Friday, April 27, 2018

Love letter from a 'faithful' rider

By Mandi Howell

SunRail, we need to talk.

I think we need couples’ therapy. I feel like our relationship is lopsided and filled with empty promises. I believe your heart is in the right place and that you mean well. I want to make this work, but I really need to you be present and listen to my needs if that is going to happen.

I knew you had a troubled past when I got involved, but you seemed to have changed and learned from those missteps, so I gave you a clean slate. I have built you up to everyone who would listen. I have remained faithful. I support you, but I feel neglected and taken for granted. SunRail, it is going to take some effort on your part if this is going to get better.

I started out a na├»ve rider at the Lake Mary Station in March of 2016. 

Three weeks later, still in the SunRail “love bubble” I caught a 2:25 out of Church Street to head back to Seminole. I would learn upon my arrival at the hospital that my mother passed away unexpectedly. I was so grateful you were there for me when I needed you most -- this gratitude has bought you a lot of forgiveness. I learned a few weeks later that it was luck that had delivered me where I needed to go that day.

I learned you weren’t as consistent as I had believed. I learned that, had I been moments later in my distraught nature, you would have left me on that platform weeping and vulnerable for two full hours because you do not serve your ridership. Your ridership must accommodate you.

I told myself I just had to work around your selfishness. That I can live with you not being there for me whenever I need you because I love you. Besides, all day, reliable, consistent, convenient public transportation is just subway movie lore. Here in the Sunshine reality doesn’t work like that. It also isn’t fair to compare you to my ex transits – LightRail, PATH, MTA, the Metro. Yeah, I got around in my day, but I am 100 percent with you now.
I also recall being concerned about your treatment of others from the get go- that you without impact to conscience charge Volusia “County” riders the same as Seminole and Orange but don’t service them even remotely the same. Even though it didn’t impact me at the time, it seemed inherently unfair and dishonest. I was assured it hinged on a future station in DeLand- which I don’t believe you truly intend to deliver on. I’ve heard rumors of Orange City and Daytona Beach stations -- more lip service to placate a guilty conscience. It is almost as if you can’t tell the truth sometimes. I don’t want to be dramatic but, SunRail, you’re abusing trust.
I have tried not to nit-pick the little things you do -- like calling it a 30-day pass when I only get 20 days.

I have tried to overlook the times you have left a minute or two early from a station and left would-be riders stranded.

I have tried not to dwell on the time when you closed your doors because it was “cold” and neither the station attendant or myself could get the buttons to work and you left me behind.

I have tried to understand why you stopped the later service you had in the beginning -- a flat-out ban on Date Night.
I have tried to accept that your ticket-tappers don’t consistently work -- they double tap or don’t tap. I even tried to work past the trouble this causes when I must call customer service. Speaking to customer service is even worse than the disappointment I feel when you let me down.

SunRail, you never give more. You don’t even genuinely try. You talk a good game.

Do you remember almost 2 years ago when you offered service on “some” Saturdays? All you gave were poorly communicated schedules at the last moment for a few Saturdays scattered over a three-month period. Sometimes I only learned about the service after it was over. It’s almost as if you never wanted Saturday service -- you refused to listen to feedback or even praise.

It makes me wonder if you are even remotely serious about an airport connection? Are you willing to commit to 7 days and increased frequency for the airport? If so, why not start working towards it now? You see how poor things are going when you wait until the last minute. I sometimes think that you haven’t thought about the future at all, that you’re making things up as you go.

SunRail, we are in this for the long haul. But, we need serious professional help. We need someone who knows what they are doing and strives for what is best for both of us. We need an outsider who isn’t in bed with either one of us -- someone who has experience in situations like ours.
I really hope you are as committed to making this work as I am -- I really want the best for both of us.

Mandi Howell is a DeBary rider who works in downtown Orlando.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

FDOT is working on bus service to Poinciana SunRail

Here’s the latest from the Florida Department of Transportation regarding bus service to support the future Poinciana SunRail station.

FDOT works with Lynx to provide bus service to SunRail stations. FDOT is subsidizing SunRail through 2021.

SunRail train service to Poinciana is expected to begin this summer.

Here is what FDOT said:

“Our goal is to look at the service area from a systems standpoint. With this in mind, it is important to note that the existing LYNX Link 26 serves the Poinciana area. When we evaluated the travel time for the existing Link 26 from the Poinciana Walmart to the Kissimmee Station and compared it to the County’s proposed route from the Poinciana Walmart to the Poinciana Station, we noted that there was a slight benefit in travel time with the existing Link 26.

In addition, when LYNX modeled Osceola County’s proposed route, the projected ridership was low and the cost for the service was high. This resulted in a projected cost per passenger trip of $23.98 compared to a LYNX system average of $4.15. We are proposing to modify the Link 26 to include additional service hours in the morning peak to match the SunRail schedule.

There is an existing route (Link 306 Disney Direct) that provides service between the Poinciana Wal Mart and the Disney Springs Transfer Center. 

Currently only one morning trip operates to Disney Springs and one late afternoon trip operates to Poinciana. This route is proposed to deviate from Poinciana Boulevard to serve the Poinciana SunRail Station.

With regard to US 192, there are several existing routes that serve the Kissimmee SunRail Station including Routes 55 and 56 to the west which run 30-minute headways all day and have significant overlap (almost like having 15-minute headways along those segments).  

Route 18 serves US 192 to the east for a short segment from US 441 to Denn John Lane with 60-minute headways, and Route 10 serves US 192 from the Kissimmee SunRail Station to St Cloud with 30-minute headways.

Finally, NeighborLink is a dial-a-ride flex-service that is designed to make it easier for individuals living in less populated areas to use public transportation. 

The Neighborlink 604 provides service to Intercession City and Campbell City.

The existing base location is proposed to be moved to the Poinciana SunRail Station, and service hours would be expanded to match the SunRail train schedule, with service beginning approximately 45 minutes earlier and operating approximately 2 hours later in the evening. This service provides smaller buses that can access neighborhoods and is more cost efficient. As the ridership in that area grows, we will work with LYNX to evaluate the need for a different type of service.

As reported, Commissioner Janer requested that FDOT and LYNX review the analysis for the proposed route. This effort is underway, and we will report the results when available.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Make Poinciana SunRail a winner

Will the Poinciana SunRail station be a winner or a loser?

Making it easy for people to get to the train station is key, and Lynx plays a big role in that equation.

Poinciana SunRail station
The experience of the last four years has shown that the end of the line stations – DeBary and Sand Lake Road – have been two of the busiest in the SunRail system. DeBary – the only SunRail station in Volusia County gets passengers from the Votran bus system. The Sand Lake Station in south Orlando is supported by 6 Lynx bus routes.

At this writing, the bus situation is not nearly so bright for the nearly completed Poinciana station. That station at the intersection of Old Tampa Highway and Poinciana Blvd. is in Osceola County, relatively close to Polk County.

In case you’ve never been there, the Poinciana station that will become the southern end of the line for SunRail is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. (OK there is a Home Depot, a soft-drink bottling plant, a Wawa and an ice-cream-stand nearby.)

What concerns us is that currently the Poinciana station will be served only by Neighborhood Link 604. That bus circulates mainly in the Intercession City and Campbell City area near the station. As it is a Neighborhood Link you must call 2 hours in advance to arrange for pick up.

Under a contract with Polk County, Lynx will provide the only bus (Link 416) for Polk County residents to reach SunRail. That bus (Link 416) will carry people from Haines City to the Lynx Super Stop at the Poinciana Walmart. At the Super Stop, riders would transfer to Link 26 to take them to the intermodal station in downtown Kissimmee where people can catch SunRail, Lynx, Greyhound, and Amtrak.

The problem is that neither SunRail or Lynx offers service that is convenient to use.

Blame the local, state and federal elected officials because there is no dedicated source of funding to subsidize our local public transit – Lynx and SunRail.

All public transit throughout the world relies on government subsidies. Passenger fares only pay about 30 percent of the operating costs. Roads, highways and even airlines rely on government subsidies.

Until politicians find the courage to provide adequate funding a reliable people who rely on public transit will continue to receive janky service.

There is some good news. Currently, Osceola County, Lynx and the state Department of Transportation are discussing the possibility of offering additional Lynx bus service to connect more people to the Poinciana SunRail station.

Hope to see you on The Rail this summer at the Poinciana SunRail station.

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Osceola now leads the SunRail Commission

Osceola Commissioner Viviana Janer on Thursday (March 29) was selected as chairwoman of the SunRail Commission.

Osceola Commissioner Janer

She took over that post from Seminole County Commissioner Bob Dallari.
Janer is a great choice because she is from New York City and grew up taking the subway and bus to school and to work.

In addition to the SunRail Commission, she also serves as the chairwoman of Lynx, the public bus system that serves Osceola, Orange and Seminole counties.

This timing is perfect because this summer SunRail will be extending rail service to Osceola with stations at Osceola Parkway, downtown Kissimmee, and Poinciana.

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Sparks flew during the March SunRail meeting

It got real on Thursday at the SunRail Commission meeting with Volusia County Council Member Pat Patterson sticking it to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

For the past several meetings there have been testy exchanges between Dyer and Patterson over Patterson’s request to make changes to the funding agreement between the counties on how they’ll pay for SunRail in 2021 after the Florida Department of Transportation turns the rail system over to the local governments to pay for and operate.

Patterson bickers from the right as Dyer looks on from the far left

The original SunRail plans call for a second SunRail station to DeLand. Volusia County only station is in DeBary. For several reasons, money for the second station was not provided by the federal government and or other sources. Volusia residents feel shortchanged and they fear the original contract will have them paying for service they are not receiving.

Dyer has repeatedly assured Patterson that Volusia won’t pay for a station that was never built, but Patterson wants that understanding in writing. Seminole County Commissioner Bob Dallari, who had been chairing the rail commission until Thursday wants to wait until all the funding partners – including Volusia -- can submit their amendments at one time.

There have been several testy exchanges between Dyer and Patterson. On Thursday when the commissioners were voting on new officers, Dyer was nominated to serve as the vice chair.

Normally that’s a routine vote with all members supporting the nominee. On Thursday, however, Patterson voted “No” – a biting public rebuke of Dyer.

So just in case, you’re wondering Volusia residents – Pat Patterson is fighting for your best interests.

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