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Back when SunRail was being planned most people expected that the train stations at Orlando's biggest hospitals would be among the busiest stops. That's a reasonable assumption when you consider Florida Hospital and Orlando Health are two of the region's largest employers.
Reality proved to be vastly different from the assumptions. The stations at Florida Hospital and Orlando Health rank among the bottom three for ridership. It's not that the hospital caregivers don't like SunRail. The problem is that the train schedule doesn't work for many of them.
Hospital caregivers tell us that the biggest problem is in the evening for the northbound train. The shift ends for many caregivers at 7 p.m. but the northbound train arrives and departs too early from the train stations at both hospitals.
It's not as though the minute the shift ends the caregivers instantly drop what they're doing and run out the door. They have to finish tasks; update patients' charts and brief the next shift. The handover process is time consuming but necessary to ensure safe medical care for patients. In addition, caregivers at Orlando Health have to walk at least two city blocks to the train station.
To be fair, back in August SunRail tried to address this situation by adjusting the schedule so the northbound 7:22 p.m. train at Orlando Health now arrives at 7:37 p.m. Instead of 7:34 p.m. that train now arrives at the Florida Hospital station at 7:49 p.m.
Good try, but the situation demands more attention. If caregivers coming off shift at 7 p.m. miss the notrthbound train they have to wait 2 hours for the next train. Would you do that? Most people wouldn't, so caregivers drive to work in the morning because they can't count on SunRail to get them home at night.
Caregivers said it would be better if SunRail changed the schedule so the northbound train arrived at Orlando Health at 8 p.m. That later schedule would also benefit the caregivers at Florida Hospital.
No doubt changing the train schedule is more complicated that writing down numbers on a piece of paper. Changing the northbound schedule affects the southbound train. In adition, every time the schedule is changed it can affect the hours that train crews are on duty. There are strict federal safety rules that limit how many hours engineers and conductors can work. Despite those concerns, the goal of this change is to increase ridership by making SunRail a convenient alternative to driving.
We love hospital caregivers -- nurses, orderlies and techs. We love the doctors, too. But anybody who has ever been in the hospital knows that the caregivers are the ones who get the job done. Let's make it easier for them to get home at night.
Been on the #NightTrain?