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SUNRAIL SERIES: Connecting Job Seekers and Employers

April 29, 2014 | WMFE, Orlando--90.7's SunRail Series continues with a look at how the train could help job seekers without cars access potential employers.

[Photo by Amy Kiley: Jobseeker and Parramore resident Stephanie Jones poses at the Goodwill Industries Job Connection Center on Colonial Drive.]

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Cars whiz by the parking lot of the Goodwill Industries Job Connection Center on Colonial Drive, but Stephanie Jones didn’t drive here.  Her form of transportation is pulling into the bus stop across the street. 

After walking into the Job Center, Jones explains how her inability to afford a car affects her prospects for work.  “You gotta get from point A to point B, and you got to wait on a bus,” she says.  “Sometimes the bus might take 15, 20 minutes getting there, you know.  I could be late for my interview.  That’s why I try to book things, like, an hour or two before, so I know.”

Jones says she learned that lesson after a behind-schedule bus made her late for a job interview.  By the time she arrived, the interviewer had left. 

To get from her Parramore home to tourism jobs, she says, she’d need to budget about two hours travel time to ensure a punctual arrival.

Employers Want Employee Transportation

Employers that want to hire people like Jones are aware of the situation – and many think SunRail could help.

 “If Orlando’s going to be a world-class community, it will have a fully integrated, mass-transit system” – that’s the bottom line on SunRail from Rick Weddle, President and CEO of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission.  He says, when working on projects to grow the regional economy, he repeatedly hears the same thing: “As companies are siting and locating their facilities, they say, ‘Where will my people come from?  How will they get to work, and what does the frequency of transit present to that area?’”

Weddle says train stations drive business planning more than bus stops because they’re fixed in a location.  That means SunRail won’t just take workers to existing employers – like, say, Florida Hospital.  It also will encourage new employer facilities – like, say, the planned Florida Hospital Health Village. 


Downtown Job Seekers

Getting job seekers like Jones to employers like those Weddle mentions requires additional transportation at both ends.

City of Orlando Deputy Director of Economic Development FJ Flynn works on the downtown side of that.  “The City’s vision is to connect our transit-dependent population … folks in both the Parramore area, as well folks that live along with Central and Church Street corridors … with SunRail,” he says.

Flynn says, soon, three free bus routes will connect downtown residents to SunRail stations – and the city is coordinating more options with Lynx.  He says, “You make that connection that last mile of travel, and then you basically connect these folks with the entire region through SunRail.”


Regional Employers

Once riders reach regional destinations, other transport options come into play. 

Winter Park’s SunRail station is amid Central Park employers, but Steve Olson spoke of less foot-friendly stops during that station’s unveiling.  The district public information manager for the Florida Department of Transportation says shuttles are in the works for the airport and Kissimmee Intermodal Station.  “The question is,” he says, “what is the connectivity to the west, to the attractions and such?  And, there still needs to be work on that end.”


SunRail's Limitations

That’s the weakness of SunRail: it’s just a start toward comprehensive public transportation.  It’s won’t yet run nights and weekends – when people in service jobs often work.  Bus routes to employers are still developing, and even the airport shuttle Olson mentioned has limited hours.

But, for now, supporters say, SunRail gives job seekers without cars a few more options when sending out their resumes.


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