Florida SunRail fails to impress

English: Logo of SunRail, Central Florida Rail...
Logo of SunRail, Central Florida Rail Service, Public Transportation Service. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mayor Buddy Dyer OKed the SunRail project, collecting $615 million dollars for the endeavor. Fifty percent comes from the federal government, as the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) contributed 25 percent. A lean $153.85 is paid for by the counties of Volusia, Seminole, Osceola, Orange, and the City of Orlando.

If Congresswoman Corrine Brown, Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Gov. Rick Scott dismissed the development of the high-speed rail in favor of SunRail, who’s to say they’re wrong?

From the perspective of the lowest rung on the totem pole, students are getting the short end of the stick here, while the heads of state sit on their thrones and reap the benefits.

The 62 miles of railroad tracks that run from Deland to Volusia county will be revamped and outfitted with SunRail stations by the end of Phase I, projected for completion by the fourth quarter in 2013.

Plans are underway for the the North-South line, allowing employees who work downtown to buy a one-way ticket to the Florida Hospital, and vice versa, instead of catching a few transfers on the local Lynx bus.

It sounds simple enough in theory, but those traveling farther may find themselves taking a bus to the SunRail station, then hailing a cab to the nearest bus after that, only to try to hop on another train–all in the name of going an average of 45 mph, lower than the possible I-4 speed limit..

As lawmakers rely on the nagging desire to “go green,” this argument hinges on the preservation of old train tracks that would otherwise succomb to rust and corrosion should they choose to renovate the corridor.

Then again, if everyone jumped on the bandwagon that is the supposed bright future of SunRail, what purpose would all those twisting layers of highway serve aside from being a gigantic architectural eyesore?

And how convenient is it for those who need to travel along the East-West route?

“People who live in Deland or Deltona could take the train downtown, then take the Lynx bus to Valencia’s west campus,” said Steve Olson, public information officer for FDOT.

“That’s not to preclude vanpooling or enlisting the service of private transportation providers,” he said.

Taxpayer expenditures will be put to good use in the eyes of half the residents of Central Florida while the rest wait for 2030 to roll around in anticipation of the promised “Phase II” that would provide transportation from the University of Central Florida to MetroWest waits in the wings.

Many students use this exact route to get to and from school.

UCF is boasting an enrollment count of 60,000 students, Valencia claims to enroll 30,000 a year and Seminole State has a headcount of 31,821 as of this year.

We make up a small percentage of the three million residents in Central Florida, but it’s getting harder and harder for us to get to class on time as gas soars to $4 a gallon, insurance rates go through the roof and tuition costs rise.

There’s your stimulus right there.

In 2005, the City of Orlando dismissed the SunRail proposal and in 2011 President Obama decided to back it. A flip flop has occurred between the high cost of construction and the environmental benefits the train would provide in comparison to older freight trains,

Not that freight trains will be dismissed altogether and replaced with the new futuristic angle that is SunRail. No, SunRail will run during its own peak times between 5 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 10 p.m. Freightlines will continue to run around that schedule, using all of the same tracks.

“As service demands increase, we may service every 15 minutes. Amtrack runs at 20-25 intervals, but it’s a matter of funding for special excursion trains to pick up individual stops,” said Marianne Gurnee, SunRail public liaison.

She said that the need of customers can’t be predicted for another 20 years, during which time and trial-and-error runs will determine which businesses will back the project and provide the funding it will need for future development.

Do these promises make you want to stop carpooling, taking the bus or riding your bicycle to school in favor of a shaky proposal?

I think the answer is: not likely.

(Published in the Valencia Voice.)


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