One-of-a-Kind Private Train Takes On Florida’s Traffic Nightmare
(Bloomberg) -- Miami and Fort Lauderdale may be only about 30 miles away, but the thought of traveling between South Florida’s principal cities usually provokes a heavy sigh from commuters. Rush-hour traffic or an accident can easily turn a 45-minute drive into an hours-long ordeal.
That’s about to change. The Brightline high-speed train, the only privately owned and operated passenger rail system in the U.S., took its inaugural run to Miami on Friday filled with politicians and reporters. The public can ride starting May 19.
“Now if you want to work in downtown Miami and commute from Broward or Palm Beach, you have an easier way to do that,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
The Brightline will connect Miami with service that already links Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. It hopes to attract traditionally train-resistant South Florida commuters by reducing travel time between Miami and Fort Lauderdale to about 30 minutes, and also offering lounges, food service and free Wi-Fi. A one-way ticket initially will cost $10 compared with a trip on Uber that can cost $40 or more.
Fortress Investment Group, which owns the Brightline, hopes it can be a model for other cities on routes too far to drive but too short to fly. This is “the same trip that I’ll take hopefully with the mayors from Dallas and Houston and Atlanta and Charlotte and St. Louis and all the other places we want to be,” said Wes Edens, Fortress’s co-founder and co-chief executive officer.
The company has spent about $1.5 billion and plans to invest a total of around $3.2 billion on the Florida train, which will eventually run to Orlando. In Miami, the train will arrive and depart from the new MiamiCentral station that spans six city blocks and will feature a food hall, retail shops, residences and connections with local and regional transit networks.
The train runs at a top speed of 79 miles per hour on the leg between Miami and Fort Lauderdale compared to an average speed of about 34 miles per hour for cars making the trip on Interstate 95, said Patrick Goddard, Brightline president and chief operating officer. Speeds will reach 125 miles per hour on the segment to Orlando.
Real-estate prices along the train’s route could see gains as commuting to Miami becomes more attractive, said Julio Carbonell, chief executive officer of FACEBANK International Corp., who frequently makes the trip from Fort Lauderdale to Miami.
“Believe me, us I-95 warriors are constantly trying to find shortcuts and ways to avoid rush hour,” Carbonell said. “Traffic to Miami is a Russian roulette, even using the express lanes.”
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