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SunRail's small service expansion could lead to weekend trains

We need to give credit where credit is due at SunRail.

For years we’ve been part of the crowd lamenting SunRail’s limited service hours, and the lack of weekend trains.

But we must give credit this week for the totally unexpected decision to offer an incremental service improvement with an additional southbound late-night train at Church Street to help some Orlando Magic fans get home after weeknight games. (Click here for details on the additional service.)

Does this get us closer to weekend service? Maybe.

By offering this service, managers at SunRail and Bombardier (the company that operates the trains) officially recognized that SunRail is much more than a commuter train.

Residents want a full-service train that they can use for work and leisure travel. Residents want much more than bankers’ hours' service. Because SunRail runs north and south, some can’t use the train for work, but they may be able to use it to attend events elsewhere along the SunRail corridor that now links Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties.

Almost every day, people post notes on our Facebook page blasting SunRail managers for failing to provide more service.

We also have been very critical of the limited service, but we also explain to fans that the problem does not rest with the SunRail managers. SunRail’s budget is limited to providing only weekday service – much of it focused on getting 9-5 downtown Orlando workers to their jobs.

You can’t expect SunRail managers to provide more service if they don’t have the money to do it – they must pay salaries, fuel costs, maintenance and much more.

SunRail and Lynx need money to make it easier for people to travel throughout our region and give folks an alternative to driving.

Instead of blasting SunRail managers we should be blasting federal, state and local elected officials and business leaders to provide the money needed to give Central Florida the public transit system this community needs.

Contrary to what some may think, SunRail can’t pay its operating costs solely with revenue from the fare box. No public transit system in the world can pay for operations solely from the fare box. Typically, a transit system can pay about 30 percent of the costs from fares. Beyond that, they need government support.

Remember, public transit is a service. The police and fire are also very expensive services paid for by the government. Unlike police and fire, transit raises some of the money needed to pay for its operating costs. Keep in mind that all transportation – from the street outside your house to the airlines – receive government subsidies.

Despite the budget limitations, we offer kudos to SunRail for finding small ways to offer more service.

The best way we can support those efforts is to use SunRail as much as possible.

Even if you don’t go to Magic games, use SunRail after hours to explore Central Florida, not just downtown Orlando, but also fun and historic downtowns in Kissimmee and Sanford.

See you on The Rail!

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