SunRail officially launches in Central Florida

Big crowds on opening day lead to some delays

ORLANDO, Fla. – SunRail has officially left the station.

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Passengers gathered Thursday for the Central Florida debut of commuter rail, a $1 billion project that was two years in the making.

SunRail's debut didn't go off without a hitch, however.

SunRail encountered its first glitch Thursday morning when one of the trains had to stop on the tracks because of a broken crossing arm at Princeton Street in Orlando.

Later in the day, some waited upwards of an hour after the trains got behind schedule.

The delays were caused by large crowds on leisure trips and by people who didn't realize the trains only run every two hours during non-rush hours, said Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Olson.

Olson said delays and passenger loads began to improve after half-hour service resumed in the late afternoon.

He anticipates the crowds will go down when passengers start paying for the train service in two weeks.

SunRail was in the works for more than two decades and is the first fixed-rail mass transit system in Central Florida history. More than $1 billion in taxpayer money was used to purchase 61 miles of rail line and all of the other necessities.

SunRail makes 12 stops during its 31.5-mile route, starting in DeBary and ending at the Sand Lake Road location in Orlando. In between, stops are in Sanford, Lake Mary, Longwood, Altamonte Springs, Maitland, Winter Park and Orlando, which has four stations.

Initially, the train will operate only on weekdays, coming by every half-hour from 5:30 to 9 a.m., depending on location, and from 3:30 to 7 p.m. It will also run every two hours during the late morning and afternoon, and from 7 to 9 p.m.

For anyone taking the SunRail between May 1 to May 16, the ride is free. After that, a one-way ticket will be $2, with an additional $1 for each county. For example, from the Sand Lake Road location to the Longwood location would be $3.

SunRail's website says the trains are ADA compliant.  Passengers in wheelchairs will be assisted by staff, who use a folding ramp to fill the gap between the walkway and the train.