Finally, Brightline higher-speed passenger trains are expected to begin introductory service next week. But many questions remain. We try to answer the most frequent ones in this unofficial consumer guide.
How many trains will be running?
Brightline initially will travel between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, with plans to add Miami soon and eventually Orlando. The company has said it plans to run up to four trains hourly from early morning to late evening for as many as 16 round trips per day. Each train consists of two engines and four coaches that can carry a total of 240 passengers. Fewer trains could run during the introductory roll-out.
How long will it take to get from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach?
Brightline officials said trains will take 30 minutes traveling at a top speed of 79 mph.
How much will a ticket cost?
No one knows. Brightline has not revealed its ticket prices, nor has it announced a schedule for the trains. Or even which day they will start.
Why is it taking so long to find out ticket prices?
Brightline is keeping a lid on the information. CEO David Howard would say only that ticket prices will be revealed before service begins and once its eCommerce website and mobile app are set up. The prices will make the train competitive with driving, Brightline says. People would be able to buy individual tickets, 10-packs, weekend, weekly, monthly, annual and corporate ticket packages, he said.
Wouldn’t it be just as easy to drive or take Tri-Rail?
If you could maintain 65 mph on Interstate 95, it would take about 47 minutes to travel between train stations in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. It would take about one hour on Tri-Rail with a total of nine stops between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Brightline would make the same trip in half the time with no stops between train stations. You’d have to pay to park whether you drive or take Brightline, although parking at Tri-Rail stations is free. Brightline officials have not announced parking rates, but analysts estimate it will cost about $1 per hour.
Will the train help reduce congestion on the highway?
Brightline claims the trains will remove 3 million vehicles from the roads every year but doesn’t say how that figure was calculated. It’s only a fraction of the people in cars, anyway. At least 250,000 people drive I-95 between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach every day, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.
Will all of these trains mean a lot more train horns?
Yes. Federal regulations require train engineers to sound their horns at every railroad crossing as a warning to drivers and pedestrians. But, additional safety features are being installed to prevent vehicles and people from crossing the tracks when a train is coming. These safety upgrades include crossing gates that block roads and sidewalks on both sides of the tracks, warning bells, flashing lights, and raised concrete curbs and medians so vehicles cannot change lanes to drive around the closed crossing gates. If federal officials approve these quiet zones, train engineers will no longer have to frequently blast their horns as they approach each crossing.
Will quiet zones be in place when Brightline begins running?
Probably not. It may be spring or summer before the safety upgrades are finished. There are nearly 200 railroad crossings between Miami and West Palm Beach. Most of the upgrades have been completed, but federal officials would have to approve them all before allowing train engineers to silence their horns. That means people who live and work along the tracks will have to put up with more horn blasts for at least four to six months.
Will Brightline help the economy?
That’s difficult to predict, but Brightline parent company Florida East Coast Industries announced big developments near two of its train stations. The new Park-Line 290-unit tower is under construction in downtown West Palm Beach. That will be followed by 816 units in two towers within an 11-acre, residential, retail, business development at the MiamiCentral station in downtown Miami.
How long until you can take the train to Miami and Orlando?
The MiamiCentral station is still under construction, but officials say the express trains could be running to downtown Miami by spring or summer. It would take about 30 minutes to travel between Fort Lauderdale and Miami and 60 minutes between West Palm Beach and Miami. As for Orlando, Brightline officials said that they could begin making improvements to tracks later this year and that the trains could start making the 235-mile run to Orlando by 2021. It would take three hours to travel between Miami and Orlando on trains going up to 125 mph, Brightline says.