The first big test of whether privately owned high-speed passenger train service can prosper in the United States has launched in Florida, with trains running between Miami and Orlando at speeds reaching 125 miles per hour.
Florida-based Brightline, owned by Fortress Investment Group, has begun operation using the fastest American trains outside the Northeast Corridor to become the first privately owned passenger operator to connect two major U.S. metropolitan areas in decades.
Investors have plunked down $5 billion to underwrite the rail service, which is betting it will eventually carry 8 million people annually on the 3.5-hour, 235-mile commute between the state’s biggest tourist hubs. That gets travelers to their destination in about 30 fewer minutes than the average drive between the two cities. Riders are charged $158 roundtrip for business class and $298 for first-class, with families and groups able to buy four roundtrip tickets for $398. Thirty-two trains will run daily. The trains also promise more modern amenities and faster trip times than those available through Amtrak.
In South Florida, the Brightline service has stops at stations in Aventura, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Earlier this year, Brightline launched a shuttle service that will take passengers to and from Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to its train stations.
Brightline began running its neon-yellow trains between Miami and West Palm Beach (a 70-mile trip) in 2018. The company is also considering extensions to Tampa and Jacksonville. It’s also building a line connecting the Los Angeles area to Las Vegas, targeted to open service in 2027 with trains running at up to 190 miles per hour. That project is expected to cost $12 billion.
The only other high-speed train in the United States is Amtrak’s Acela service between Boston and Washington, D.C., which began in 2000.
Brightline CEO Michael Reininger was quoted by The Associated Press, commenting: “This is a pretty important moment, whether you’re thinking about it in the context of the state of Florida or what it might mean for these kinds of products as they develop elsewhere in the United States. The idea that my car is the only way for me to get where I need to go is being challenged by a new product. A new product that’s safer, that’s greener, that is a great value proposition.”
The AP also noted that the Florida trains, which run on biodiesel, will travel up to 79 miles per hour in urban areas, 110 miles per hour in less-populated regions, and 125 miles per hour through central Florida’s farmland.
Excerpted by Mike Consol from reports by The Associated Press and the US High Speed Rail Association.