Sunday, September 22, 2013

Floridians get their first look inside SunRail train

     WINTER PARK — An excited McGinley family and hundreds of other Central Floridians were given their first up-close look inside an all new SunRail passenger train car on Saturday, Sept. 21.

     “It looks clean and new, and it looks designed to help out commuters with the Wi-Fi, electricity, tables and things like that,” said Patrick McGinley, enjoying the new passenger car built for SunRail with his wife Bernadette and young children. “It's great, and my sons loves trains.”

     SunRail's bi-level commuter train car design is highlighted with sleek sloping sides with a high-gloss white body complemented with waving strips of yellow, orange, light blue and green. Inside the train is a brightly light cabin with large windows positioned between groups of cushioned seats, most of which face inwards at bright yellow tables.

     Those in attendance for this special public viewing event were excited to get their first look inside a commuter rail project that has been years in the making. County commissioners and executives involved with SunRail were also excited to see the train and speak with the public to get their reactions.

     Steve Olson is a spokesmen for the Florida Department of Transportation that is in charge of SunRail. When asked about the potential impact of SunRail in the coming years Olson said “We're confident that SunRail is going to change the face of mass transit here in Central Florida.”

     “Phase One” of SunRail is set to open with pain passenger service on May 1, 2014. This first phase will connect 12 train stations for a 32 mile stretch starting from DeBary in Volusia County going south to a station on Sand Lake Road in Orange County.

     “Phase Two” is planned to begin construction in the spring of 2014 and should be running some time in 2016. This will include a northern extension from DeBary to Deland, and a southern extension connecting Sand Lake Road to Poinciana in Osceola County, with stops in Meadow Wood, Osceola Parkway, and Kissimmee along the way.

     Special features that are provided to SunRail passengers include free wireless internet, power outlets, restrooms, free parking at SunRail stations, wheelchair access, and bicycle and luggage accommodations.

     FDOT ordered 20 SunRail train cars which are designed to offer a 30 percent savings in operational costs compared to single level rail cars and 70 percent more passenger room. Their initial plan is to run seven locomotive sets of 14 passengers cars during peak demand, with a combination of cab cars and coaches.

     “We're going to begin work on I-4, that's going to cause some challenges to traffic,” said Orlando City Commissioner, Robert F. Stuart. “People are going to look for an alternative and SunRail is going to be running right next to it.”

     More information on locations, train hours, and fees can be found at SunRail's website at

By James Tutten

(All photos by James Tutten)

The McGinley family enjoys the view at one of the tables inside the brand new SunRail commuter trail.

Central Floridians are given their first tour the inside of SunRail's new commuter train as it's debut in Winter Park.

Friday, September 20, 2013

STP reaches new creative heights with Bennington

ORLANDO Embattled rock band Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington played a rousing show packed with revitalized energy at the House of Blues Orlando on Wednesday, Sept. 18. All legal drama aside, fans that witnessed this concert went ballistic with an outpouring of support for the music they love.

With all the publicized drama this year about the ongoing lawsuits between STP's former frontman Scott Weiland and the other founding members of the band, it's hard to know what to expect before you see the group in its currently reformed state featuring Linkin Parks' lead vocalist Chester Bennington as a replacement for Weiland.

Some hardline STP fans are adamantly against replacing Weiland with Bennington, and are often voicing their opposition on online forums and comment boxes claiming in general that it's a disrespectful move to a core group of fans. They are also quick to ridicule Bennington's performing style, saying that it doesn’t fit with the foundational sound of the band.

Like most of the uninformed opinions on the internet, the derision of Bennington and STP for the sake of siding with Weiland is petty and misinformed. Seeing the group live and forming your own opinion is the only way to find the truth.

If STP's show in Orlando is a broad indication of things to come, Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington is a musical match made in heaven.

Songs performed on this tour showcased a full range of music from the groups over 20 years of hard rock recordings. This included several of their old-school songs like “Wicked Garden” and “Vasoline” that are considered by some to be modern rock classics, to later released songs like “Down” and “Sex and Violence” off their fourth studio album released in 1999. The group also performed “Out of Time” and “Black Heart” which are featured on their upcoming EP album “High Rise,” which is set for release on Oct. 8.

Most of the songs performed went over well, but hit songs like “Interstate Love Song” were clearly the biggest crowd-pleasing numbers of the evening. Any time the audience is singing louder than an amplified vocalist and cheering with a deafening applause afterwards, you can easily tell that a majority, if not everyone, in attendance is impressed and entertained.

Audience member Teresa Phillips described the current state of STP with Bennington as “Incredible. Not only has he [Bennington] woken them up, he's brought them to a new level.”

Bennington's performance was the shining achievement of the evening. Not only was his singing pitch perfect and held true to the original tone of the music, but he also carried himself with a professional humbleness balanced with frontman charisma. Slower songs in a lower key were performed nearly mirror image to Weiland, but when he kicks into full gear he brings more of himself to the song and really shines in that moment.

The three original members of STP, bassist Robert DeLeo, guitarist Dean DeLeo and drummer Eric Kretz, all played with a revitalized energy through the concert. Musically their sound was crisp and vibrant, and they would all continually express an exuberant joy on-stage as they performed.

“I saw STP back in 94 in my sophomore year of college and I saw Scott Weiland solo years ago down in south Florida,” said audience member and STP fan Nate McDonald. “Overall; sound wise and pure music quality, this was the best performance of STP I've seen by far.”

If you're a true fan of STP or just curious, leave the naysayers and internet trolls to bicker amongst themselves and go see this band live to form your own opinion.

By James Tutten

(All photos by James Tutten)

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