Brightline: Ride the New Railroad up Florida's Coast
A New Way to Travel the State
By Sierra Sumner
If you’ve ever been to Florida, you probably know its traffic can be a real impediment to getting around. Luckily, there is an alternative option to beat the Florida traffic. Brightline is a privately-owned railroad that wants to take you from Orlando to Miami.
What really makes Brightline unique is that it is the first privately-owned rail system as opposed other lines that are controlled by the government. “There is nothing that connects [Florida] cities’ downtown areas," said AnneMarie Mathews, the Vice President of Media Relations for Brightline. This means that its the first of its kind as an inter-city rail in Florida.
Guest Experience is Key
What Brightline is key on is hospitality for their commuters. Their hospitality services focus on the “guest experience:” free wifi, comfortable seating, reservable seats, food and beverages for sale--heck it's even pet-friendly, and passengers can bring their bikes.
Another important factor is that the inter-city express rail will take you where you want to go faster and cheaper than most options. You can go from Downtown Miami to Downtown Fort Lauderdale in under 30 minutes. It will take about 60 minutes from Miami to West Palm Beach. Try that with a car--even a Ferrari is going to bog down on the famous I-95 traffic jams, as the train whizzes past.
Finally, it will take about only three hours from Miami to Orlando. That is comparable to driving from Orlando to Miami or vice versa, which can take 4 - 4 ½ hours due to driving conditions and traffic.
Where Brightline is building is along an old railway system, so they are updating and adding a second rail. The track location was originally built as part of Henry Flagler's train service that extended all the way down from northern Florida to the Keys until a storm and labor strife ended its life. Today, a booming freight business still hauls limestone rock and orange juice up and down the Florida coast.
The rail system will be completed in two phases:
Phase 1 focuses on Miami to West Palm Beach. This will be completed next summer, in 2017. This first stage will be accessible to about 8 million Florida residents and the expected ridership is 3 million.
Phase 2 consists of going from West Palm Beach to Orlando. This will be accessing 60 million annual visitors and the expected ridership is over 5.3 million annual passengers. The whole project is totaling about $3 billion.
When you step inside this train, there are an abundance of choices to cater to individual passenger's needs. The company offers free wifi so you can stay connected during your trip, which especially appeals to people who want to work during their commute or just stay in touch.
The internet connection attracts all those who want a connection to social media, which is offered by wifi on the commuter rails. This way you can stay online to your Facebook, Instagram, or whatever you fancy.
Brightline is opening its services to all residents in Florida and it allows customers to go from Orlando to West Palm, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami. It also offers it prices are “comparable alternative to driving and certainly cheaper than flying,” said Mathews. The departure schedule will also be frequent and convenient, with times offered throughout the day and evening.
Brightline will also be offering frequent rider passes. These would include annual, monthly, and weekly passes. The company has yet to release an official list of frequent rider passes and official departure time, so stay tuned.
Effect on Tourism
In regards to tourism, Brightline plans to use its commute options to complement tourists and their trips. They want to make it easier for tourists to stay longer. “Tourists will want to take it [Brightline] and extend their vacation,” said Mathews. She followed up to say that the focus is on the ease for tourists.
While Brightline is appealing to a wide range of people and to make access easier for people, this transportation service will especially appeal to younger generations.
Millennials are predicted to have “an early adoption and frequent ridership,” said AnneMarie Mathews, the spokesperson for Brightline. This is because they want to be mobile without having to drive, which is environmentally-friendly and convenient for many.
Brightline aims to work with communities in creating this alternative transportation, but it has received some opposition. Along the Treasure Coast is where they’re received most opposition to the express services.
Brightline has commented that they are working to “educate and work with them” and “[add] improvements to roads.” The company is updating an existing rail line that has been there for over 100 years and then Brightline is adding a second rail.
While they are privately-owned, they are collaborating with other companies, both private and public. They are “working in conjunction with other trains, such as Metrorail, Tri Rail, and SunRail,” said Mathews.
The Last Mile
Currently, Brightline has completed the construction of their new train station in Fort Lauderdale and the next step is the interior. They are moving along the schedule of Phase 1.
The company is focusing on not only their rail service, but what they call “the last mile.” This means the full experience of getting to and from one’s destination, not just taking the train. This means that they are working with private and public organizations to work out transportation to and from their stations.
This includes ride-shares, bike shares, bus services, and shuttle services. They plan to have shuttles from the airport, such as the Orlando International Airport, so that it is easier on tourists to travel.
Find out more about Brightline at their website.
Sierra Sumner is a writer from Massachusetts, Hawaii and California. She loves the outdoors, such as hiking and kayaking, and has traveled all across the US. She hopes to continue her explorations and to encourage others to expand their horizons.