SunRail ridership down, but need for expanded service remains

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is calling on residents to use SunRail to help the service expand.

Ridership is down for the year, but there’s not a clear answer as to what needs to come first--the riders or the service--to allow SunRail to increase its services.

A little more than 3,800 riders used SunRail every day this month.

But potential riders who are being encouraged to get on board said they can’t until SunRail has more stops and more hours, and right now it’s uncertain when and how that will happen.

“The faster we grow SunRail ridership, the faster this future arrives,” said Dyer in his State of the City address.

The future Dyer described Monday linked a growing SunRail to a growing city.

Potential riders agree, but said they can’t help grow ridership until SunRail grows first.

Katheryn Hughes lives in Lake Nona, and that’s also where she drops her son off at day care.

“The SunRail doesn’t pick up or have a location for us to get downtown to work, so that make it complicated,” Hughes said.

Paige Wagner agreed. Her coworkers who live in Lake Mary use the service, but she lives in College Park, close enough for a short drive to the office.

“I feel like a lot of the people who work downtown also live very close,” said Wagner.

She thinks expanded hours could help SunRail grow.

“Especially for Orlando City games, Orlando Magic games. If (SunRail) was open on the weekends, more people would use it,” Wagner said.

But SunRail officials said those weekend and late-night hours will likely not come until they connect to the airport, and that plan is still being studied.

The earliest that expansion could happen is 2020.

The station in Poinciana was scheduled to open late 2017, but that’s now been pushed to early 2018 because of extra work added to the project.

Expansion into DeLand has not been funded yet.

Ridership for SunRail is down in a year-to-year comparison.

Official attribute that to lower gas prices.

They said when they compare March 2015 ridership to March 2016 ridership, they’re seeing more riders, and as new stations open, there will be bigger increases in ridership.