We’ve been hearing all sorts of things about SunRail’s schedule. While the schedule on the website makes it pretty clear that there isn’t any weekend service we are constantly hearing from people who it will run on the weekend, for special events or late at night.
To set the record straight I reached out to FDOT spokesperson Steve Olson. FDOT will be operating SunRail at launch and for the next seven years. After which, it will be turned over to the local government funding partners (Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties, as well as the City of Orlando).
Essentially there aren’t any current plans for weekend service or special event service and exactly when the trains will stop running on the weekday has not been determined but it will be sometime between 7 p.m and midnight.
The plan has always been to operate on the weekdays for commuters “the local agreements that FDOT has with our local funding partners (which were unanimously approved by each of our funding partners in 2007) call for weekday service during the FDOT funding period,” Olson told Bungalower.
The agreement between FDOT and the local funding partners goes even further and states that “The Commuter Rail System will not provide any train service between midnight and 5:00 a.m., legal Holidays, and Saturdays and Sundays.”
Right not you can expect the train to be geared towards commuters “The current schedule is to operate trains every half hour between 5:30 – 8:30 a.m. and between 4 – 7 p.m. in the evenings, with service every two hours during off-peak periods,” Olson said.
Off-peak hours haven’t been determined yet but it will include service after 7 p.m. but not before 5 a.m. “Our agreements with CSX call for us to be off the corridor between midnight and 5 am. Now that our vehicles are in, we will be doing test runs in order to develop a full schedule prior to revenue service. There will be off-peak service after 7 pm.” Olson said.
I asked Olson if there is a possibility that the service could be expanded. He said “If there is passenger demand for additional weekday service or weekend service during the FDOT funding period, that would be subject to negotiations with the local funding partners.”
At this point it’s just too early to know what the additional costs would be to operate SunRail late at night, on the weekend or for special events. “The system is designed, however, to allow trains to run every 15 minutes or so. So any additional cost associated with expanded hours of service would largely be operational in nature – staffing, fuel, maintenance, and so forth,” Olson said.
The demand he says will be determined by both on-board surveys and a Customer Service Committee who will provide input and guidance on customer service activities, including hours of operation.
It should be noted that the agreement does allow FDOT to have train service for special events even if they are late at night or on the weekend provided that the party requesting the train service pays for all for all of the additional costs and it still meets their obligations to CSX.
And since everyone loves fun train math. We started thinking about how late the train could run and still meet the needs of the CSX agreement. We know off-peak service will run every two hours. The last on-peak train is at 7 p.m. That would mean the first off-peak would run at 9 p.m. If there was a second off-peak train, it would run at 11 p.m. (assuming the train starts on the hour). According to the SunRail website, they estimate it would take a train 56 minutes to travel all of phase one (from DeBary to Sand Lake Road). That travel time when Phase two is added (DeLand to Poinciana) is an hour and thirty-three minutes. That would mean a 11 p.m. train would not be off the tracks by midnight for Phase two and for phase one it would be close. Maybe they will be able to make adjustments to the schedule so that an 11 p.m train could be off the tracks in time.