Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Orlando doesn't care about the safety of SunRail riders

It will be a long time before this dangerous crossing problem is solved for people who get off the southbound SunRail train at Church Street.

SunRail riders forced to cross dangerous South Street
On Monday, the Orlando City Council approved an agreement that will relocate that southbound platform inside the planned Lincoln Property high- rise building on Church Street. That's supposed to eliminate the need to cross South Street.

Don’t start cheering yet.

The agreement includes this sentence: “Lincoln agrees to have the station construction completed and the easements conveyed by Dec. 31, 2024.”

Yup, 2024. This is assuming there's no downturn in the economy that would cause this project to be delayed or canceled. (We still remember the wonderful plans Lou Pearlman had for the Church Street complex.)

SunRail started carrying riders on May 2014. 

Planned high rise

From the very first day, riders getting off at Church Street’s southbound SunRail platform complained that there was no safe or easy way to cross busy South Street to reach their downtown destinations.

Now we see that it will take up to 7 more years to fix this problem.

Good going SunRail and Orlando!

We can see how much you value the safety and convenience of riders.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

SunRail schedule derails the airport campaign

We really like SunRail’s “Train to the Plane” campaign to encourage more people to use the commuter train to reach Orlando International Airport.

Lynx bus 111 is pretty much a straight shot to the airport from the SunRail Sand Lake Road station. It’s less than 10 minutes between the train station and the airport terminal. Plus, you can get a free transfer from SunRail to ride the Lynx bus. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

The only problem is the train.

SunRail is America’s “most inconvenient train”.

Between the morning and evening rush hours there are SunRail service gaps of up to 2 ½ hours. On weekdays, the last northbound train leaves Sand Lake Road at 9:15 p.m. Worst yet, SunRail DOES NOT run on weekends or holidays.

For a few travelers to and from the airport, SunRail might work – especially if they don’t encounter flight delays.

For most, it is risky to include SunRail in your airport travel plans.

The train’s schedule has been a fundamental problem for SunRail since it launched operations more than three years ago. No wonder fewer than 2,000 ride the train daily.

The elected local officials who serve on the SunRail Commission proposed creating a rail link that would carry SunRail riders into the airport.

In an interview last year, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer – who chaired the SunRail commission at that time – said once SunRail had a rail link to the airport the train would HAVE TO run more frequently and on a 7-days a week schedule.

Extending SunRail to OIA is called Phase 3. The last we heard, that project is expected to cost at least $200 million. (Phase 2 southbound to Poinciana is expected to be completed by summer 2018.)

Here’s a bulletin for you.

That mythical SunRail Phase 3 is not going to happen. Or at least it’s not going to happen any time soon, despite the fact a special terminal has already been built at the airport for SunRail and other non-existent rail services.

Airport terminal for non-existent trains

Based on what we have seen so far from the Trump administration, it’s unlikely the feds will fork over the money needed to build and equip that airport rail link. A proposed SunRail extension to DeLand also is unlikely to happen because money isn’t forthcoming.

Like the pundits say: Elections have consequences.

Regardless, we can still make the train to the plane link viable.

Lynx is already doing its part providing frequent bus service to the Sand Lake Road station.

SunRail needs to cough up the money to run the train at least 18 hours a day and on the weekends.

That’s what Tri-Rail (South Florida’s version of SunRail) did for 20 years. They used a combination of the train and a bus and it worked pretty good. In fact, it was only until 2015 that they completed a rail link to Miami International Airport.

Improving SunRail’s schedule is essential to its survival.

In case you didn’t know, the clock is running out on SunRail.

The Florida Department of Transportation is paying SunRail’s operating cost until the summer of 2021. Then those expenses become the responsibility of Orlando, and Orange, Osceola and Volusia counties. SunRail’s daily ridership – fewer than 2,000 – is so low that the cost of collecting fares is more than the amount brought in with fares. It’s not the train. It’s the fault of the awful schedule.

Do you think taxpayers will pick up an annual tab of nearly $30 million for a train that runs bankers’ hours and only Monday through Friday?

We don’t.

That’s why the schedule needs to be fixed, not just for the airport, but for all the destinations on the SunRail corridor.