SunRail Commuter Service to Start This Week
April 28, 2014 | WMFE, Orlando - The Lynx Central Station in downtown Orlando is usually filled with people hopping on and off busses. On a recent Friday it was even busier. People had come to look at the new SunRail station and the two-level Bombardier SunRail car which was parked with its diesel-electric engines running.
One of the spectators was Mark Dana.
“It’s pretty neat, we’re looking forward to it," says Dana. "I wish it would run on the weekends actually. Later night service."
For the last few months the Florida Department of Transportation has been rolling the train to events like this so people can see it up close and hopefully get interested in riding it.
FDOT will run the commuter train for the first seven years.
Department spokesman Steve Olson sees excitement within the community
"There’s just so much, it appears pent up interest in these trains. Wherever it comes it’s a magnet. A lot of people just want to know more about commuting on SunRail," says Olson.
Getting a population used to an unfamiliar mode of public transportation seems like a daunting task. So to get people on board, SunRail’s offering two weeks of free service starting May 1st.
When revenue service does start on May 19th, Olson says riding the train will be fairly simple.
Riders can buy single-use tickets and reloadable ‘SunCards’ at kiosks at the station platforms and through authorized retailers. A SunCard give the rider unlimited trips for either 7 days, 30 days or a year.
“You would get to the station and use your SunRail card. If it has value on it you use the validators and you tap onto the train," says Olson. A validators is a poll on the platform that you simply tap with your ticket.
Then, you hop on the train.
When you arrive, remember to tap your ticket to the validator at the station to let the system know you are done riding. Otherwise, you will be charged for the entire line.
Conductors will check your ticket, but what about riders who don’t pay up? Olson explains they can't be thrown off the train. “No, we can’t do that. We’re working on what to do if someone doesn’t pay. There could be some consequences.”
Train hoppers aside, Olson says that many other issues riders may have for those first few months are covered.
Like what do you do if your final destination isn’t close to one of the 12 stops?
Well, FDOT has been working with public transit authorities Lynx and VoTran to help SunRail passengers travel the so-called last mile.
Routes have been changed to cater to SunRail. “Prior to our April 13th service change, you only had one route that went to the Sanford station. Now you have four. Lake Mary you have one. Longwood you have two and so forth. Routes were augmented to make sure there will be connection at every stop,” says Lynx spokesman Matt Friedman.
Navigating these bus routes can be tricky, but Lynx provides route information on each of the train platforms.
Riders can also use their smartphone to plan out a route. “With every service change that we do we provide our information to google and google maps, and it’s been very beneficial to us and our riders,” explains Friedman.
And for riders who still have questions, Steve Olsen says there will be ambassadors – people stationed on the platforms and in the trains to help "answer those questions and try and make that first experience during those weeks seamless.”
With a new system as big and complex as SunRail there are bound to be hiccups- but transportation officials are hoping for a seamless rollout for a train that could transform mass transit in Central Florida.