SunRail ridership down; state considers new options

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Eyewitness News obtained numbers that showed SunRail isn't getting the ridership it hoped for, despite operating more days than the year before.

The commuter train saw almost 7,000 fewer trips than the year before, said the Florida Department of Transportation.

"Yes, it is a concern to us," said Steve Olson, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Transportation told Channel 9's Racquel Asa.

SunRail has been operating in Central Florida for 2 1/2 years.

The commuter train added some Saturday services in 2016 to help boost the numbers.

The state told Eyewitness News it is looking at tweaking the schedule again to bring more riders on board.

“We are going to hit the hospitals hard, because we think there's a great potential source of riders there. What we're hearing is the times don't necessarily line up when people are getting off work,” Olson said.

Rider Michelle Fisher regularly makes a 40-minute trip home on a SunRail train and said she would like to see ridership increase.

"I love it," she said. "I wish more people would take it."

FDOT has also expanded its SunRail parking lot in DeBary. The lot is normally packed, and they said by adding more spaces, it should bring in more riders. The lot is expected to be finished by the summer.

Some riders told Eyewitness News that they like the idea of more spots for the DeBary station but said it's already hard turning north onto Route 17/92 to  get home to where the train doesn't run.

“The majority of the traffic heads north to Orange City, DeBary, DeLand and Deltona. South would be Sanford, and there's not a whole lot of traffic that travels in that direction,” said SunRail rider Jeffery Morris.

Riders said a traffic light would help, but FDOT said not right now.

“And if we have to revisit this, then traffic operations will see if it's warranted in the future,” Olson said. “But right now, it's going to be the right turn in, right turn out.”

SunRail officials said the next Saturday service is set for Feb. 4.

Eyewitness News is waiting to get a schedule on what time the trains will run.