Ever since SunRail began serving the 4 train stations in the Southern Expansion new riders have been bombarding us with three familiar questions:
· How come SunRail doesn’t run on the weekends?
· How come SunRail doesn’t run on holidays – such as this Monday on Labor Day?
· How come SunRail doesn’t run late at night?
We’ve been asking those same questions for the last 4 years -- since SunRail started rolling.
We have been advocating for a full-service rail system that operates 365 days a year to support the transportation needs of everyone from the suits who work in downtown Orlando, to the service-industry employees who work non-traditional schedules and the caregivers at the two major hospitals on the SunRail corridor.
You can curse the SunRail managers for the limited service, but honestly, they aren’t at fault. They have been given enough money to run the trains Monday to Friday – that’s it.
If there’s no money in the budget, what do you expect them to do?
The SunRail managers have heard the complaints about the schedule. They get it. They don’t have the power to fix it.
The power rests with elected officials – the ones who came up with the plan for commuter rail.
We have no idea why they had such a colossal failure of imagination that it didn’t occur to them that this community would want more than a train that ran on bankers’ hours.
Here are some basic things you need to understand about public transit, this includes the Lynx bus too.
There is no public transit system in the world that can support its operations from the fare box. Typically, the fares bring in enough to pay about 30 percent of the operating costs.
Public transit depends on government subsidies to survive. Public transit is a service – just like police and fire protection. Unlike police and fire, at least public transit brings in some revenue.
While we’re at it, you should also know that public transit is not the only transportation system that receives government subsidies. The interstate highways, the airlines and the street outside your house are all supported by government subsidies.
On a few occasions, SunRail has operated on weekends for the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, events at Camping World Stadium and elsewhere.
During all those occasions, the service was paid for by public and private partnerships.
In the past, it cost about $22,000 to operate the train on a weekend day. It probably will cost more now that the system has added four stations.
Here is something else to keep in mind. The operating costs for SunRail are currently being paid for by the Florida Department of Transportation. The FDOT money ends in 2021.
Then the funding becomes the responsibility of the local partners – Orlando, Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties. The price tag is someplace north of $30 million.
To keep SunRail on the tracks and expand the service to 365 days and late at night will take considerable political will and courage.
Complaining about SunRail on Facebook achieves little.
We – all of us – need to demand that our local, state and federal elected officials give SunRail the money necessary to provide the service we need.
This is the election season, get busy.
See you on The Rail.
PS: SunRail will not be running this Monday, Sept. 3, on Labor Day.