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  Federal authorities are endorsing the construction of a spur that would connect central Florida's commuter rail, SunRail, with the Orlando International Airport.

The Orlando-area SunRail commuter train has gotten more than twice the anticipated number of daily riders since it opened on Thursday. Transportation officials say the demand is expected to slacken once they start charging for rides later this month.

Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Olson says SunRail started with a bang.

“This is history that occurred here in Central Florida," he says. 

Carmel Delshad / WMFE

This November, voters in Pinellas County will decide whether or not to raise the county's sales tax to 8 percent -- the highest in the state -- to fund Greenlight Pinellas.  That's the transit plan that would expand bus service and help build a light rail connecting Clearwater and St. Petersburg.

The Suncoast Tiger Bay Club recently hosted a debate over the transit plan, and we'll take you there on Florida Matters Tuesday, May 6 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 11 at 7:30 a.m. on WUSF 89.7 FM.

Transit is changing in other parts of Florida, and we take a look at the first phase of SunRail, which opened this month in Orlando. 


Free SunRail Rides Start Thursday in Orlando

Apr 30, 2014

SunRail, the first commuter train in Orlando history, starts rolling Thursday. There are 12 stops, starting in the north at DeBary in Volusia County; then Sanford, Lake Mary, Longwood and Altamonte Springs in Seminole County; and Maitland, Winter Park, Florida Hospital, Lynx, Church Street, Orlando Health and Sand Lake Road in Orange County.

Preliminary plans mentioned last week at a Central Florida Rail Commission meeting call for free service between April 15 and 18, and then again from April 21 to 25 to help introduce riders to the rail line, said Steve Olson, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation. SunRail is a $1.3 billion commuter train with hours that will cater to workers from Monday through Friday.