Category Archives: 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.

New AMTRAK “Charger”Locomotives Testing on Cascades Route in Washington

National certification testing of Amtrak’s new Charger locomotive is being conducted by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The WSDOT said that the Siemens SC-44 Charger units are testing on the Amtrak Cascades corridor throughout February. If all goes well they are scheduled to enter regular service later this year.

The WSDOT has ordered eight of the 4,400-horsepower locomotives, which are being assembled by Siemens in Sacramento.

Siemens is headquartered in Germany and builds locomotives also for Florida East Coast Railway’s BRIGHTLINE

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.

Who Will Buy Florida East Coast Railway???

As we recently reported, Fortress Investment Group LLC is considering a sale of Florida East Coast Railway (FECR). As well as having been completely modernized (motive power, etc), the roadbed has been upgraded to accomodate Brightline passenger trains (still owned by Fortress).

Candidates I have heard about are CSX, NS and Genesee & Wyoming. CSX owns trackage that competes against Florida East Coast, but it is not as high quality as FECR. NS owns nothing South of Jacksonville (Northern terminus of FEC). Genesee & Wyoming is not a participant in the Florida race.

FECR has exclusive access to the top two container seaports in the state of Florida, perceived competitive advantages may block any deal for Class I’s.

Fortress has an investment valued at around $3.5 billion. But the sale of FECR does not include real estate, logistics and telecommunications assets. It is unclear as to the portion of valuation specifically tied to FECR.

My idea: CSX buys FECR and sells much of it’s existing property (Jacksonville to Miami) to G&W or another large regional/short line company.

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.

Railroad tracks back in service after Hurricane Matthew

Railroad tracks in St. Augustine that were underwater during Hurricane Matthew were back in service Tuesday, according to a spokesperson with Florida East Coast Railway.

Crews went out Saturday and put more rock around the tracks and made repairs.

Some railroad signals in Flagler and Brevard counties are out because of the power outages there, and generators have been put in those locations to power the signals until power is restored.

Florida East Coast Railway Named Highest Value Rail Provider

Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) has a long history of providing value through flexible, safe and reliable rail transportation, and has been named the highest valued rail service provider in America by Logistics Management magazine by earning their 2016 Quest for Quality award.

The Quest for Quality award is regarded as one of the most important measure of customer satisfaction and performance excellence. Transportation service providers are rated on the areas of on-time performance, value, information technology, customer service and equipment and operations.

For over 100 years, FECR has been known for its innovative culture and early adoption of railroad technologies. The railroad continues to implement the latest equipment, processes and technology to ensure the highest level of safety and reliability while providing a broad variety of equipment and scheduled services that allows flexible, tailored shipping solutions.

“Our goal is to provide employees, customers and the communities in which we operate the benefits of being the safest and most reliable railroad in America,” said Adam Bridges, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Planning at Florida East Coast Railway. “We continually enhance our operations with groundbreaking technology to provide on-time performance with the utmost safety, and dependability across all our operations.”
FECR currently uses both Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) and Automatic Train Control (ATC) signal systems to provide overlapping layers of protection and safety. FECR is in the process of incorporating Positive Train Control (PTC), to ensure efficient, safe train operations.

FECR also incorporates advanced locomotive technologies, such as Trip Optimizer and Wi-Tronix, which provide awareness of human and environmental factors with train operations to help optimize movements and ensure the safest trip possible.

The company stays connected to its customers via their online web portal FECR Connect, delivering added value through features such as ‘order entry’ and real time equipment tracking. Also, creating EZ Buy, an online price quote and booking system for transactional door-to-door freight between South Florida and Southeast U.S. markets — offering a unique price negotiation capability to customers.

Additionally, FECR has launched the FEC Railway app, providing up to date information to customers, employees and communities. The app is now available on iTunes and Google Play app stores.
About Florida East Coast Railway

The Florida East Coast Railway (“FECR”) is a 351-mile freight rail system located along the east coast of Florida. It is the exclusive rail provider for PortMiami, Port Everglades, and Port of Palm Beach. FECR connects to the national railway system in Jacksonville, Fla., to move cargo originating or terminating there. Based in Jacksonville, Fla., FECR provides end-to-end intermodal and carload solutions to customers who demand cost-effective and premium quality. For additional information download the FEC Railway app, or visit http://www.fecrwy.com.

3 Things to Know: Brightline rail upgrades, train expected this fall

Crews for All Aboard Florida work upgrading tracks at 3rd Street and Quadrille Boulevard on the Florida East Coast Railway in West Palm Beach on September 6, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Locomotive tested on rails in California

All Aboard Florida’s Brightline announced Thursday it has completed initial testing of its first locomotive at a manufacturing plant in Sacramento, California.

The company said the locomotive, which is powered by a diesel-electric engine, was tested on a quarter-mile-long track at the Siemens manufacturing facility in California.

As part of the announcement, Brightline posted a video on its YouTube channel showing a driver operating the locomotive for the first time.

“After several years worth of effort the first of the train parts are coming together, and we are nearing the end of the manufacturing process for the first of our exciting new train sets,” Brightline President Michael Reininger said in the video.

The initial testing marks a milestone for the passenger rail service, which plans to run 32 trains a day along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks with stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, WestPalmBeach and Orlando. The company plans to launch service between Miami and WestPalmBeach in mid-2017.

In addition to the engine, Brightline officials said they tested 45 other areas on the locomotive, including the air and braking systems, the doors, the fire detection system and warning devices.The initial testing marks a milestone for the passenger rail service, which plans to run 32 trains a day along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks with stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, WestPalmBeach and Orlando. The company plans to launch service between Miami and WestPalmBeach in mid-2017.

In addition to the engine, Brightline officials said they tested 45 other areas on the locomotive, including the air and braking systems, the doors, the fire detection system and warning devices.

Brightline’s passenger trains are comprised of two locomotives and four stainless steel passenger cars.

“The operation of the locomotive and its passing of the initial track testing has demonstrated Siemens’ engineering expertise and given us a high degree of confidence that the Brightline service will be exceptionally reliable,” said Gene Skoropowski, senior vice president of railroad operations for Brightline. “Brightline will be the only passenger rail service in the country to have such dynamic and modern trains that will offer Americans a new and modern experience in train travel.”

Train expected in the fall

Brightline officials have said the first passenger train is expected to arrive in West Palm Beach this fall. The train will be housed at the company’s rail repair facility currently under construction just north of downtown.

“Once in the facility, it will undergo several months of static and dynamic testing,” Brightline said on its website. “When the dynamic testing begins, the train will be running on a short “test track” between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.”

Brightline began construction on the rail repair facility in January.

The facility will be used to repair, maintain, clean and store Brightline’s trains, All Aboard officials said. About 50 people will work out of the 12-are site at 601 15th Street, which is also expected to serve as an office for the company’s conductors, engineers, and on-board service staff.

Initially, five Brightline trains will be housed at the site, officials have said.

Martin County continues to challenge project

Martin County commissioners last month said they planned to continue to fight to block the rail line’s expansion north through the Treasure Coast.

Martin officials declared a “major victory” in the battle last month, after a federal judge denied motions to dismiss a lawsuit challenging All Aboard Florida’s ability to sell $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds to help pay for the project.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper last month found that the bonds are key to AllAboardFlorida’s ability to complete the second phase of the rail line

Martin and Indian River counties filed federal lawsuits last year against the U.S. Department of Transportation challenging whether AllAboardFlorida is eligible for the private activity bonds. AllAboardFlorida is an intervenor in the suit.

By Jennifer Sorentrue – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer