Category Archives: All Aboard Florida

Want to ride FEC’s Santa Train? Here’s how you can win two tickets

A South Florida-based non-profit is raffling off a chance to ride (and work) on the Florida East Coast Railway’s annual Santa Train, which will deliver toys to children at several stops between Jacksonville and Miami.

The Florida East Coast Railway Society says the train ride is a “once in a lifetime experience” for rail enthusiasts. The winners will get to ride in two of the FEC’s business cars — the St. Augustine and the Azalea — while working as one of Santa’s elves when the train stops at multiple locations during the Dec. 9 trip south from Jacksonville.

Florida East Coast Railway has been running the holiday-themed train for more than five years. Tickets are not available to the general public.Proceeds from the raffle will be benefit the FEC’s Toys for Tots campaign, the society said. Two winners will be chosen, and each winner can bring one guest.
The cost of the raffle tickets are: $25 each; 5 for $100 ($20/ea); 10 for $175 ($17.50/ea); 20 for $300 ($15/ea); and 50 for $500 ($10/ea). They can be purchased by clicking here.

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Brightline derails, causing extensive damage; ‘definitive’ cause in question

A Brightline train derailed during testing earlier this year, causing more than $400,000 of damage, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

The derailment occurred at 5 p.m. Feb. 11 as one of Brightline’s five passenger trains returned to the railroad’s West Palm Beach maintenance facility, according to the incident report Brightline filed with the federal agency.

The train had just finished performing signal tests, according to Brightline.

As the train entered the yard, the locomotive truck — the part of the train that supports the locomotive and provides propulsion and braking — derailed, taking two axles off the track.

Damages to the train was about $408,000; damage to the track was negligible, according to Brightline.

The $3.5 billion Miami-to-Orlando passenger railroad is to begin phase 1 service, between Miami and West Palm Beach, by the end of the year. The railroad has not set a date for phase 2 — from West Palm, through the Treasure Coast and Space Coast and on to Orlando International Airport — but service is expected to be at least several years away.

Though popular in South Florida and much of Brevard County, Brightline has faced staunch opposition and legal action from Treasure Coast governments and citizen groups, which say the railroad would endanger public safety, the environment and quality of life.

Construction on Brightline’s apartment tower tops out

Rendering shows new real estate development called Park-Line, owned by Florida East Coast Industries, Brightline’s parent company,Wednesday July 12, 2017, in West Palm Beach.The rental apartments are being built next to Brightline’s stations in downtown West Palm Beach and Miami. The 24-floor Park-Line tower in West Palm Beach will have 290 units. Rental rates have not been released.(Photo by Florida East Coast Industries)

West Palm Beach —
Construction on the 24-story residential tower rising next to Brightline’s station in downtown West Palm Beach has reached its top elevation, marking a new milestone for the project, which is slated to open next year and is designed to appeal to commuters looking for easy access to the company’s soon-to-launch passenger trains.

Brightline’s parent company, Florida East Coast Industries, on Thursday celebrated the “topping out” of the Park-Line apartment tower, a ceremonial event to commemorate the end of its vertical construction.

The 290-unit building is located just west of the Brightline station, and within walking distance of both Clematis Street and CityPlace. Its proximity to the train tracks also gives tenants a direct link to Brightline’s trains, which are expected to begin service between West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami in the coming months.

South Florida commuters have become a key demographic for the rail project. Brightline plans to link Miami and Orlando with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, offering an alternative to millions of tourists who make the trip by car.

But construction on the line between West Palm Beach and Orlando has yet to begin, and officials have said it will be at least 2020 before the company’s trains start running between south and the Orlando Airport in central Florida. The delay means commuters and others — particularly those living and working in its buildings — looking to transit between West Palm Beach and Miami will be the line’s primary customers.

Palm Beach Post

So What Is Doing With Brightline In Florida?

Brightline has not said when it will begin regular passenger service, or how much fares will cost. But here are a slew of stats about the much-anticipated rail service.

Five trains. Four are in Florida. The fifth, Brightline Red, is expected around the end of the month.

Each train has two locomotives and four passenger coaches – seating approximately 240 guests.

The trains are built in the U.S. with the help of more than 40 suppliers in more than 20 states.

16 weekday round trips.

At the inception of service, Brightline will run 3 trains on regular daily duty, have one in reserve and one in maintenance.
A total of 473 parking spots in West Palm Beach, 670 in Fort Lauderdale.

5 Brightline “teammates” on each train, including engineer, train manager and guest attendants.

42,000 – number of Operation Lifesaver safety fliers that were sent to School District of Palm Beach county families living along Florida East Coast Railway tracks.

900 jobs created by project in Palm Beach County.

An app. The company says it will make an app available a week to 10 days before train service starts to facilitate ticket purchases.

$300 million: Brightline’s total economic impact in Palm Beach County.

Data from Florida East Coast Railway and Brightline

Brightline rail will start with deeply discounted fares

The new Brightline rail service linking Miami to West Palm Beach with a stop in Fort Lauderdale will start with deeply discounted fares when it takes its first runs in late summer and offers full service in the early fall, CEO Dave Howard says.

While he wouldn’t reveal the fare structure, Mr. Howard told a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce transportation meeting last week that the discounted cost is “going to be less than the cost of driving your car.”
Fares, he said, won’t be revealed until just before operations begin. He did not provide specific dates.

The full service in the fall, he said, will amount to 32 round trips daily between Miami and West Palm Beach.

The West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale stations, built expressly for the Brightline service, are getting their final touches, Mr. Howard said, while the massive station complex in downtown Miami handled by parent All Aboard Florida continues to rise.

Asked to predict the status of the railroad next June, he said that Brightline will then be on the way to carrying 3 million passengers a year.
“The railroad is the answer of the future,” traveling on a line that was built by railroad magnate Henry Flagler just before 1900. “What an awesome opportunity to reinvent that system.”

The railroad as conceived by its owner, Coral Gables-based Florida East Coast Industries, was to be a link between Miami and Orlando, linking to Orlando’s cluster of globally known theme attractions. But communities along the route have tried to sidetrack the planned operations, delaying that longer part of the run.

Mr. Howard said only that the Brightline will be “ultimately connecting to Orlando in phase 2 of our project.” He did not provide an estimate of how long that might take.

He did note, as he has in the past, that no privately funded passenger rail service has been completed in the US in the past 100 years. “This is a privately funded project that has enormous public benefits,” he said.
He said the level of service planned on the line now exists nowhere in the nation.
That might help to cut into the car-centric culture in the region.
“Yes, we need to change behavior, Mr. Howard conceded, “but the behavior that we have to change is painful. So it should be relatively easy” to motivate South Floridians to ride the rails rather than suffer in heavy traffic.
As for the impact on the community, Mr. Howard, who arrived here in March from New York, where he ran sports-oriented organizations, said that he hears a lot from employers about dependency on cars impeding business growth. “They can’t afford to lose people for hours in the day in their cars just to attend meetings,” he said.

As for getting Millennials to ride the Brightline, he said that the generation is much more favorably inclined to alternative travel modes than their elders and they already feel connected to city centers. Brightline, he said, is one of the solutions to connect the cities together.

Mr. Howard said that the owners of the Brightline feel good about their investment. The cost was low, because they already owned the right-of-way. At a cost of a little more than $1 billion for the five train sets and stations combined, he said, “this is actually an extraordinarily efficient investment.”

BRIGHTLINE Gives Show & Tell At Town Meeting

BBgest cheers came when Brightline officials told a town hall audience that the express passenger trains would be serving alcohol when service begins later this summer.

That was just one of the amenities promised to about two dozen potential riders who attended an information meeting at the ArtServe center in Fort Lauderdale.

Several heard — for the first time — about the sleek new trains that would zip riders between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in 30 minutes beginning in late July. It will also take a half hour to get from Fort Lauderdale to Miami when that route begins in August.

Officials twice dodged questions about how much it would cost to ride the high speed train, adding that they would announce a menu of fares and ticket packages closer to when the service begins.

“We’re not announcing that yet [but the cost] will be comparable to driving a car,” said Ali Soule, Brightline spokeswoman. “But, more convenient, reliable and comfortable and you won’t be stuck in traffic.”

With about 30 Brightline trains added to nearly 18 freight trains daily, people wanted to know how much more noise their neighborhoods would have to endure.

Most of the railroad crossing modifications have been done to comply with federal Quiet Zone requirements, Soule said.

There are about 200 crossings along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks between Miami and West Palm Beach.

The additions of medians, four-way or quad-gates, signals and signs at almost every crossing will end the need for passenger and freight train to blast their horns as a warning to drivers and pedestrians.

After 1OO+ Years, Private Industry Will Build Rail Infrastructure

The last time a private American company built rail infrastructure was more than 100 years ago. But this summer’s launch of Brightline service, connecting downtown Miami with Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, could propel private passenger rail forward.

The trio of southeast coastal-Florida cities, which comprise the destinations in the first phase of the $3 billion, 235-mile project, are well suited to testing a privately funded rail revival. “We have to challenge the monopoly of the car and adapt to changing trends of millennials,” says Brightline president Mike Reininger, referring to the dual desires of young adults to settle in cities and do without cars. Between 2000 and 2012, this demographic increased in population 24.7 percent around Brightline’s service corridor, 118 percent around Miami alone, while auto congestion in the area consistently ranked among the world’s worst traffic. Brightline uses the century-old Florida East Coast Railway corridor, on which its parent organization ships freight, although the right-of-way access still had to undergo extensive community review.

The company’s new investments should yield benefits for passengers and the wider public. Perhaps most significant, its Miami terminal links three different commuter lines while its groundfloor retail space stitches together four downtown neighborhoods, says Roger Duffy, design partner of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in New York. The firm designed all three stations in association with Miami-based Zyscovich Architects.

The terminal is noteworthy visually as well. “The architectural expression is in the base structure,” says Duffy, who adds that visible V-bracing and multimodal connections at the smaller Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach stations unify the three. Rockwell Group was responsible for Brightline’s colorful branding, including exterior train graphics and car interiors.

The project’s second phase, which is slated to open with the completion of the Intermodal Terminal Facility at Orlando International Airport in 2018, will connect coastal South Florida to that city.

Ferromex’s owner nears deal to acquire Florida East Coast Railway

The owner of Ferrocarril Mexicano (Ferromex), Mexico’s largest railroad operator, is nearing a deal to acquire Florida East Coast Railway for more than $2 billion, including debt.

The potential deal shows that Ferromex’s parent, Mexican mining conglomerate Grupo Mexico , is now seeking to apply its railroad operating expertise to foreign assets after dominating the railway freight sector. The acquisition would come at a sensitive time for relations between the United States and Mexico, following a pledge by U.S. President Donald Trump to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and tighten immigration controls. Grupo Mexico has prevailed in an auction for Florida East Coast Railway and is now negotiating final terms with the U.S. regional railroad’s owner, Fortress Investment Group LLC

If the negotiations are completed successfully, a deal could be announced as early as this week, the people added, asking not to be identified because the sale process is confidential. Fortress declined to comment. Ferromex, Grupo Mexico and Florida East Coast Railway did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Based in Jacksonville, Florida East Coast Railway operates a 351-mile (565-km) freight rail system located along the east coast of Florida. Fortress took Florida East Coast Railway private in 2007 for $3.5 billion. Fortress, an investment firm with $69.6 billion in assets under management as of the end of December, agreed last month to sell itself to Japan’sSoftBank Group Corp for $3.3 billion.

Grupo Mexico, one of the world’s largest copper producers, together with Kansas City Southern de Mexico and Ferrovalle, control more than 72 percent of the Mexican rail freight market. Grupo Mexico and Kansas City Southern de Mexico together have a 75 percent stake in Ferrovale. Earlier this month, Mexico’s antitrust watchdog criticized Grupo Mexico and Kansas City Southern de Mexico for using their rail freight market share to fix prices, restrict supply and impede access to their networks.

First finished Brightline train, now steaming to South Florida

Siemens workers gather as the first completed Brightline train gets set to roll from the manufacturing facility in Sacramento, Calif., bound for South Florida.

The train, consisting of two diesel-electric locomotives and four coaches, all decked out in Brightline Blue, arrived in West Palm Beach on Wednesday after a 3,000-mile journey from the Siemens manufacturing hub in Sacramento to South Florida. By rail, of course.

The train will now begin undergoing testing along the Florida East Coast Railway line between West Palm Beach and Miami, the company said.

Brightline’s parent company, Florida East Coast Industries subsidiary All Aboard Florida, is scheduled to start regular express passenger service between West Palm and Miami, with a stop in Fort Lauderdale, next summer. The company intends to add service to Orlando in 2018.

Fortress Exploring Sale of Florida East Coast Railway

FOrtress Investment Group is exploring a sale of Florida East Coast Railway Corp., the coastal freight operator it took private in 2007.

Asset manager Fortress is working with Barclays and Morgan Stanley to weigh options for Jacksonville-based Florida East Coast Railway. The company is likely to attract interest from other private equity firms, infrastructure firms and railway operators.

The holding company of Florida East Coast Railway — Florida East Coast Industries Inc. — was taken private in 2007 by funds managed by Fortress in a transaction valued at about $3.5 billion. The fund later spun off the railway operations into a separate company, leaving real estate, logistics and telecommunications assets under the FECI umbrella.

Fortress, based in New York, had about $70.2 billion in assets under management as of June 30, according to its website. Florida East Coast Railway can trace its roots back to 1895, when industrialist Henry M. Flagler bought the Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Halifax, and Indian River railroads to create a transportation route along the state’s coastline.