This morning I rode the new SunRail train to work. Our light rail commuter train just went into operation here in Orlando last week and for the next week or so is free. So why not try it? Right? If you have ever been to any major city with a great rail and bus system, you know the value of these types of system. For example, in New York City I’ve been able to get from the airports to downtown Manhattan and even get around town exclusively via the bus and train system. In Seattle, the light rail was able to get me from the airport to downtown where I was staying for less than $3.00. Taxi riders paid as much as $40. I even met a Microsoft employee who works in downtown Seattle who takes the light rail to and from work daily. So when they announced plans for a light rail in Orlando, I knew right from the start that I would have to try it.
Currently, each train only has two passenger cars, but each car has two levels. The lower level gets used mostly by people who bring their bikes to either get to the station from home or from the station to work. On the upper level seating is very comfortable and is arranged in groups of four seats. Some groups have a small table between them. The trains are very well lit. In fact, some people on the early morning train have asked if the lights could be dimmed so they could sleep, but that is not an option.
On the other hand, the trains all support free WiFi and even power outlets if you need them. So I pulled out my iPad and was able to get through both my work and personal email on the ride into work. You cannot do that in your car or at least you should not be doing that unless you are carpooling and someone else is driving. Another thing you cannot do in your car on the way to work is use the restroom facilities which you can do on the train (although I did not try that), but still, it is just one more reason to consider taking the train. Oh, and texting while you ride is definitely allowed on the train.
But the best reason to take the train was that: “There is no traffic!” One of the major corridors through Orlando from the north to the south is the multi-lane I-4. Even at 6 AM, the traffic can be quite heavy although it usually moves well unless there is an accident. In the evening, going home is significantly worse. But even when the traffic moves, you still have to contend with the Type A personality drivers who have hang onto your back bumper until they can find a small gap in the lane next to you to slip around and get a car or two ahead. And no longer will I have to worry about those crazy motorcyclists pulling wheelies at 65 mph going down the highway and weaving in between cars.
After the free period ends, the cost of riding the train will be $2.00 for a one way ticket plus $1.00 for every county you cross. However, there will also be round trip tickets, 7-day passes, 30-day passes, and even an annual pass. Discounts of 50% are offered to seniors, students, and disabled individuals. There is even an extra 10% bonus for buying a pre-paid card with $10 to $300 on it. You need to consider how much you spend on gas and wear and tear on your car. Maybe you even pay to park downtown. If most of your driving is to and from work, you may quality for a reduction in your car insurance by taking the train. But best of all you can arrive at work or at home at the end of day without having to deal with the stress of driving. And that last factor will only become more important when they start the new I-4 widening project later this year. Construction during the widening will make an already bad commute even worse in the interim. And for those environmentally conscious folks, every train rider is one less car on the road pumping out carbon dioxide.
Yes, I know that Orlando still does not have the infrastructure for public transportation like New York City, Philadelphia, London, and many other large cities, but this could be a step in the right direction. Kudos to Orlando for taking that step.
C’ya next time.