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Tri-Rail Boosts Weekend Schedules

02 Mar 2013 6:38 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)
From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, courtesy of Charlie Dunn:

Tri-Rail boosts weekend schedules

By Michael Turnbell, Sun Sentinel 5:35 p.m. EST, February 28, 2013

It's full steam ahead for Tri-Rail's first major expansion of service since 2007.

Starting Saturday,(March 2), trains will run every hour on weekends and holidays during most of the day, a boost from every two hours. It comes as gas prices recently topped $4 a gallon in South Florida and ridership is climbing.

Officials say the enhanced schedule will give workers more flexibility on the weekend. Travelers will have more options to get to the region's three international airports. And casual riders will have more opportunities to get to weekend events.

"I think this will be a boon for our weekend ridership. People have been asking for more frequency on the weekends for years," said Palm Beach County Mayor Steven L. Abrams, chairman of Tri-Rail's board of directors.

But not everyone is happy because the new schedule could leave some passengers waiting even longer for trains at the end of the day, when trains won't run hourly.

Joe Balan, who rides the train on weekends from Miami International Airport to Boca Raton, was looking forward to the expanded service until he saw the schedule. He said currently the last two northbound trains run at 6:03 and 8:33 p.m.

But starting Saturday, the gap will be nearly 3 1/2 hours undefined between 6:20 and 9:45 p.m, a problem since his shift ends at 6 p.m.

"We've had numerous requests for later service out of Miami," said Tri-Rail spokeswoman Bonnie Arnold.

Tri-Rail currently runs 16 trains a day on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, but now will run 30.

"This is what a 30-train schedule looks like," Arnold said. "There has to be a gap somewhere and since people were asking for later trains, we put the gap at the end of the day to provide for that. We will evaluate based on ridership and see if the schedule needs to be refined."

Ridership in 2012 eclipsed 4 million passengers for the first time since the record of 4.3 million was set in 2008. The pace has continued this year, at least on weekdays, with January ridership up nearly 8 percent compared to the same month a year ago. But weekend ridership declined about half a percent.

Southbound trains will begin running from the Mangonia Park station north of West Palm Beach at 5:50 a.m. Northbound trains will begin running from the Hialeah Market station at 5:20 a.m.

The new schedule provides for later night service, with the last southbound trains leaving Mangonia Park at 9 p.m. and the last northbound train departing Hialeah at 9:45 p.m.

The Miami Airport station is closed and being rebuilt as part of a new transportation hub east of the airport.

It is set to open this fall, with passengers bused until then between the airport and the Hialeah Market station., 954-356-4155, Twitter @MikeTurnpike

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