ALL ABOARD! — A SunRail train arrives at the DeLand Station May 22 at the groundbreaking event. While commuter rail service isn’t slated to open until next summer, attendees to the event got to test the tracks and ride to the DeLand Station from the DeBary Station. At the end of the event, pictured here, many attendees re-boarded their train to go pick up their cars in DeBary. BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN

I might as well admit my bias right upfront. I use SunRail. Whenever I have to go to Orlando or Kissimmee, I take the commuter train. Drive I-4, you will understand.

It is not just that it is cheaper than gas, or that I avoid the Orange County Courthouse parking bandits. Well, those things help, but there is also the benefit of improved reliability. The train is much more likely to get there on time, and I can review files or read while I ride.

That said, it is a big disappointment that in 2023, we still lack the promised service to DeLand Junction. We were to have seven years of state-aided operations before turnover. That was premised upon the supposition that the project would be built and opened more or less on time.

No such luck. Volusia has been consistently shortchanged. Most of our portion of the project has languished in planning rather than having trains operate. We got maybe 2 miles, up to Benson Junction.

Personally, I look forward to the full build-out to DeLand Junction. That will save me driving down through DeLand, Orange City and DeBary.

I would like to ignore finances here. Moving people is costly no matter what you do. Highways are ruinous due to the amount of real estate needed, with the pollution and noise. At least most of that cost is hidden.

Airplane subsidies come in the form of airports, air traffic control, weather, and some operating assistance. Buses need roads and, as Votran reminds us, huge operating subsidies. Trains are no different, except you can see the subsidies in various government budget items.

There is no getting around it, moving people is expensive. Imagine trying to make Interstate 4 pay for itself!

SunRail has gone beyond that. They collect fares through a marvelously complicated system of computers and “tap on” terminals. In fact, it is so marvelously complicated, that it costs more to collect the fares than the fares produce.

Now, a sensible person might just say to treat it as we do I-4 or U.S. Highway 17-92: Pay for it as part of the cost of public infrastructure. However, governments are not famously loaded with sensible persons.

That is how we got this complicated, and not entirely reliable, fare-collection system. You can just tell what the politicians are thinking — more jobs in Tallahassee to process the fares we do collect!

— Andrews is a DeLand-area attorney and a longtime government critic. For purposes of the column, he finds it convenient that there is so much government to criticize.


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