March 8th, 2019
As fewer people apply for driver’s licenses and more take ride-sharing services, the team behind Virgin Trains USA believes this is the perfect time to make train travel a new American habit.
Entering the newest train station in Miami, Florida is a bit like walking into another world. With natural light streaming through floor-to-ceiling windows, the modern building is bright, sleek and full of thoughtful amenities. Outlets and USB ports are at every seat, free Wi-Fi is available at the entranceway, and the entire structure smells lovely, thanks to a signature scent wafting through the corridors (grapefruit, orange and lemongrass with a touch of vanilla).
The multibillion-dollar Brightline train that stops at this station offers the only private intercity passenger train service in the country. The diesel-electric system currently connects Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. In 2021, it will expand to Orlando, with groundbreaking scheduled for later this year. Brightline partnered with Virgin last November, and will soon be rebranded Virgin Trains USA.
As fewer people in the United States apply for driver’s licenses and more take ride-sharing services, the team behind Virgin Trains believes that this is the perfect time to make train travel a new American habit. And they are starting with top urban areas in Florida.
“We recognized this major mobility problem that was starting to present itself between densely populated too-short-to-fly but too-long-to-drive areas, and we saw it as an opportunity,” said Patrick Goddard, president of Brightline.
An alluring promise to passengers is a shorter trip. In Florida, the train stops at stations along Interstate 95, but compared to that stretch of highway, where speeds average around 34 miles per hour, the train chugs along at up to 79 miles per hour. That cuts the hour-long drive from Fort Lauderdale to Miami in half; the hour and a half drive between Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach is cut to 45 minutes. The train has mostly been used by commuters, but company officials hope that it will appeal to more tourists.
The MiamiCentral station will soon be home to Central Fare, a new food hall, and is a 10-minute drive from Port Miami, the busiest cruise port in the world. That station also connects to public transit options like the Metrorail and the Tri-Rail. In Orlando, stations will be located at Walt Disney World and at Orlando International Airport, to entice travelers to hop onboard.
In December, Doug Maesk and his husband took the train from their home in Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach for a day trip. The journey by car would have been annoying, he said, while the train ride was very smooth and quiet.
“The seats were so comfortable, there was an attendant offering snacks and drinks,” Mr. Maesk said, noting that they didn’t travel first class. “Just being on the train was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon and it was a really nice way to travel.”
Source: The New York Times