About 7 years ago

01/05/2016 - SunRail: It’s Like The Bar Scene From Star Wars (In A Good Way)

The team at our firm has the privilege of serving as consultants to Central Florida’s commuter rail system – SunRail.

Our core focus is working with companies to better inform their employees about the benefits of SunRail and to help those companies encourage employees to utilize the system. Our work also occasionally dips into the marketing and communication side of things. You know, the the “fun stuff.” That was certainly the case a few weeks ago when we helped spread a little movie premier cheer in the form of some Star Wars-themed Pez candy dispensers to SunRail commuters.

Full disclosure. I’m a Star Wars fan. (Six year old me has the Empire Strikes Back bed sheets to prove it!) So, it was cool to see how much excitement there was from people about the new movie… and about this small, fun gesture to celebrate them as SunRail riders.

My initial trip that day had me on the 5am train south from Sanford – and then the 6am train back up north. During my ride I had the chance to chat up dozens and dozens of riders as we handed out miniature likenesses of Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2D2 and others.

As I was doing this, I had a momentary chuckle to myself thinking about what an interesting cast of characters I was meeting while riding the train. And, how, aliens with giant eyeballs and/or horns notwithstanding, it reminded me at least a little of the iconic “Bar scene from Star Wars.”

Let’s see…

There were the four unrelated people who were sitting next to one another in a an empty train car, sharing early morning coffee and laughs – who told me they sit this way every day because this is their “commuter family.

There was a cancer patient on the way to Florida Hospital for treatment.

There were airport employees riding from Seminole County out to work at OIA, with the help of an express bus from the Sand Lake Station.

There was an adult with special needs who told me about how proud he is to be able to use SunRail (and his bike) to get back and forth from a job he loves.

There were conversations going on in Spanish.

There were a handful of Orlando City shirts.

There were headphones on… and eyes closed.

There were tables opened… and laptops up.

There was a lawyer I recognized and said a brief hello to. I noted that the suit he was wearing was an interesting contrast to the group of construction workers a few seats away wearing coveralls.

There was a Walmart employee taking the train from her home near Sand Lake Road to the store in Casselberry, telling me that SunRail has saved her about an hour in commuting time.

There was a real estate agent meeting some prospective clients who wanted to look at condos near the SunRail line.

Lots of different people. Lots of different stories. If I had talked to everyone riding that morning I’m confident I could have checked just about every box imaginable; income levels, ethnic backgrounds, political ideologies, job functions, opinions…you name it. All on our commuter train together, all going about their respective days. That’s one of the beauties of mass transit, I suppose. Here in Central Florida, I also think it says something about where our community is headed.

The Orlando Sentinel has recently done a compelling series about finding the “Soul of the City.” Scott Maxwell commented that he believes that soul very much lies in the diversity of our community.

If that’s the case, I can report that SunRail is a great place to see that soul on vivid display, every day… even if it looks a little like the bar scene from Star Wars!