There’s a lot of noise about South Florida’s first privately funded passenger rail service.
“We’re trying to get quiet zones established in Broward County,” said Tom Green, board member of the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization. “No more train horns in Broward County.”
The horns are coming from Brightline, which began operating passenger rail service between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale last month. The new train caught some off guard resulting in four fatalities in Palm Beach County.
“People aren’t use to fast trains in South Florida,” said Green, a Wilton Manors Commissioner.
Murry Stegelmann, a Boca Raton hedge fund manager, rode Brightline for the first time last Saturday. Stegelmann and three friends took the train from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach and back.
“Brightline built beautiful stations and new parking garages in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach,” said Stegelmann. “The ride was pleasant, especially with alcoholic beverages being sold on the train.”
Inside the sleek trains — painted yellow, red and green — passengers sit in palatial leather high-back reclining seats with arm rests. There is table seating for families and groups and a beverage cart offering snacks and drinks.
Both stations have a snack bar, premium select lounge, complimentary Wi-Fi, newsstand and expansive views of downtown city skylines.
The train leaves 11 times daily for the 40 minute ride.
Stegelmann said it was hard to differentiate between the seating.
“I didn’t find their premium seats to be materially nicer than the regular seats,” he said.
Brightline is currently offering low introductory ticket prices ($10) and free garage parking in an attempt to lure new passengers. Rail service to Miami is expected to commence later this year.
“I’m excited for the service to be extended to downtown Miami,” said Stegelmann.
Green said the Miami station will have a ‘wow factor’ in its design. However, before Brightline arrives safety measures must be taken. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has asked the Florida Department of Transportation to evaluate rail crossings in light of “unfortunate incidents” in Palm Beach County.
Green notes that while four people have been killed by Brightline trains, 32 people lost their lives in car accidents in Broward County during that same time span.
In a news release, Brightline officials said all public at-grade railroad crossings along the FEC Railway corridor of its operating route have comprehensive safety infrastructure in place, including gates, constant warning time (predictor systems), bells, flashing red lights and signage.
Brightline Chief Operating Officer Patrick Goddard said a partnership with Operation Lifesaver seeks to create additional public service announcement campaigns in English, Spanish and Creole.
“For the past year we have been engaged in the communities along the corridor, and we will continue these outreach efforts,” Goddard said, in a news release. “We implore the public to be patient and not circumvent the safety devices in place to keep you safe. Your life is worth more than waiting for a few extra seconds for a train to pass.”
On the Web: gobrightline.com
Fort Lauderdale Station Address: 101 NW 2nd Avenue
West Palm Beach Station Address: 501 Evernia Street