Sunday, June 24, 2018

The SunRail extension looks like a winner

Maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves, but we think the southern extension of SunRail down to Poinciana in Osceola County is going to be a hit.

OK “hit” may not be the best choice of words when writing about trains, but we think the southern extension will be very successful.

Granted many people said the same thing about the first leg of SunRail from DeBary to Sand Lake Road that launched 4 years ago. Clearly, that first phase fell short of expectations – ridership has been generally disappointing.

We’ve attended all the “tour the train” events that SunRail has held to familiarize prospective riders in south Orange County and Osceola County. People are very excited. The final open house is this Saturday night (6/30) at downtown Kissimmee’s SunRail station. For details, click

The new southern leg – which won’t start carrying riders until July 30 – is different for two reasons.
1.   The prospective riders along the southern had the benefit of hearing about SunRail for four years. They know what it can do, and what it can’t do. Like the rest of us, they’re disappointed that SunRail doesn’t run on the weekends and late at night.
2.   Many of the folks who will ride SunRail from Osceola are more sophisticated public transit users than many who live along the rail corridor for SunRail Phase 1.

Surely you know there are many New York transplants in Kissimmee who are accustomed to routinely using the subway and bus in New York City, regardless of whether they own a car. Many residents who located directly to Kissimmee from Puerto Rico were accustomed to using Tren Urbano, the light-rail system that has been serving San Juan, Guaynabo and Bayamon since 2004. (Shows you how far behind the times we are here in Central Florida.)

There’s also research that shows many people who live in Osceola work at Orlando International Airport so SunRail is a much better alternative than playing bumper cars from Kissimmee to the airport. Hop the train, get your free transfer to the airport bus at the Sand Lake Road station.

I bet you it won’t take long for folks in Volusia, Seminole and Orange County to find out the Kissimmee SunRail station is a super-secret gateway to Disney World. For details, click here.

The southern expansion required SunRail managers to adjust the overall schedule, which has resulted in some benefits, including northbound service after 10 p.m. This a win for Orlando Magic fans who live north of Orlando. They will be able to take the train to and from games. If you live south of downtown Orlando, you’ll still be out of luck. For the new SunRail schedule, click here.

The southern extension is sure to be a winner with senior day-trippers from the DeBary area who have been spending leisurely afternoons on Park Avenue in Winter Park for four years.

Now we’re not saying that Broadway in historic downtown Kissimmee – just a half block from the Kissimmee SunRail station – is anything like Park Avenue in Winter Park, but it is a sweet treat. Click here for a video tour.

Let’s put it this way, Kissimmee 2018 is a long way from it’s Cowtown reputation of 30 years ago.  Restaurants on Broadway serve cuisines that range from barbecue to Mediterranean, with New American in between.

Plus, there are some unique places to shop.

While you’re browsing keep a sharp eye out for the cattle grazing throughout downtown. When you get there, you’ll get the joke.

See you on The Rail.

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

We're getting Osceola SunRail, but still no weekend trains

Wow, earlier this week we heard from some pissed-off would-be SunRail riders.

They were disappointed to learn that even after SunRail begins serving the southern extension into Osceola County, it still won’t be running trains on weekends.

Don’t just complain. Do something about it.

The first thing you can do is click here to add your name to the petition to extend SunRail to Orlando International Airport. Once SunRail connects with the airport it will have to go full-service – weekends and late-night.

The second and most important thing you can do is demand our elected officials provide SunRail, Lynx, and Votran the money those transit systems need to offer the service our communities deserve and need.

The reason SunRail doesn’t run on weekends is politics. It’s just that simple.

Politicians decided not to provide the money to provide the weekend train service that all of us want. Politicians didn’t provide SunRail with an adequate budget to operate the train on the weekends.

The fare box only provides about 30 percent of the money required to run public transit. Almost every public transit system in the world depends on government subsidies.

Though many politicians act as though they’re big bosses; they work for us. Right now, they want something from you.

They want your vote. Make them earn it.

People running for County Commission, State House, the State Senate, the U.S. Senate, and governor are holding candidate nights, calling you on the phone and kissing babies to get your vote.

Ask them what’s their plan to address the region’s awful traffic congestion. Force them to discuss their transportation plans. Don’t vote for them if their plans don’t make sense and if they don’t promise to include more money to support public transit.

Then tell them you want them to increase the funding so SunRail will be able to run weekends, and Lynx and Votran will have the money they need to improve the bus system.

Don’t just complain on Facebook. Let’s do something about it.