Anyone who's ever driven from Orlando to Miami knows that traversing Florida highways can be a slog. By offering travelers a faster alternative, Brightline has a chance to succeed.
A new train line, aimed at bringing high-speed rail to the Sunshine State, is under development in Florida.
Brightline, which is set to begin operating in mid-2017, will unite Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach on existing railroad lines snaking down Florida’s eastern coast. New, state-of-the-art stations are being designed and built in each city, as well.
“It’s a very rare thing in North America,” said Julie Edwards, chief marketing officer of Brightline. “In the U.S. rail travel has usually been subsidized by the government.”
The line will be run by All Aboard Florida, which is owned by Florida East Coast Industries, a Florida-based shipping and development company. The trains are now being constructed in Sacramento by Siemens, after being designed by David Rockwell Group.
At first, the line will only connect West Palm Beach and Miami while improvements are made to tracking closer to Orlando.
With speeds similar to Amtrak, the Orlando to Miami leg will take about three hours; driving between the two cities takes about four hours. Orlando already has its Sun Rail commuter rail system, while South Florida is already served by the Tri-Rail commuter rail line.
“People are so frustrated with the traffic and congestion; 100 million people visit the state each year,” said Edwards. “When you think about that, and the fact we don’t have higher speed trains, it’s why people hate driving in Florida.”
Brightline’s Orlando station will be located at Orlando International Airport, while its Miami station will be integrated into the city’s public transportation infrastructure. They also expect to build some kind of integration with Fort Lauderdale’s trolley system.
Business travelers, both local and from outside of Florida, will be a crucial market for Brightline to serve.
Seats will be reserved, unlike Amtrak’s northern corridor or the Midwest’s Metra rail system. The cars will also be outfitted with new Wi-Fi technology and dining facilities.
“It’s important to make sure we’re communicating to our potential riders that this is a new way to travel,” said Edwards. “The business being conducted between West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami is tremendous. A lot of people live in Broward county but commute elsewhere, so having one express rail that allows them to get to work more reliably is important.”
They’re also planning a partnership with a large rental car brand, and various ridesharing services, to allow passengers to hop into a car once departing Brightline.
“Some people will want to pick up a car once they land at our stations, and we’ll work with rental car providers, car share companies, ride share services, bike share providers to serve our stations,” said Edwards.
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Photo credit: A rendering of Brightline trains. Brightline