In a Directors Forum this week, Michael Reininger, President of All Aboard Florida, met with Civic Association Directors to describe All Aboard's new proposed passenger rail service and business plan for the first-ever privately owned rail line in the United States.
The trains will connect South and Central Florida using 195 miles of an existing, active rail corridor located along the eastern portion of the state that parallels U.S. 1, the FEC rail line that Henry Flagler purchased and built in the 1890’s.
“Currently, the track only runs freight trains, about 14 through-trains a day,” said Michael Reininger. “Forty (40) new route miles will be created parallel to State Road 528, from the Cocoa / Port Canaveral area to connect to the Orlando International Airport.”
The express service will only have four stops at first: Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Orlando. All Aboard will offer 32 trains per day (16 northbound and 16 southbound), from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., linking Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach by the end of 2016. A leg to Orlando International Airport will open in 2017, for a total of 235 miles.
When completed, the total trip time between Miami and Orlando will be about three hours. These new express trains will travel between 80 and 125 mph.
When asked by the directors about funding, Mr. Reininger said, "It's private capital doing what it does best – creating new transportation infrastructure, creating thousands of jobs and billions of dollars' worth of GDP. No public tax dollars are at risk. The startup budget is $2.5 billion." Click Here to See the Directors & Guests at the Event.
West Palm Beach Location
The 60,000 square foot All Aboard station and platform in downtown West Palm Beach, with the train tracks that run parallel to S. Quadrille, will be located between Datura and Evernia Streets. CityPlace and the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts Center are two blocks away, and the government center district and Clematis Street are four blocks away.
The Tri-Rail - Amtrak West Palm Station track is west of CityPlace parallelling Tamarind Ave.
Safety, Noise, and Traffic
Quiet Zones have already been approved with the cooperation of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties. That means no train horns for the entire corridor. New crossing configurations will block traffic when a train passes so there is no need for horns.
All Aboard trains will operate at 80-125 mph. "The worst case from the time a road crossing is closed to open is 45 seconds," said Mr. Reininger.
Train Line Amenities
“These will be state-of-the-art trains,” said Mr. Reininger. “Think the new private Italian train line, not what we are used to here.” From the All Aboard Florida website:
- Dynamic WiFi: All Aboard Florida has invested into a beefed-up, high-bandwidth signal that it owns along the route, so passengers will have no problems doing work, playing games or listening to music during their ride.
- Cafe car/bar car: During the three-hour ride, of course you might get hungry or thirsty, so you’ll have the option of visiting the dining car for a snack or the bar car for a drink with friends. All Aboard Florida also is looking into apps that would allow you to order your beverage or snack to be delivered to your seat on the train.
- Seating configuration: Whether traveling with family, friends or alone on a business trip, riders can choose the type of seating configuration best suited for their party when booking tickets online. Each train will fit up to 400 passengers, and seats will be the same or larger than first-class airline seats. And you can check your luggage on the train, too.
- Fully ADA-compliant: Along with wide aisles, the trains also will have level boarding with no steps, which will allow for wheelchairs, scooters and bikes to be able to wheel directly onto the train.
"All Aboard Florida will transform the way tourists, residents and professionals travel between South and Central Florida," said Mr. Reininger. "It will get a lot of people to try rail instead of driving their car, because it will offer downtown to downtown service."
Parking garages will be at each of the stations Mr. Reininger said, “Since the stations are at airports or downtown, all the convenient ground transportation options are right there… shuttles, Uber, taxis, car rental, and more.”
Demographics and Fares
“Our service is in the sweet-spot for transportation – three hours. It’s too long to drive comfortably and too short to fly,” said Mr. Reininger. “Our riders will be 40-50% tourists, 30% business, and 25% local.”
“Florida pulled ahead of New York last year as the third most populated state,” said Lynn Martenstein, a spokesperson for All Aboard. “Even more demands are now being placed on Florida’s transportation systems.” All Aboard Florida believes it will take 3 million car trips off the road of the 500 million car trips currently along the route.
“Fares haven’t been announced yet but we are going to calculate what it would cost to drive your car and price will be close to that,” Mr. Reininger told directors. “The convenience factor of not having to worry about driving and parking while sitting comfortably with your iPad and mobile phone are huge benefits.”
To get to the Miami Airport from West Palm Beach will be less than an hour and trains will take you right to the terminal.
Resistance to the Project
Officials of communities north of Jupiter oppose the service because they say they'll have to deal with noise and blocked crossings; but, will not have any stops. Boaters who sail along the New River in Fort Lauderdale and on waterways in Martin and St. Lucie counties fear they'll face long waits as the trains cross bridge openings. Mr. Reininger told the directors that after the initial launch, they’ll look at more stops and other options for more local service.
In the 1890's, Henry Flagler bought up small railroads and standardized the width between their rails. He then merged them into the Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway and steadily extended service south from St. Augustine.
When he reached what is today West Palm Beach in 1894, he found a community of settlers spread around Lake Worth. Mr. Flagler made it a point to convert the region into a bustling business center, laying out streets and building two luxury hotels, the Royal Poinciana and The Breakers.
All Aboard Florida is using the FEC railway. “After passenger service was stopped in 1969, parts of the double tracks [northbound and southbound rails] were removed and sold off because it was cheaper than maintaining them,” said Mr. Reininger. Those tracks are being replaced and the existing tracks are being upgraded.
Today and Near Future:
Florida Train Timeline
1834: The Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad, the first line in Florida, uses mules to run from Tallahassee to the Gulf of Mexico.
1836: The state's first steam-powered train, the Lake Wimico and St. Joseph Canal and Railroad Co., runs from St. Joseph to White City on the panhandle.
1878: Industrialist Henry Flagler visits St. Augustine and recognizes potential to develop the region with rail. He begins buying small railroads and merging them into one.
1893: Flagler visits Lake Worth region. He lays out roads, builds hotels and extends his railroad, leading to development of West Palm Beach.
1895: Flagler's railroad is incorporated as the Florida East Coast Railway.
1896: FEC reaches Miami, the town is incorporated.
1900: Seaboard Air Line is incorporated.
1905: Construction starts on Overseas Railroad to Key West.
1912: First train arrives in Key West.
1931: Florida East Coast Railway declares bankruptcy.
1935: Labor Day hurricane wipes out much of the railroad's track in the Keys.
1967: Seaboard Air Line merges with Atlantic Coast Line to become Seaboard Coast Line.
1969: Passenger Trains stopped on Florida East Coast Railway. Becomes freight only.
1980: Chessie System and Seaboard Coast Line Industries Inc. united and CSX Corporation was born.
1983: Florida East Coast Industries, a descendent of Flagler's railroad, is incorporated.
1986: Seaboard System Railroad renames itself CSX Transportation.
2012: Florida East Coast Industries announced plans to launch the $1 billion privately All Aboard Florida.