FL: SunRail Delays Last Peak Train at Night to Attract More Hospital Riders

Aug. 13--In an effort to pick up more riders at the massive Orlando Health and Florida Hospital campuses, SunRail's last train during the evening peak hours will run 15 minutes later.

Starting Aug. 25, the northbound 7:22 p.m. train at Orlando Health will come by at 7:37 p.m., and the 7:34 p.m. train will roll in at Florida Hospital at 7:49 p.m.

SunRail officials figure the later times will be more convenient for nurses and other personnel who work 12-hour shifts that start at 7 a.m. and end at 7 p.m.

Nurses, in particular, are hard-pressed to catch the evening train because they often spend a half-hour or so "handing off" patient information to the night shift, hospital officials say.

Austin Beeghly, a paramedic and EMT who works at Orlando Health, said the extra 15 minutes "is a step in the right direction."

He said his wife and other nurses often cannot make the 7:22 p.m. train and do not want to wait for the last SunRail train of the night, which arrives two hours later, at 9:22 p.m. So they drive to work instead, Beeghly said.

The Orlando Health and Florida Hospital stops were expected to provide lots of riders to SunRail but have turned out to be among the poorest-performers.

It is not uncommon for fewer than 100 people to get on and off at Orlando Health during a weekday, while Florida Hospital often produces fewer than 200 riders. Conversely, the two most popular of SunRail's 12 stations -- DeBary and Winter Park -- had daily peaks during July at 857 and 1,338, respectively.

SunRail spokesman Steve Olson said the state, which runs the train, is always looking for ways to improve service and attract more riders.

"We're giving this a try to see if it meets the needs, and we'll go from there," he said.

SunRail officials are reluctant to tinker too much with the schedule because after three months of paid operations, riders already are becoming accustomed to the comings and goings of the trains.

"This is not something you want to do all the time," Olson said.

Jody Barry, who oversees SunRail as the administrative director of strategic property development at Florida Hospital, thinks the time shift might encourage 50 more people to use the train more regularly at the campus near College Park, north of downtown.

An estimated 500 people work the daily 12-hour shift at Florida Hospital, he said. Ridership at Florida Hospital has been slowly rising, even with the existing schedule, he said.

Beeghly said it is difficult for Orlando Health workers to catch the last peak train because it comes so close to 7 p.m. and they have to walk several blocks to the station, which the hospital shares with Amtrak.

Nurses had complained to SunRail and hospital administrators, he said, but it seemed no one was listening -- until now.

"Good news," he said.

dltracy@tribune.com or 407-420-5444407-420-5444

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