Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Magic Southbound Special is getting popular

SunRail’s Magic Southbound Special looks like a winner to us.

We’re referring to the special southbound train service SunRail is offering after Orlando Magic home games.

The first night the service was offered – with little advance notice – on Oct. 30, the train had 4 riders.

A few days later -- when the service was offered again -- there were 29 riders.

This service is noteworthy because until Oct. 30th there was only a northbound train stopping at Orlando’s Church Street SunRail station. That train -- part of SunRail’s regularly scheduled weekday -- is great for Magic fans who live in Winter Park and points north. The train picks up more than 100 people at Church Street and Lynx Central station on game nights.

Until this new service, fans who live near Sand Lake Road, Kissimmee, Poinciana and such were out of luck.

Executives at SunRail and Bombardier (the contractor that operates the train) decided to introduce a southbound train on game nights to see if there would be any takers. They committed to offering this service through the end of this month.

Fans and others are delighted. Some people who rode the train didn’t attend the Magic game (they won for a change) but used it as an opportunity to explore downtown and get back home.

The special doesn’t run the entire southbound route from DeBary. SunRail stages the train at Church Street’s southbound platform shortly before 10 p.m. and the train departs at 10:30 p.m. -- around the time the northbound SunRail train arrives at Church Street.

Some riders want to know why the southbound train can’t leave earlier – which goes to show that you can’t make everybody happy. The 10:30 departure makes sense in case the Magic game goes into overtime and give people a chance to walk from Amway Center to the station and maybe even stop for a drink along the way.

If you want to leave earlier, call Uber.

This schedule is not perfect. Many people, including us, would like to see much later train service on Friday nights. We proposed a Last Call Special after the bars closed. Realistically, that’s not going to happen any time soon.

And no, this isn’t weekend service that everyone – including us – has been clamoring for since SunRail launched in 2014.

As we’ve explained, there is no money in the budget for weekend service. Providing the operating money SunRail needs for weekend service is the responsibility of the federal, state and local elected officials who represent Central Florida.

Everyone should be grateful that SunRail has stretched its limited resources to provide this special southbound train. The more people ride SunRail, the stronger we make the argument to turn SunRail into a full-service railroad.

See you on The Rail!

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