Although the term “fast train” in this context might make a few European and Asian railroad commuters smile, US “fast trains” are getting more abundant nonetheless — albeit, at an American pace — and that’s a good thing. From California to Texas (a coming story) to Florida, progress is being made.
In the case of Florida, a private rail transport company in Miami just revived an exciting route that could be the start of a statewide passenger rail network. Can you imagine that? The line’s top speed is essentially the same as the northwestern AMTRAK Cascades trains, which runs at 80 mph (129 km/h). This may not seem lighting quick, but it is fast enough to make regional rail transport attractive nonetheless, especially considering the insane traffic of Southern Florida. So, with some right, the company — Brightline — proudly hails its role in progressing another region into a “high-speed” rail future.
Can Fast Trains Ever Take Off In The USA?
For those who commute on bullet trains all over the world, trains reaching speeds up to 250 km/h or even 350 km/h (155–217 mph), what AMTRAK considers fast is a bit of an oddity in this modern mobility world. But if we lower our standards a little bit, real fast train projects between the Atlantic and the Pacific are increasing the viability and attractiveness of rail transport.
The Acela Express launched the US into an era of reliable, fast, daily train service decades ago. While not the fastest, the Acela runs on regular tracks and is still the only truly fast train run in the US after decades of service. It gets as high as 150 mph (240 km/h), with average speeds of 70–84 mph (113–135 km/h).
Hopefully the Brightline trains are prepared to increase their speeds further down the line, metaphorically speaking, but at least they’re now on the map and offering faster, more convenient, more comfortable travel than driving in a car. They also look cool. Perhaps the private enterprise approach is a model to follow in other regions. Many other US markets slammed with auto congestion could benefit from some fast trains.
Miami Gets Brightline Fast Train
As noted above, Miami’s new fast train doesn’t come from AMTRAK or the public sector, but from Brightline, a privately funded rail transport service owned by Florida East Coast Industries. The one-hour, one-way ride from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and the connected hour-long ride to West Palm Beach are both regular services to and from downtown’s Miami central station is expected to come along with attractive mixed-used development and raise real estate values around the stations — due to the more attractive transportation options and accessibility.
The plan is to eventually link the rail service to Orlando in the coming years. Brightline Chief Operating Officer and President Patrick Goddard hailed the event as a continuation of Henry Flagler’s vision to connect Florida with railways. Imagine if Florida had actually been build around trains rather than highways and automobiles!
The company is holding special introductory fares for a one-way Miami to West Palm ride at $15 for “Smart” service and $25 for the more luxurious “Select” option. Between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, the tickets run between $10 and $15. What comes extra for the “Select” fares? Bigger seats as well as complimentary food & drinks.
These days, modern trains offer Wi-Fi and electric outlets in stations and aboard trains, nice perks worth noting. We’re not sure why a fast train would want to use heavy leather seats, but the company is proud of this on both services.
Trains leave Miami Central starting at 7:05 am until 8:05 pm Mondays through Thursdays and till 11:05 pm on Fridays. The earliest arrival at Miami Central on weekdays is at 6:35 am and the latest at 7:20 pm Mondays through Thursdays. The latest is 10:20 pm on Fridays.
You can see the full schedule on GoBrightline.com.
The future of electric mobility will take different roads and paths, pun intended. Trains and mass transportation will play key roles and fast trains are the next logical evolution for the US, which is too locked down in road congestion. We look forward to a nationwide network of high-speed trains where going from Los Angeles to New York will take just over a day instead of the 5 and sometimes more in the winter that it takes. Will it ever come?