9 Investigates continuing problems with SunRail ticketing kiosks

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ORLANDO, Fla. - For weeks, 9 Investigates has exposed major problems with the SunRail ticketing system, so Channel 9's Daralene Jones began digging into the issues and found the vendor behind the ticketing system is also having problems in other cities.

SunRail passengers have had trouble buying and activating the smartcards, known as Suncards, online and in person.

In some cases, the machines riders have to tap before getting on the train don’t work.

“It’s pretty easy to get on without paying,” one passenger told 9 Investigates just before she hopped on the train at the Church Street Station.

Maryland-based ACS Xerox is the company contracted by the Florida Department of Transportation to install the system.

“We tested all before that and asked if we could go live, and the answer was yes,” said District 5 secretary Noranne Downs.

Downs said the contractor discovered bad cables and hardware that caused parts of the $7 million system to malfunction.

“That’s a lot of taxpayer money. Why can’t they get this right?” Jones asked.

"This is a start-up. It’s like starting a whole Turnpike from scratch," said Downs. "You’re going to have issues.”

Jones uncovered issues have followed the company. She spent days reviewing documents and contracts from other transit agencies. The information was obtained through public records requests.

Denver, Nashville, Cleveland and Philadelphia transit agencies have all experienced problems ranging from the functionality of the website that allows people to buy tickets and the functionality of the screen at the kiosks to disputes over communication between the smartcards and the kiosk, and disputes over internal software problems.

In Nashville, there’s a legal fight in court. Court documents show the transit agency wanted out of its contract with ACS, claiming the company didn’t deliver what was promised.

In Philadelphia and Denver, officials said the company is months behind. 9 Investigates was told it's because they're stuck in the “testing phase," which is the same problem Lynx is having.

ACS Xerox has a contract with Lynx to install a smart card system that’s supposed to easily allow SunRail passengers to transfer. Lynx has already paid the company $70,000 for the design work.

Jones questioned Downs about why FDOT would enter into a contract with a company with a history of performance issues.

“This is fairly new technology. And so, like I said, have they been perfect, no. But at the same time we’ve worked with them and they’ve worked with us," Downs said.

Downs insists the company will be fined over performance issues but wouldn’t commit to how much.

At least one member of the SunRail Governing Board, the Central Florida Rail Commission, will be watching.

“If you can’t uphold your end of the contract, thank you very much and we will find someone who can,” said commissioner Jason Davis.

9 Investigates reached communication officials with ACS Xerox and were told someone would return our call. So far, no one has.

FDOT pays $98,000 monthly to cover maintenance issues as part of its contract.