saturdays SunRail will run.

So we thought we would help them by making our own #SaturdaySunRail suggestions:
Saturday, Nov. 12. The Come Out With Pride festival – postponed from Oct. 8th – is scheduled to be held at downtown Orlando’s Lake Eola. More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the event that celebrates our LGBTQ community.

Saturday, Nov. 19. The Florida Classic annual football showdown between Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman University – two of America’s best known Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The game at downtown Orlando’s Camping World Stadium (formerly known as the Citrus Bowl) and surrounding events draw nearly 100,000 annually.

Saturday, Nov. 26. Small Business Saturday is traditionally held the Saturday after Thanksgiving and it’s intended to spotlight small businesses that are the backbone of the U.S. economy. There are hundreds of small businesses you can reach by getting off at SunRail stations at Sand Lake Road, Church Street, LYNX Central Station, Florida Hospital, Winter Park, Maitland, Altamonte Springs, Longwood, Lake Mary and Sanford. Many small businesses have special offers for customers on Small Business Saturday.

By the way, on Nov. 5th Camping World Stadium will be hosting the Electric Daisy Music Carnival. Hard for us to describe this event that features music, amusement park rides, costumes and lots of people.
Hope to see you on The Rail.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

#SaturdaySunRail question

Will #SaturdaySunRail roll this Saturday?

As regular fans know, the first run of SunRail’s Saturday service was postponed last weekend because of Hurricane Matthew.

The natural question everyone has is: Will it run this Saturday?

Our calendar tells us that Saturday is 2 days from today.

Yet as of 10 a.m., we can’t seem to get a simple answer to that simple question.

There’s nothing on the SunRail website, or the website for Team SunRail – the entity that is funding the Saturday train operations.

This is one helluva way to run a railroad.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

#SaturdaySunRail disappointment

What a disappointing Saturday!

Like thousand across Central Florida, we were looking forward to the first run of #SaturdaySunRail train on Oct. 8.

However, in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew reaching land, FDOT cancelled SunRail train service on Friday and Saturday.

The cancellation announcement was very disappointing. However, mentioning the word “hurricane” brings back nightmares for many local residents.

We lived through Hurricane Charley in 2004. The widespread devastation that storm caused across Metro Orlando is difficult to describe to anyone who wasn’t here. It took almost a year to clear much of the damage and debris. Today you can still find scars inflicted by Hurricane Charley if you know where to look.

Turns out Hurricane Matthew’s recent visit had far less impact on Central Florida than anticipated. In fact, Saturday’s weather was mild. It would have been a perfect day to run the train.

Yet there was no way for anyone to know in advance how things would turn out on Saturday. We imagine the disappointment was particularly acute for those planning to attend the massive Come Out With Pride Festival last Saturday in downtown Orlando’s Lake Eola. That event has been postponed until a TBD date in November.

SunRail officials and festival organizers made the difficult – yet right decision -- to cancel. Nothing is more important than public safety.

As for SunRail, once you shut down a railroad it takes time to get it up and running again. Workers need to make sure there’s no debris on the tracks; ensure trains and stations haven’t been damaged, and check that railroad signals and crossing gates are functioning properly.

All is not lost. The business and community partnership sponsoring #SaturdaySunRail promise to offer train service on most Saturdays between now and the beginning of February.

The Saturday service is being offered to make it easier for people to reach leisure events downtown Orlando and along the SunRail corridor. You can help sponsor #SaturdaySunRail by clicking here.

#SaturdaySunRail will roll. When it does, we’ll see you on The Rail.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Official SunRail press release

SunRail to Suspend Service Beginning Thursday Afternoon
Orlando – Due to Hurricane Matthew, the Florida Department of Transportation is suspending
SunRail commuter rail service Thursday afternoon.
The last southbound train (P317) departs DeBary at 12:00 p.m., and the last northbound
train (P318) departs Sand Lake at 1:15 p.m. This will allow staff time to prepare for the
impending storm.
Hurricane preparations include:
securing gates at over 130 grade crossings, including removal of longer gates
demobilizing, inspecting and storing train sets
securing equipment
After the storm and when conditions stabilize, a complete inspection of the corridor is necessary
to assess the storm’s impact and to prepare the corridor to reinstate rail service.
Unfortunately, due to the uncertainty of the storm, we will be unable to operate normal
service on Friday, October 7, 2016 or special event service for Saturday, October 8, 2016.
We will continue to work with our partners to identify the next opportunity to offer
SunRail service on Saturday.
SunRail anticipates resuming its normal operations Monday, October 10, 2016 with 36 regularly
scheduled train trips per day.

Please check for updates.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Bus blogger needed

SunRailRiders is seeking a blogger to write about LYNX and crusade to improve the public bus system that serves Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties.

For the past 2 years has been raising hell to fix our commuter-train service. We want to give LYNX the same scrutiny because its riders deserve better service than they’re getting.

Frankly, SunRail’s success depends on LYNX success. We need a strong, unified, reliable and easy-to-use public-transit system – bus and train – to improve Central Florida’s livability.

Too many of our neighbors spend 4 hours or more every day riding the bus or waiting for a bus in the rain and sun. That’s because LYNX doesn’t have enough buses. This situation is wrong and needs to be fixed NOW.

Ideally the bus blogger has been riding LYNX for years. The writer needs to be someone who keeps up with local current events (as in reads local newspapers); knows the ins and outs of the local bus system, and understands the politics of public transportation. It doesn't matter if the bus blogger doesn't use SunRail.

This is a chance for a creative person who is passionate about facts and public transportation to get published and make a difference.

The bus blog will initially be incorporated into the SunRailRiders website. However, it will have its own distinct Facebook and Twitter channels. We would also back up the blogger with video and photos.

So how about it?

Don’t apply if you hope to get rich, but we can probably work out a little something, something. Send an email to

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ready to get aboard #SaturdaySunRail

#SaturdaySunRail is almost here.

The new Saturday service starts this week on Oct. 8.

Regular SunRailRiders fans know that 2 years ago this blog launched the campaign to extend SunRail service beyond weekday bankers hours.

The train service that starts Saturday is good, but it’s not great.

The #SaturdaySunRail schedule supports large-scale community and leisure events along the SunRail corridor. What about people who work weekends?

Though #SaturdaySunRail is not perfect, we need to use the hell out of it.

We’re hoping that there will be many new first-time riders Saturday. Here are things they need to know:

Tickets: You need a ticket to ride SunRail. There are 4 ticket-vending machines at every station. Only 1 machine accepts cash, so bring your plastic. Get to the station early because the vending transaction can be clunky.
Tap on and Tap Off: Your ticket is not legit until you tap it on one of the yellow ticket validators on the platform before you board the train. The conductor will check. Tap your ticket on the validator when you get off the train. The validators measure ridership. We need those stats to keep SunRail running.
Getting on and off: Don’t wait for the last minute to get off when the train reaches your stop. Please let riders get off the train before you try to board
Schedule: Pay close attention to the schedule for arriving and departing trains. The #SaturdaySunRail schedule may change on a weekly basis.
Safety: Stay behind the yellow line on the platform while waiting for the train. Bicycles and skateboard are welcome on the train, but don’t ride them on the platform.
Bathroom: Go to the bathroom before you leave home because there is NO restroom at the SunRail station. There is one restroom on each train. Public restrooms are expensive to build and maintain.
Train station parking: Free parking is available at most SunRail stations. There is no -- or very limited -- parking at Winter Park, LYNX Central Station, Florida Hospital and Orlando Health.

See you on #SaturdaySunRail.