Skift Travel News Blog

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

Ground Transport

Brightline Sets Date for First New U.S. Intercity Passenger Rail Line in Decades

9 months ago

Private rail operator Brightline will open long-awaited passenger service between Miami and Orlando on September 22, three weeks later than previously planned.

Brightline will initially offer 16 daily trains between Florida’s two largest metropolitan areas. Trips will take a little over three-and-a-half hours — comparable to the time it takes to drive between Miami and Orlando — and make four intermediate stops, including in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Brightline previously planned to begin train service to Orlando on September 1.

Brightline trains Orlando
Brightline plans to begin passenger rail service to Orlando on September 22. (Brightline)

The rail line is the first newly built passenger train in the U.S. in decades. Amtrak has opened several new lines in recent years, including to Burlington, Vt., in 2022, but those expansions mostly involved upgrading existing tracks. Brightline upgraded existing tracks between West Palm Beach and Cocoa, Fla., and built 40 miles of new track and right-of-way to Orlando. Trains terminate in the new South Terminal complex at the Orlando airport.

Orlando is only the beginning for Brightline. The company, which is owned by private equity firm Fortress Investment, also plans to build a 281-mile high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., in the Los Angeles area. Work on the roughly $12 billion Brightline West line could begin later this year with a target of opening in time for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Both the Orlando and Las Vegas rail lines come amid a flurry of new passenger rail investment in the U.S. President Biden’s 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $66 billion for new passenger rail with the bulk of that going to Amtrak and the Northeast Corridor that connects Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. The Department of Transportation will distribute a portion of those funds as competitive grants to projects around the U.S., funding that Brightline plans to seek for its Las Vegas project.


Brightline to Begin Much Anticipated Rail Service to Orlando by September

1 year 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

1 year 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)


Brightline to Open 2 New South Florida Train Stations Before Christmas

2 years 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.


Florida’s Tourism Recovery Continues Despite Headwinds

2 years ago

Tourism in Florida during the first half of this year surpassed the level during the comparable pre-pandemic period of 2019. Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency, published the numbers this week. It ballparked that the state drew 69 million visitors in the year through June 30.

Florida has done well at attracting international travelers, but it is still beneath 2019 levels. The state had 3.071 million overseas travelers, including a hefty number of Canadians, during the first half of 2022.

Last year approximately 45 percent of foreign travelers into the U.S. as a whole visited Florida. The next-highest attractor of foreign visitors was New York state, with 22 percent.