Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.


Brightline to Begin Much Anticipated Rail Service to Orlando by September

3 weeks ago

Brightline, the first new intercity passenger rail operator in the U.S. in decades, has started selling tickets for its long-awaited extension to Orlando. Riders can now book one of 16 daily trains between Miami and Orlando for travel from September 1.

“While we are finalizing an official launch date, guests can now book travel for Labor Day, Halloween and holidays through the new year,” Brightline President Patrick Goddard said. The company said it will begin selling seats earlier in the summer once it sets a date for passenger service to begin. The Orlando station is located in the new South Terminal complex at Orlando International Airport.

A Brightline train at the future Orlando airport station
A Brightline train at the future Orlando Airport station. (Edward Russell)

Backed by Fortress Investment, Brightline is the only private intercity passenger rail company operating in the U.S. Trains between Miami and West Palm Beach via a station in Fort Lauderdale began running in 2018. Two new stations in South Florida, Aventura and Boca Raton, opened in December.

And, despite running trains in car-centric Florida, Brightline has seen steady ridership growth since it resumed operations in late 2021 as the pandemic waned. Trains between Miami and West Palm Beach carried 179,576 riders in March, the latest month available, and the company expects a big boost in ridership once the Orlando extension opens. Brightline carried 1.23 million passengers in 2022, and forecasts up to 7.9 million annual riders by 2025.


Brightline Carried Record Number of Passengers on Its Trains in 2022

5 months ago

Private passenger rail operator Brightline carried a record 1.23 million passengers last year, the railroad’s first full year of operations since 2019. The number, which the railroad released in a monthly financial disclosure on Wednesday, represents a nearly 22 percent increase in ridership from three years earlier before the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the financial side of the ledger, Brightline’s annual revenues increased nearly 49 percent to $32 million in 2022 compared to three years earlier.

The 2022 numbers bode well for Brightline, which is the only private intercity rail operator in the U.S. The railroad is in the process of extending its Florida line to Orlando, which is expected to open for passengers later this year. Construction of the extension to the Orlando airport was 90 percent complete at the end of December. A future extension to Tampa is planned with Universal Orlando recently committing funds to construction of a critical 11-mile segment across Orlando.

Brightline recently released the first renderings of its new station at the Orlando airport. The facility is directly connected to the airport’s new Terminal C that opened last September.

Ridership on Brightline’s South Florida rail line between Miami and West Palm Beach got a year-end boost with the opening of two new stations — in Aventura and Boca Raton — in late December. The two stations added 17,682 riders to Brightline trains in just the last 10 days of the year.

The company is also developing a new high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Southern California, known as Brightline West, that could begin construction this year.

Brightline’s new Aventura station opened on December 24, 2022. (Brightline)


Universal Orlando Boosts Brightline Plans to Extend Passenger Rail to Tampa

5 months ago

A planned passenger rail link between Orlando and Tampa got a big boost Thursday. Universal Orlando Resort has pledged $125 million in funding towards construction of an 11-mile rail corridor that is a critical link in private passenger rail operator Brightline’s plan to extend train service to Tampa.

The funding will come from the creation of a new special development district — the Shingle Creek Transit Utility Community Development District — that will issue bonds to support construction of the rail line through Orlando and a new station at the Orange County Convention Center, Universal said Thursday. The line, dubbed the “Sunshine Corridor” locally, would carry both Brightline trains through Orlando and local SunRail commuter trains between Orlando International Airport and a new South International Drive station near Disney’s parks.

A map of Orlando’s proposed Sunshine Corridor rail project. (Universal Orlando)

The Orlando Sentinel reported Thursday that the entire 11 mile rail line could cost as much as $1 billion, and that project leaders intend to seek funding from the federal government under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The line could open to passengers by the end of the decade.

In addition to the construction funds, Universal and other local businesses have committed to covering the operations and maintenance expenses of the planned Orange County Convention Center station, and guarantee at least $13 million in annual ticket sales to and from the station.

Brightline aims to begin rail service to Orlando from Miami later this year. Trains will stop a station connected to the airport’s new Terminal C that opened in September.

Brightline, which operates passenger trains between Miami and West Palm Beach in South Florida, opened two new stations — Aventura and Boca Raton — in December. The company carried 18 percent more passengers in November than it did in 2019 with revenues up 39 percent year-over-three-years to $3.4 million.


Brightline to Open 2 New South Florida Train Stations Before Christmas

6 months ago

More Floridians will have access to passenger rail this Christmas with private rail operator Brightline set to open two new stations on December 21. The stations are on Brightline’s existing South Florida rail line at Aventura, which is located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and Boca Raton.

Aventura and Boca Raton are the first new stations for Brightline since it opened its initial segment between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach in 2018.

A Brightline train at the future Orlando airport station
(Edward Russell/Skift)

The opening comes as Brightline hurries to finish work on its long-awaited extension to Orlando. The railroad had completed roughly 87 percent of work on the roughly 170-mile extension from West Palm Beach to the Orlando Airport at the end of October. Construction is due to wrap up early in the new year, after which Brightline must test and run simulated passenger service on the line before it can open to passengers.

The railroad had hoped to finish work on the Orlando line by Christmas but, in August, acknowledged that construction would drag into 2023.

The new Aventura and Boca Raton stations are expected to have a “significant accretive impact” on Brightline’s operations; in other words, they will boost both ridership and revenues. In October, the latest month available, the railroad carried 23 percent more passengers than in 2019 and brought in 72 percent more revenues. Brightline carried 102,615 passengers and generated $3 million in revenues that month.


Brightline Delays Completion of Orlando Passenger Rail Line to 2023

10 months ago

Private passenger rail operator Brightline has pushed back completion of its trunk line between Miami and Orlando to early next year.

Brightline anticipates “substantial completion” — or the end of construction — of the line in the first quarter of 2023, according to a bond prospectus released Wednesday. The delay appears to be due to work on the 129-mile section of track between West Palm Beach and Cocoa, Fla., that will not be complete until early in the new year. That timeline is several months later than the Christmas target for test trains to begin running that Wes Edens, founder and Co-CEO of Brightline owner Fortress Investment, outlined in June.

“You’re going to have the train running [to] Orlando hopefully by Christmas time,” he said at the time.

Brightline cannot begin running trains with paying passengers until construction is complete and after a U.S. Federal Railroad Administration-required testing period, the operator said. It is working with the regulator to “expedite” the latter process.

“We have made tremendous progress, completing 80 percent of construction through the pandemic and subsequent supply chain challenges,” a Brightline spokesperson said. “We’re on track to complete the system at the beginning of 2023.”

Aside from construction of the Orlando trunk line, Brightline has seen positive progress on many of its other initiatives. Passenger revenues from its in service Miami-West Palm Beach line were 147 percent above 2019 levels in the second quarter. And the railroad is on schedule to open two new South Florida stations — Aventura and Boca Raton — in the December quarter. In addition, Brightline has finalized agreements on the alignment of a planned 90-mile extension to Tampa from Orlando, which will include stations at the Orlando Convention Center, near Disney World, and in downtown Tampa.


Brightline is the only privately-owned passenger rail project under constriction in the U.S.


Brightline Adjusts Disney World Station Plans For Tampa Extension

11 months ago

Private passenger rail operator Brightline is going it alone on a station near Disney World as part of its planned extension from Orlando to Tampa.

The railroad had been working jointly with Disney on a station at Disney Springs that would have served the entertainment company’s parks. However, Disney surprisingly pulled out of the agreement on Monday, telling the Orlando Sentinel that a change to the planned alignment did not “support a Disney Springs station.” The new alignment, which was agreed to earlier this year, includes a stop at the Orange County Convention Center between the Orlando airport and the planned Disney station.

Brightline’s preferred alignment through Orlando. (Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission)

Brightline said Tuesday that it would build “an alternative station … located near the original Disney Springs site, albeit not on Disney-owned land.” It added that the new alignment, which will be jointly built with the Orlando-area rail operator SunRail, would “provide access to the largest economic and employment centers in Central Florida and offer the best opportunity for the success of Brightline and SunRail.”

The Disney station changes come as Brightline prepares to begin running test trains from Miami to Orlando by the end of the year. Passenger service between Florida’s two largest cities is expected to begin early next year.

Brightline ridership between Miami and West Palm Beach in South Florida is running 20 percent ahead of pre-pandemic levels.


Brightline Train Ridership 20 Percent Above Pre-Pandemic Levels

12 months ago

Private passenger rail operator Brightline posted ridership up 20 percent in May compared to 2019, its third straight month with passenger numbers above pre-pandemic levels.

That translated to 102,796 passengers on Brightline’s trains that currently connect Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach in South Florida, according to an investor update on Tuesday. Revenues, all important for the private railroad, were up 63 percent compared to May 2019.


Brightline has seen a “rapid return” of riders since it resumed revenue service after a pandemic suspension last November. And the railroad is likely to see ridership climb even higher when new stations in Aventura and Boca Raton open this fall. A long-awaited extension to Orlando with a stop at the Orlando International Airport is 80 percent complete and expected to be ready for at least test trains by December; revenue service is slated to begin in early 2023. A future extension to Disney World and Tampa is planned.




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