Brightline, which began its long-awaited South Florida-to-Orlando route less than two weeks ago, will double its train service starting Monday, the high-speed train line announced Tuesday evening.
Brightline will run 30 trains daily between Miami and Orlando starting Oct. 9, with 15 daily departures from Miami and Orlando. Brightline currently runs 16 daily trips between the areas.
The first train will leave Orlando at 4:38 a.m., arriving in Miami at 8:11 a.m. The final train leaves Orlando at 8:54 p.m. The first train leaves Miami for Orlando at 6:41 a.m., arriving at 10:19 a.m. with the last train leaving Miami for Orlando at 9:41 p.m.
Brightline also has early-morning and late-night trains operating between Brightline’s five South Florida stations: The five stations are West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Aventura and Miami.
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Brightline’s historic launch from Miami to Orlando
Brightline kicked off its South Florida-to-Orlando route Sept. 22.
“Today is actually the culmination of more than a decade of dedication and hard work,” said P. Michael Reininger, Brightline’s CEO. “We have reinvented what it means to travel by train. We have tried to build a guest experience through the lens of modern American travel … and we did this from the ground up.”
The ultra-modern, high-speed Brightline followed a route first tracked by railroad baron Henry Flagler more than a century ago. Nonetheless, faster train service between populous South Florida and Central Florida’s theme park mecca was a much sought-after transportation infrastructure.
In addition to Brightline, the federal government-subsidized Amtrak train runs routes across Florida, and Tri-Rail has long served commuters across South Florida. But all eyes had been on the development of the Brightline service in part for its promise of speed and more upscale amenities.
“People of this state will have more transportation options, and everyone loves trains,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who traveled on the first train. “Traveling by train is faster. This train in particular, it’s easier and it will significantly reduce travel time to Orlando.”
The densely populated nature of the route, Reininger said, caps Brightline’s speed on the north-south directional tracks between Miami and Cocoa at 110 miles per hour. But after Cocoa, when the tracks run east-west, Reininger said higher speeds up to 125 miles per hour are permitted, and he claimed once Brightline clocked in at that top speed it would make it the “second-fastest train” in the United States.
“Our maximum speed in this geography is 110 miles an hour, and that has to do with the nature of the area,” he said Sept. 22. “When we make the turn, we’re in a completely sealed corridor, there are no grade crossings, and it’s a higher class of track, it’s all brand new track, and so that’s why we can accelerate the speed there to 125.”
From Fun-Train to Brightline:The 25-year journey to Miami-Orlando passenger rail service
How much are Brightline tickets?
Brightline tickets from Miami to Orlando range from $79 to almost $300 for a one-way ticket. Tickets from West Palm Beach are about the same. Tickets can be bought at a Brightline station or online at gobrightline.com.
Groups of no less than four and no more than 16 people are eligible for a 25% discount with a promo code at checkout. This offer is good through the end of the year. Passengers can enter their promo codes at checkout.
Brightline aims to succeed where other South Florida-to-Orlando trains failed
A high-speed rail line from South to Central Florida has been so desired that in 2000, close to 3 million Floridians voted for one. And before that, the short-lived Florida Fun Train rode the rails, too.
The Fun Train and the high-speed bullet train constitutional amendment proved to be swampland-in-the-Everglades dreams, but they were colorful sagas on the Sunshine State’s business and political path to a Miami-to-Orlando choo-choo train.
The bullet train first approved by voters statewide via a constitutional amendment in 23 years ago was scrapped by a do-over constitutional amendment four years later that voided the earlier ballot initiative. The Fun Train, four guest cars with a decidedly cheery decor, brightly colored seats and glass roofs for all-around views, launched exactly 25 years ago, in September 1998. It ceased operations a few months later.
Then came Brightline.
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Back in 2012, the company was called All Aboard Florida. It was a venture led by Flagler’s legacy company, Florida East Coast Industries, with backing from the hedge fund Fortress Investment Group.
Wes Eden, co-founder of Fortress Investment, said the idea of building what would become Brightline originated after he read a biography of Flagler.
“It is a remarkable story of a man that had a lot of success in his business life and then, in his mid-50s, decided to pack up and move to Florida, at a time when the state was one of the poorest and least populated states in the country, and started to build a train,” Edens said. “And we stand here today on the shoulders of Henry Flagler.”
Edens said Sept. 22 he believes the Brightline route is “the beginning of a true rail renaissance” in the United States. He noted that European and Asian countries have invested heavily in high-speed rail systems that operate profitably and “move millions if not billions” of people, and now the United States lags far behind.
He added Brightline is a model from which to develop other high-speed rail links and create a “rail industry” that generates millions of jobs. He said other routes that are prime for high-speed rail service include Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Charlotte to Atlanta, Portland to Seattle and Houston to Dallas. The federal government, he noted, stepped up with $66 billion for passenger rail, including $12 billion for high-speed projects, in the $1.2 trillion infrastructure.
“We are in the first minute of the first day of a real renaissance in rail travel in this country,” he said.
Still, Brightline’s trek to Orlando required years and many millions of dollars worth of improvements to the FEC’s tracks followed. Political and legal fistfights, primarily with Treasure Coast counties and residents, were part of the landscape, too. Those obstacles have been cleared away, but resentment lingers in some quarters.
Brightline’s next move: Stations in Tampa, Space and Treasure coasts?
Next up, Reininger said, could be an Orlando-to-Tampa leg, which by then would connect 75% of the state’s population via a Brightline train. The rail line also is looking to add stations between West Palm Beach and Orlando along the Treasure Coast and Space Coast corridors.
In 2015, Cocoa and Melbourne leaders lobbied for their respective cities to rise atop a target list of potential sites for what was then All Aboard Florida to build a passenger train station along the Space Coast.
“All roads lead through Cocoa first. And that’s the reason why we should be the designated location — permanent designated location,” Cocoa Mayor Mike Blake said in April while attending the “unveiling” of the Orlando station.
“Location is everything. Access to the port area. Direct line to the (Orlando) airport. Cocoa is the chosen spot,” Blake said.
In the Treasure Coast, issues with Brightline go back a long time as well.
In 2013, after the idea of a high-speed rail was proposed, officials in Indian River and Martin counties filed state and federal lawsuits against the rail line in an effort to derail the plans for a train.
In 2018, Brightline, Martin County and a coalition of Treasure Coast and South Florida residents against rail expansion reached a settlement that called for the construction of a Brightline station somewhere on the Treasure Coast to be completed within five years of the start of the Miami-to-Orlando route.
It will be in either Martin County or St. Lucie County, but Brightline hasn’t yet chosen a location.
Palm Beach Post editor Jim Coleman, Florida Today and TCPalm contributed to this report.