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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » All Aboard Florida Happenings (Page 4)

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Author Topic: All Aboard Florida Happenings
palmland
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We just returned from our annual visit to central Florida to see a few Atlanta Braves' spring training games and have a few good meals. Our hotel was about 5 min from the ballpark (on the south side of Disney property). I was so thankful that we did not have to set foot on I-4 until we were well clear of the area.

Each time we passed over it, traffic was at a standstill. The baseball announcers were talking about how much the Braves hated visiting teams in the Tampa area. A one hour drive in the early morning was a three hour drive on the return. Other teams have already moved from central Florida and the Braves will follow in 2020 to a new stadium being built near Sarasota (Northport)that only a few months ago had cows grazing in the fields.

A new development, Villages-West, is being constructed that will have 25,000 homes when completed. One of the locals we spoke with said Florida is way too overdeveloped, water supply will be a problem, the Everglades will be history, and there has been little investment in infrastructure. Paradise lost?

If Brightline is successful in building to Orlando airport, it won't be long before they continue on to the west coast. It can't come soon enough.

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Vincent206
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I remember in 2009-10 Ray LaHood and the Department of Transportation were thinking that HSR between Orlando and Tampa was a good idea. Unfortunately Rick Scott didn't agree. I wonder if Florida HSR would be operational in 2018 if it had received the green light in 2010. Or would it be stuck in the grip of bureaucratic inertia requiring conceptual studies, scoping and preliminary engineering studies?
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Gilbert B Norman
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Hey, why not; everyone else does it:

The Next Miami

Fair Use:
  • Brightline stations may soon be renamed by a corporate sponsor.

    Patrick Goddard, president and COO of the company, told the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce that negotiations were in progress to sell station and train naming rights, according to Miami Today

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palmland
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Vincent, the government sponsored projects don't have a great track record but at least it would have been started by now. However, if Brightline is the real deal and can actually do what they say as far as the Orlando extension, they would in the long run do a better job than a project led by the feds

You gotta admit, what they've done so far is pretty impressive. I think they have even made our Mr. Norman a reluctant supporter. One thing is clear, the market in Florida is there. A bad traffic situation will only get worse.

In fact, to leap frog to another forum topic, you could make the case that one real purpose of the LD network it to provide connectivity to the burgeoning state, or private, sponsored corridor services. Who knows, maybe one day Georgia will wake up and doing something about Atlanta metro area and surrounding cities.

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George Harris
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Palmland, it is not just traffic. It is also being able to get around without driving. Remember, this is South Florida. Lots of transplanted Yankees, many from the New York and other densely populated areas with lots of public transportation. These are people used to taking public transport. Add to that, many are retirees dealing with or approaching being unable to drive, or in a status where they should not be doing more than the most minimal driving. These people form a growing market for Brightline and any other public transportation.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Cox's Palm Beach Post published an article regarding the "less than stellar" Brightline ridership observed by a team of their reporters.

Fair Use:

  • Before dawn on a Tuesday in late March, a four-car Brightline train — capacity 240 — pulled out of the company’s West Palm Beach station and headed south to Fort Lauderdale.

    Just eight passengers were on board.

    A few weeks later, an early-morning Sunday train carrying six people made the same trip.

    While Brightline’s service has been touted as a model for the future of passenger rail in the United States, opponents have questioned whether the company can make money with so many empty seats, with one even derisively referring to them as “ghost trains.”

    Not all the trains run near-empty. A Palm Beach Post review of ridership found at least three trains during a six-week period that carried more than 100 passengers, including a Saturday afternoon run in March with 144.

    Eight trains carried 20 or fewer passengers.

    Brightline doesn’t release ridership counts. To get a glimpse into the rail line’s early progress, a dozen Palm Beach Post reporters rode 44 randomly selected trains over a six-week period and counted how many people were on board.

    On average, 50 riders took the trains reviewed by The Post, enough to fill about 20 percent of the seats.

Naturally, this "introductory period" could only have low ridership for which I'm certain that AAF management was ready to accept. But unfortunately at this time, I can only conclude the history of AAF is that it's providing "Disneyland rides on the cheap" - and, party at fault notwithstanding, killing people in the process. The opening of Miami Central, which could happen closer to Easter than Xmas and contrary to my prediction, could well produce enough passengers actually using the service to get from "Ehh to Bee" to justify it's continuation as a public accommodation rather than what could well at present meet the legal standard of Public Nuisance.

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MargaretSPfan
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Mr. Norman --
Why is Brightline at fault in any way for any of those deaths? By your logic, no one should be allowed to drive motor vehicles -- because so many people get killed by those motor vehicles.

And transit planners and engineers know that not providing frequent service will keep many people from choosing to take transit. Transit providers therefore provide frequent service, even though some trains or buses will have few riders. That is not proof that the entire service is unjustified.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Well, eight more days until service to Miami Central begins as the Palm Beach Post and many another outlets report.

If anyone can "get on down", joyrides are going for $3.00 this weekend.

Oh, in case you wonder, here is "Friend of Brightline's" report. But alas, a little opinionating from same outlet.

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palmland
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NBC’s Today show had a segment on Brightline service. Presumably this was from the press run for the Miami startup. It was mostly positive and the conversation with the Brightline rep talked about the possibility of this type of services in other parts of the country. He also maintained the service would be profitable. Anderson must have been smiling.

The show’s host wondered why we didn’t have more trains like this ‘like Europe’. Maybe the country is ready to support this even if your tax dollars are required.

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by palmland:
The show’s host wondered why we didn’t have more trains like this ‘like Europe’. Maybe the country is ready to support this even if your tax dollars are required.

Maybe a closer look should be taken at this whole "like Europe" stuff. A closer look at a lot of the Europe stuff helps you understand what our ancestors left. There is so much overlooked either intentionally or unintentionally with all this enthrallment with things European. I will take what we have here, warts and all.
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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by palmland:
NBC’s Today show had a segment on Brightline service.

Here we are:

NBC News

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MargaretSPfan
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First. let me say that I am quite pleased that Brightline is getting positive media coverage. that is great! It is way past time for the media to cover railroads and give them a positive slant.

But.... Brightline can be "profitable"? How can that be if all capital costs are included?

And taxes are always required for all public services. No exceptions. And this indirectly includes Brightline, which has already gotten $600 million in tax-free Florida bond money, with more needed, which will probably be granted.

I very much hope that Brightline gets good ridership. It is always wonderful when we have decent choices in modes of transportation.

Highball,. Brightline! [Smile]

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Gilbert B Norman
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Margaret, I've come to hold that the public may never know if AAF is profitable as a rail passenger entity. This real-estate play hinted at by NBC, is of course ripped from Henry Flagler's playbook. That AAF is there and keeps providing the high level of service they have to date, both occupancy and rental rates in the buildings surrounding AAF stations will benefit. This is an argument that it should serve Downtown Orlando rather than the Airport - need there be another San Diego Lindbergh?
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palmland
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Is it time for our intrepid Brightline rider, Mr. Norman, to return to FL and give us a first hand report on the new Miami service and this innovative partnership with Lyft?
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Gilbert B Norman
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I'm all booked for a Cleveland Orchestra concert in Miami next January 26 (fly and Metrorail/mover). Brightline "Voyages 3&4" will wait until then.

Lyft/Uber? what's that (whoops, I am a veteran of one Uber ride February from Crowne/Ravinia to Capitol Grille in Dunwoody GA - wasn't my idea, but it was without incident).

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Gilbert B Norman
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"There could be something" to the contention that AAF, even if it in itself is not profitable, is to be a "feed" for enhanced development by FECI:

Miami Herald

Fair Use:
  • Call it one of the most expensive secrets in County Hall: The company behind Brightline has submitted a detailed proposal to build Miami-Dade a new civil courthouse next to the existing one on Miami’s Flagler Street. But the company demanded that the mayor not share key details — including the potential cost to the public.

    “This confidentiality request severely limits the Administration’s ability to transparently inform the Board of the impact of pursuing the unsolicited proposal,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez wrote in an April 4 memo urging commissioners to reject the plan to replace the 1928 courthouse with one built next door.

    “Critical information pertaining to the financial impact of this unsolicited proposal cannot be communicated in this report for the benefit of the Board or Miami-Dade County taxpayers,” Gimenez said.
Now what I believe will be of great interest to the real estate community will be to what extent AAF can influence redevelopment within Overtown. To be polite and politically correct, let's just say Overtown is a "no man's land", which starts immediately West of Miami Central.

AAF made, I think, bold start when they chose to locate their HQ to the West of Miami Central. The potential is certainly there, but the minority residents will be quick to howl "gentrification" (interesting scripted series now being aired on Starz is "Vida", which explores that issue in East LA), but let's note that FECI, Japanese ownership aside, seems to get their way up in Tallahassee.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Palm Beach Post coverage of "Opening Day".

If you give it away, they will come.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Here is a recent CNBC interview with Fortress CEO, Wes Edens:

https://www.cnbc.com/video/2018/05/25/fortress-wes-edens-on-brightline-rail-project.html

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Gilbert B Norman
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I just got "bombarded" by a Brightline marketing survey. I did something "I never do" - responded.

I gave an overall rating of "9" (favorable, of 10) and my written comment was "The Brightline rail travel experience emulates that found overseas".

Anyone who has followed my material around here knows I'm not into the "aewsome", "great" and "super" kind of comments.

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Gilbert B Norman
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To my pleasant surprise, as part of the Indenture relating to the $600M Private Activity Bonds floated, AAF is required to disclose revenue and ridership for each Quarter. They released such for the First Quarter this past Friday - and look who reported them (presumably straight):

Gannett Treasure Coast Newspapers

Fair Use:

  • ..Brightline carried 74,780 riders and collected $663,700 in ticket revenue in its first 2½ months of operation, according to financial documents released Friday.

    The documents — which offered one of the first public glimpses into the private company's financials — revealed that ridership "exceeded expectations," according to Brightline, despite recent controversies over safety and use of public funding.

    Ridership grew each month as a result of increased “awareness and demand for the company’s service," Brightline said in its quarterly unaudited financial statement provided to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.

    Month-by-month ridership and revenue from Jan 19, when initial service began between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, to March 31, the end of the first quarter, was:

    January: 17,800 passengers, $146,500

    February: 24,100 passengers, $220,000

    March: 32,900 passengers, $297,300
However, lest we forget, AAF is still offering dirt cheap "introductory fares". I highly doubt if they have compiled enough historical data to institute demand pricing, although I'm sure they want to "get there".

So their first venture into "market pricing" will be "like the old days". "Here's the fare; take it or leave it" (my guess: OW MIA-WP $50 Coach, $65 Business). Who knows what effect that will have on ridership.

Continuing with a "lest we wonder"; the Florida Turnpike will soon switch to demand pricing systemwide. The "Lexus Lanes" on the 95 are already there (BTW, this Lexus owner doesn't go near them - oh, and don't the various Authorities love EZ-Pass; especially when signed up for automatic refills), so the market can certainly justify higher fares.

Finally though, a rub. The free parking at the AAF station garages is now $6/da, but that certainly is a dirt cheap rate. How they control that you actually have ridden a train, I know not - but I think they should.

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yukon11
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by palmland:

If Brightline is successful in building to Orlando airport, it won't be long before they continue on to the west coast. It can't come soon enough.

**************************************
I think an area of the country ripe for a Brightline-like train clone would be Fort Collins-Denver-Colorado Springs-Pueblo.

Watching the baseball game between the Giants and Rockies, the other night, I was impressed by the shots of the Denver light rail train arriving at the ballpark.

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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Off the AAF rails, but it appears Florida Sun Pass has had themselves a little SNAFU:

https://www.clickorlando.com/news/sunpass-users-still-not-seeing-charges

Fair Use:

  • ORLANDO, Fla. - Drivers using SunPass on state tollways are still not seeing charges on their bills and are continuing to have problems with the website.

    The Florida Department of Transportation has now given the contractor a deadline to fix the issues -- or else

I also got a "we're working on it email from FDOT.

Does that sound like they have had a major screwup or does that sound like they have had a major screwup?

I think that translates to we can't tell you what your account balance is. You should have signed up for automatic replenishment.

Oh well, I won't be "down below" with my auto until next February. They'd better have it fixed by then, because I don't believe in automatic replenishment, or for that matter, any kind of automatic debits to any account of mine.

As I noted, it is my understanding that the Florida Turnpike will soon go to demand pricing. The I-95 "Lexus Lanes" through Dade County are already there as are same in the Orlando area. AAF can expect those "Lanes" to be extended through Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Even if they allow 70mph in such (Texas has some with "reasonable and proper" speed limits) v. 55 in the regular lanes, this will only justify AAF charging NEC fares. For comparison, NYP-TRE is $46 Coach $70 Business.

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palmland
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One of my pet peeves: we often travel to Atlanta and the northeast to see family, Florida for baseball, and Colorado to see relatives. They all have different toll systems. If they insist on this, the systems should talk to each other. I don’t need a windshield full of transponders! It’s enough to make you want to take the train rather than drive.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Palmland, I only have two. One is an I-Pass that is fully exchangeable with EZ-Pass and the noted Florida Sun Pass, which I've now learned exchanges with the Georgia Peach Pass and the NC Quick Pass (crazy as it sounds, the SC Pal Pass exchanges with the Texas toll roads, but none other).

Yes, wouldn't it be nice if all toll highway agencies could come together and have one X-ponder?

Too many egos would get in the way.

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palmland
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Today's Trains Newswire confirms what we have heard:

"Last month, Orange County commissioners greenlighted an environmental permit allowing Brightline to begin building a 125-mph corridor through 106 acres of thick brush and wetlands immediately adjacent to the Beachline Expressway east of Orlando International Airport."

Construction to start later this year with 2021 completion.

And Brightline intent to build on to Tampa also confimred:

"An unsolicited proposal in March 2018 by Brightline to the Florida Department of Transportation suggested the state create a mechanism for private developers to lease the median of I-4 and portions of either state routes 528 or 417 between the Orlando airport and Tampa. On June 22, Florida Gov. Rick Scott did just that, announcing a request for proposals to lease the property and construct a rail line."

Interesting that they mention highway 528 and 417. Seems like it's more or less direct route using 528 from the airport to I-4, unless they intend to go east on 528 to 417 then circle south getting to I-4 near Celebration.

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