Commuting Comparison: How SunRail compares to an existing rail line

By Caroline Rowland, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 3:48 PM EDT

As the grand opening of SunRail in Central Florida gets closer, News 13 is giving you an idea at what you might expect by looking at a similar, relatively new commuter rail system in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Orlando could have looked a lot different today, had Orange County not turned down billions of dollars in federal funding that would have created a light rail system.

Instead, in the late 1990s, the city of Charlotte got that money, and opened the LYNX Blue Line in 2007.

Unlike SunRail, which was built using existing tracks, Charlotte's LYNX -- no relation to Central Florida's bus service of the same name -- was created from scratch.

The light rail runs 9.6 miles, from South Charlotte into Uptown. SunRail, on the other hand, is be a 32-mile-long commuter rail line that runs from DeBary to Sand Lake Road, in south Orlando -- and that's just the first phase. It will eventually run all the way to Poinciana starting sometime in 2016.

Both rail lines were designed to help ease congestion, and in Charlotte, city leaders said it's become a reliable alternative.

"We never built it as a solution to congestion, but it provides people with an alternative to congestion," said John Muth, with the Charlotte Area Transit System, or CATS for short.

The LYNX stations are very similar -- almost identical -- to some of our SunRail stations, and the process of buying tickets is almost the same. Both in Charlotte and in Central Florida, riders buy their tickets at a kiosk, and security guards will check tickets on the train instead of as passengers board. Those caught without a ticket are fined $50.

The cost of riding LYNX is $2 one way. For SunRail, a one-way ticket ranges from $2 to $4, depending on how far you're going.

There is a stark contrast, however, in the the two rail lines' operating schedules. LYNX runs daily from 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. the following morning, the service every 10–20 minutes, except for the first and last hour.

The earliest SunRail morning services will start at 5:06 a.m. from Sanford and 5:30 a.m. from DeBary. But the latest scheduled train will depart at 9:15 p.m. from Sand Lake Road and arrive in DeBary at 10:18 p.m.

Also unlike LYNX, SunRail will not run on weekends when it opens.

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Side-by-side comparison

  SunRail LYNX Blue Line
Opening Year
2014
2007
Span
DeBary to south Orlando, Fla.
Uptown to South Charlotte, N.C.
Length
32 miles (Phase 1)
9.6 miles
Construction
Built on existing tracks
New tracks built
Price per One-Way Ticket
$2 -- $4
$2
Earliest Departure
5:06 a.m.
5:30 a.m.
Latest Arrival
10:18 p.m.
1:30 a.m.
Weekend Service
No
Yes

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