FLORIDA: As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, an estimated 55 million Americans are gearing up for travel, making it one of the busiest on record according to AAA projections. Meanwhile, Florida’s newly launched high-speed rail service, Brightline, between Miami and Orlando, emerges as a notable development in travel options. Brightline, the sole privately owned multi-city railroad in the U.S., began operations less than two months ago and has already reported profitability and a significant increase in ridership. With speeds reaching 125 miles per hour, the train service has seen a remarkable 116% surge in ridership this year, drawing positive feedback from commuters like Jack Fernandez, praising its convenience and efficiency.
The rail’s successful expansion from Miami to Orlando, paralleling an expressway, accelerated the permitting and construction process, setting the stage for future extensions like the route to Tampa. The project, vastly different from California’s costly and delayed high-speed rail, was completed in a considerably shorter timeframe. With in-seat food service and top-quality amenities, Brightline aims to offer a competitive edge over road travel. Wes Edens, Brightline’s chairman, highlighted the time-saving advantage of the Orlando-Miami route, shaving off one to two hours from typical travel times.
Brightline’s success has spurred plans for a Los Angeles-Las Vegas rail connection, a $12 billion endeavor projected to operate within four years. This ambitious project promises speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour and stands as a testament to the potential viability of high-speed rail across the U.S. While Europe and Asia have successfully implemented high-speed rail systems, their adoption in the U.S. will require substantial public funding. The bipartisan infrastructure bill has allocated $66 billion for rail projects, emphasizing the collaboration between private enterprise and government initiatives.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, advocating for rail travel, commended Brightline’s innovation during a recent trip on the service. Meanwhile, Amtrak, with plans for higher-speed corridors nationwide by 2035, acknowledges the need for showcasing the promise of rail travel to the public. As Thanksgiving travelers prepare for the busy season, the rise of high-speed rail services like Brightline signals a shift in the U.S. travel landscape, offering a faster, more efficient alternative to road travel while prompting discussions on the future of rail transportation.