Brightline, the private rail venture in Florida, starts hourly service between Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach Jan. 13. Nonstop trains will take 35 minutes from stations located in the historical city centers.
Brightline is the first all-private passenger rail program to start in the U.S. since forever. It’s a part of the legendary Florida East Coast Railway (FEC), and uses the original FEC right of way that passes through the centers of the many cities along the South Florida coast. Brightline’s business plan includes extensive commercial, retail, and residential development of stations and their surroundings.
FEC was a major contributor to the growth and development of Florida’s East Coast as a winter travel destination. The line originated in 1885, and in 1912 it extended to Key West over a then-revolutionary series of overwater bridges — many of which now support the famed Keys highway. FEC hosted a majority of the “name train” streamlines from the Northeast and Midwest to Florida during the heyday of train travel through to the 1950s. FEC dropped passenger service in 1968 because of labor trouble, and the remaining Florida trains — later Amtrak — rerouted over the parallel Seaboard line which is several miles west of the city centers. The existing Tri-Rail local commuter service also uses the former Seaboard main line.
Oddly, although its route is better located for local service than Tri-Rail’s route, Brightline does not plan local service. Instead, it plans to extend southward toward a single station in downtown Miami later this year and northward to Orlando later. Brightline’s express service between Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach is scheduled for 35 minutes, compared with an hour for Tri-Rail’s locals. Brightline’s trains also provide roomier seating and extensive onboard services.
— Ed Perkins, editor
For more travel tips from Ed Perkins, see our companion site Ed on Travel