A Private High Speed Rail Attempt Takes Hold in Florida

A private rail line hopes to improve commute times between West Palm Beach and Miami.

One of the big rebuttals on the issue of private rail is that if it was feasible a private company would setup to do it. Instead, the best we have nationally is Amtrak and I use the term "best" loosely. Well, now something new is happening in Florida. A private rail company has set up shop with government permission to float bonds. It does not, to me, sound completely private, but as private as a private rail line can be. The intention is to run it between West Palm Beach and Miami, which can take up to five hours by car due to traffic congestion. It'll vastly cut the time from five hours to an hour.

The ambitious $3 billion Brightline express project will run along the state's densest population corridor with more than 6 million residents and a regular influx of tourists. The project, funded by All Aboard Florida, represents the first test into the long-awaited U.S. move into high-speed rail, says John Renne, director of the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions at Florida Atlantic University.

I'm skeptical, but I kinda hope this will work. I'd love to see private rail be competitive. Here in Georgia, short of tunneling, we've nearly exhausted the ability to pave more roads without taking people's houses. But the traffic keeps growing. State attempts at light rail and street cars are non-starters and wastes of money. Atlanta could use a real subway system instead of MARTA, but there is a lot of public opposition. Private rail might be a way to move forward so it'll be interesting to see if Brightline can succeed.

Comments
No. 1-6
Gatormom
Gatormom

I live in Florida along the proposed route from WPB to Orlando where it is heavily opposed. The railroad's plan calls for something like 32 trains per day passing through a number of small towns that are bisected by the railroad tracks, and none of the small towns will be considered for a stop on the route. Emergency services will be delayed by the train and the railroad company has placed the onus of providing security at railroad crossings on the towns themselves at a cost of millions of dollars. The private bonds that were issued to finance the construction failed to sell, so now the company is relying on a form of public/private bond (emphasis on the public) to pay for the construction. The trip from Miami to Orlando would take 3 hours by high-speed train; it currently takes 3.5 hours, plus you also have a car to get around once you arrive at your destination. The whole thing is a ridiculous farce that is designed to line someone's pockets to the detriment of the quality of life in the towns along the way. It should NOT go through, but unfortunately, it probably will.

Sauger
Sauger

I also read a couple of years ago about a proposed private rail line (when Rick Perry was still governor) between Houston and Dallas. Haven't heard much lately. Time will tell.

chrisattaway
chrisattaway

I really hope this works as well. I don't know the economics of rail, but I am convinced that the Free Market system works (Mark is correct). If it is viable, it can be figured out. If not, maybe it shouldn't be. NYC did it. That was all private.

The only caveat is there is a cost to building more and more roads. Atlanta (my home town) has done that amazingly well when one considers the HUGE amount of growth there. Heck, they moved I85 during the 80s when Atlanta had the fastest growing county in America. As for Orlando? They are really clueless here. I4 through Orlando should have been widened at least 20 years ago. We need rail between the Airport and Disney, Downtown, and the Convention Center.

MarkBerwind
MarkBerwind

There is one that is in the early stages of getting pushed in Nashville. I think, even with Nashville's terrible traffic, almost all day long, it still won't get off the ground, because no one has yet to make a buck off of passenger rail without subsidy from the taxpayer. Someone in Nashville once had a scheme to take all the freight routes from center town and go out, like a spider. I'm guessing the only part left is the Nashville Star commuter, which may be working, and a proposed track to parallel CSXs mainline to Murfreesboro. If I see Nashville go past the Star, in my lifetime, I will be pleasantly surprised, because of my visit to Germany and love for passenger rail trains. The problem is that all of Europe has had passenger service for many decades and figured out how to keep it, although through high taxation. If that group in Miami can pull it off, that will be great, but let's just hope it is kept as private as possible. I saw the preliminary groundwork being put in place, from Nashville to Murfreesboro, years ago, so I know something's still going on with it. If I wasn't retired, I would have liked to run a passenger train, every day. That would have been a welcome break to the freight service, I used to run. Keep the government as much out of it as possible and make it work. The government is usually the problem.

Erick Erickson
Erick Erickson

Editor

@FloridaMan I hate driving that stretch of road.