Brightline, a high-speed rail line that serves south Florida’s busy tourist corridor, is up and running. Their motto — “carefree and car-free” – sums up the vast potential for this train to succeed with business commuters and international tourists who prefer not to rent a car.

Envisioned to run a 235-mile route from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando; Brightline began intercity service between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale in April and extended it to Miami Beach in May 2018.

Orlando service is on schedule to open in 2021, and there are rumors that Brightline may choose Tampa next.

Meanwhile, families can ride the high-speed rails between Miami and West Palm Beach with a variety of summer specials, including reduced fare Summer Sundays, and pets and bikes go free offers. Kids go free too, with each paying adult able to bring up to two children under age 13 aboard at no cost through August 31, 2018.

New transportation alternatives

Brightline is at the head of the pack in public mobility services.

They are headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida, a fitting home for a company that is using Henry Flagler’s old Florida-East Coast rail lines to run its service. Many of the original ca. 1912 tracks now being leased by Metrorail and Amtrak were refurbished so that the high-speed trains could reach so-called “Higher Speeds” between 79mph and 125mph.

The beauty of the system using existing tracks is that it links with three currently operating public transit rail systems to create integrated multimodal hubs.

The first is MiamiCentral, an 11-acre mixed-use development in the heart of downtown Miami. Located by the Perez Art Museum near Biscayne Bay, it houses the Brightline station, shops, the Central Fare food court featuring several local celebrity chefs, and more. Having residential units in the mix guarantees there won’t be a ‘wrong side of the tracks’; station areas are fully functional and vibrant neighborhoods on their own.

Brightline transforms commuting

Brightline Miami station
Brightline’s MiamiCentral station, seen from 6th Street.

Brightline projects an annual ridership of 3 million this year. After another $1.5 billion investment completes the Phase 2 extension to Orlando Airport (you can already see their futuristic terminal when you fly into the airport!), their market will expand enormously, to 60 million annual visitors.

Commuters pay a bit more than Amtrak, but can expect amenities such as a roaming food cart and power outlets at each seat. Each rail car is fully accessible, pet-friendly, and has touch-free washrooms to maintain hygienic conditions. Select cars are configured with two seats on one side and one on the other, and lower-priced Smart cars will have two and two seating. Passengers have complimentary WiFi, bike and luggage storage racks, and eventually, a dining car.

For now, speed and comfort are the allure.

Imagine going from Miami’s downtown Government Center Metrorail station to Fort Lauderdale in just 30 minutes and, one day, to Orlando in 3 hours without traffic. Users can take advantage of the Brightline app to book tickets, reserve seats and get schedule updates.

Brightline and Virgin are the Future of Rail Travel

In big news announced November 2018, Virgin Group bought a minority interest in the Brightline operation and will rebrand the train system as Virgin Trains USA in 2019.

They are currently the only privately owned, operated and maintained passenger rail system in the United States. Among the company’s biggest potential benefits are a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption, because an estimated three million vehicles will be taken off the roads each year.

Just being able to avoid the I-95 traffic is enough to get most Floridians excited. To book tickets, go to the Go Brightline site, download the app and keep an eye out for new branding to come in 2019.

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