Palm Beach Post: Cerabino: New stops on Brightline tracks calls for Spirit-ed solution

Posted on September 3, 2018

By: Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post

Dear Brightline customers:

You may have seen the recent news that our exciting speedy passenger rail service in South Florida may add stops on the Treasure and Space Coasts.

This has raised some questions as we move forward in this next exciting phase of operations by completing the missing miles of track that will connect our three existing stations in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami with our northern hub at the Orlando International Airport.

The state has given us a green light on issuing $1.75 billion in “private activity” federal tax-exempt bonds, which will go a long way to making us achieve our goal of beginning service to Orlando in 2021.

The bonds allow us to fulfill a primary sales pitch of our service: Getting people from South Florida to Orlando quicker than they could get there by car.

You might be wondering how that will be affected by adding more stops between West Palm Beach and Orlando. This past week, we’ve asked officials from Stuart, Fort Pierce, Vero Beach, and Sebastian to identify viable locations for Brightline stations in their cities.

We know what you’re thinking. That if we add one or more of these stations, you, the rider, will no longer be able to get from West Palm Beach to Orlando on the train in less than two hours.

And that the time-saving aspect to the train will be eliminated with the addition of stations along the part of the route where the trains are supposed to be traveling at 110 miles-per-hour, their fastest speeds.

Or that this call for new stations is a ploy to blunt the lawsuits against Brightline from Martin and Indian River counties, a way to throw them a bone, to give them something other than a procession of speeding trains whooshing by all day long.

But you are wrong. We will add stations and still get you to Orlando in about two hours.

How will we do it? We haven’t worked out all the details yet. But we will. We have to.

It’s only way to make the train viable. If we lose the time angle, that will just encourage people in Boca Raton, Boynton Beach and Jupiter to clamor for their own stations. And then it won’t be long before you’ve gone from high-speed train to Tri-Rail with a beverage cart.

So, instead, we have decided to revolutionize rail service and what it means to “catch a train.”

For starters, who says the train has to stop at the Treasure Coast stations? Sure the word “station” is part of the word “stationary.” But slowing and stopping would take too long and ruin the whole time-saving angle of the train.

So we will be working very closely with the customer service people at Spirit Airlines, who are very good at changing customer behavior by making travelers pay for things they once considered to be free.

Instead of paying top dollar for a train that stops, our customers will learn to modify their expectations by mastering the skill of exiting and boarding a moving train.

Instead of stopping at one of these new stations, the train could roll by at the same speed as a passenger conveyor belt along the platform. Exit on one side, board on the other by simply stepping from the moving belt to the moving train.

It would be just like the way you get on and off the Haunted Mansion ride at Walt Disney World, except the belt at the train station would be moving twenty times faster.

Sure, this may not seem like an attractive option for travelers at first.

But then again, neither did shlepping your suitcase on to a plane to avoid a checked-luggage fee…

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