Sampling Florida’s New Brightline Service

One of the goals of my Florida trip was to explore the new Brightline service.

On Tuesday we went to Miami and rode the train from Ft Lauderdale to West Palm Beach and return.

I had seen pictures and online reviews but, honestly, I did not expect what I experienced.

When you walk into the train station it has the look and feel of an airport not a typical railroad station.

Tickets can be purchased at a kiosk or with a smartphone app. Any large bags must be checked in just like an airline.

You scan your ticket and go through a security checkpoint to gain access to the station lounge area.

Security is similar to TSA at an airport with small bags going through a scanner but otherwise it’s not as intense as at an airport.

The passenger waiting lounge is also designed like a modern airport terminal.

Seats are comfortable and each has an electric outlet and a USB charging port. This is a nod to the digital age in which we live.

Snacks and beverages are also available along with Brightline merchandise.

Tickets are at an introductory rate of either $10 one way for Smart car service or $15 for Select service.

We rode in the Smart car. Seating is very comfortable with plenty of legroom and, again, there are plenty of outlets and USB ports available.

The trains have free 4G Wi-Fi, which was very good. It was fast and we did not experience any drop in coverage.

On the train the crew does a beverage and snack cart. Smart car customers can purchase onboard.

However, Select service customers’ snacks and beverages, including beer and wine, are complimentary. Select service also has larger seats.

The ride was smooth and took about a half hour to go the 40 miles between stations. The Brightline staff was courteous and professional throughout the process.

The only downside was that riders are not allowed on the platform until the train has arrived and is ready for boarding. For most travelers this is not an issue but might be for railfans.

I was able to get photos of the arriving train from the overhead concourse and also a Florida East Coast freight train that passed by.

Currently, Brightline operates between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. But the Miami station is complete and test trains are operating into it. There weren’t any running the day that we visited, unfortunately.

Eventually, Brightline will build a line into Orlando international Airport where the station has already been built.

A brand new railroad will be constructed between there and Titusville, Florida, where it will join the Florida East Coast to continue its trip to Miami.

Speeds are 79 mph and will be 110 mph on the new line. Brightline is projected to have this line open by 2020. Further expansion plans include Orlando to Tampa and West Palm to Jacksonville.

The trains themselves are built by Siemens. The engines are SC44 Chargers, which run on bio diesel fuel. Each train has two engines and four passenger cars. Each train is painted in a different color scheme.

I was very impressed by the whole operation both from a railfan perspective and also as a traveler.

Brightline is the future for railroad passenger travel and is all the more interesting because it is entirely funded by private capital.

No tax dollars are used in its construction or operation. One of my companions sadly remarked that this is what the Tri-C corridor in Ohio could have been.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

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