Monday, November 21, 2016

You'll never believe what happened to #SaturdaySunRail ridership

#SaturdaySunrail was going reasonably well until this past Saturday.
On the first Saturday (Nov. 5th) the ridership was 3,225.
On the second Saturday (Nov. 12th) the ridership was 3,452.
It was reasonable to expect that the ridership trend would continue to climb. 

That’s reasonable, but this is SunRail.

This past Saturday (Nov. 19th) the ridership was 2,100.

What the heck happened?

The #SaturdaySunRail ridership collapse is the result of a communications and operations failure by SunRail and Team SunRail – the public-private partnership bankrolling the occasional Saturday train.

We think most of the blame belongs on the shoulders of Team SunRail because it’s their party.

Ever since #SaturdaySunRail was postponed in October we learned they have difficulty telling the public in advance about which Saturdays the train service would be offered.

People keep asking us why SunRail/Team SunRail can’t post an advance schedule so people can plan ahead. Seems like a reasonable question and expectation.

The FDOT officials who run SunRail said that part of the challenge is that there is certain track maintenance work they must do on the weekends. Then the other complication is that the train is only provided on weekends when Team SunRail wants to provide service.

Still it is possible to coordinate this.

We’ve been finding out only a few days before the train service will be offered on a particular Saturday. That make it difficult to share timely information with prospective riders.

Clearly this is no way to run a railroad.

This past week proved to be a cluster. 

Last Wednesday FDOT officially announced SunRail would be offering train service on Nov. 19 – three days later – to support the Florida Classic collegiate football game at Camping World Stadium.

Communicators at Florida Citrus Sports and the two universities playing in the game didn’t seem to know anything about the train service until SunRailRiders contacted them. We provided them with #SaturdaySunRail information. (We don’t work for FDOT, SunRail or Team SunRail.)

Communicators professionals (which we are when we’re not blogging about SunRail) will tell you there should have been a coordinated communications plan so that all the stakeholders knew what was happening and could share pertinent details with their audiences.

With proper communication the #SaturdaySunRail ridership could have been doubled. Instead last Saturday’s ridership looks like a failure. It’s not. People can’t ride if they don’t what’s going on.

One piece of good news -- if you can call it that -- is that SunRail already announced that it won’t be running this coming Saturday – Nov. 26. That’s a start because people need to know in advance what’s happening.

Hopefully SunRail and Team SunRail will use this time to get their act together.

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