Florida company eyes next big rail project

posted at 6:31 pm on July 6, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

We’ve discussed plenty of ill conceived transportation projects here, but there’s one in Florida which may be kicking off soon which might not seem quite as crazy. A Sunshine State company is seeking to re-start a passenger train line running from Orlando to Miami with stops in some of the major tourist and population centers along the way, running down the Atlantic coast. And they think they can have it running in less than two years.

In the most notable attempt to revive private intercity passenger-rail service in at least four decades, freight-rail company Florida East Coast Industries—owned by Fortress Investment Group LLC-managed funds—is planning to start construction in coming weeks on a $2.3 billion passenger-train line it is calling All Aboard Florida. The train would offer a roughly three-hour ride between Miami and Orlando, with stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

Although the project faces a host of challenges—including an environmental review, some residents’ opposition and uncertain federal backing—FECI is betting that the clogged highways, frustrating airport waits and growing demand to live in cities will allow the company to fill seats. The company says the fares will be less expensive than flying—which run more than $150 one-way—and competitive with the costs of driving. It hopes to have its first trains running by 2016.

While not entirely sunshine and unicorns, this project looks significantly different than the now $64B California high speed rail boondoggle which Ed has covered so thoroughly. First of all, this isn’t some space age, light rail or magnetic field Buzz Lightyear project, but rather standard (albeit rather fast) passenger train service primarily on existing rail lines with some repairs and improvements. Also, it’s at least a mostly private endeavor. (I say “mostly” because they are still relying on a not yet approved $1.6 billion loan from the Federal Railroad Administration.)

Is this something enough people would use to make it profitable? Having just this week finished a twice delayed, 36 hour airplane adventure trying to get back to New York from Tennessee – in which they managed to lose my luggage until today – I find myself once again sort of yearning for more opportunities for rail as an option. Granted, it doesn’t work all over the country economically, but given how generally horrible air travel has become for the economy class flyer, I bet a lot of people would give it a look in high traffic areas. The Northeast corridor is one obvious choice, but the Florida coast might be another. And they claim they’ll be able to cut the cost of matching plane ticket by as much as $150 per one way trip.

What do you think? Is everything old actually new again, and would you want to see these sorts of conventional rail options? If they can make it profitable, I don’t see why they shouldn’t give it a whirl.


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The Kalifornia high speed rail is not A boondoggle, it’s THE boondoggle!

Tard on July 6, 2014 at 6:36 PM

Meh

I just moved from Orlando to Birmingham last week. I’m missing the Florida weather and my swimming pool already.

I’d say that this rail would be a good deal if you’re in SoFla and wanted to come up and visit the attractions in Orlando. The fact of the matter is that Florida isn’t very mass-transit friendly unless you’re in the cities, and those small towns like WPB and Jupiter and Vero aren’t really suited for getting around without a car.

Fact of the matter is that is only takes like 4 hours to drive from Miami to Orlando on the turnpike with no traffic, and when you get there, you don’t have to wait on a bus or a cab to take you places..

Defenestratus on July 6, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Although the project faces a host of challenges—including an environmental review, some residents’ opposition and uncertain federal backing—

Why is there any Federal money being spoken about? This train would run only in Florida and no place else, cant be sure as the article is behind a pay wall, but, if that’s correct the Fed has no business getting into this mess. Especially in light of the Gas Tax money they would most likely use, that well has already gone dry.

Johnnyreb on July 6, 2014 at 6:48 PM

Call me pessimistic…
I envision state and fed govt bureacrats trying to shut this down or delay it forever… simply because it’s private. And O didn’t endorse it in a speech.
The only way to change that will be for the company bigwigs to donate to enough Dem politicians.

Marcola on July 6, 2014 at 6:49 PM

[to drive]… you don’t have to wait on a bus or a cab to take you places..

Defenestratus on July 6, 2014 at 6:45 PM

That is the problem Uber and Lyft are supposed to solve.

Reuben Hick on July 6, 2014 at 6:52 PM

Seeing a bunch of Boeing fuselages in the river recently gives me slight pause.

HopeHeFails on July 6, 2014 at 6:53 PM

I wish we had real private investment and less government red tape in the area of rail.

Currently, generally speaking, it’s slow, inconvenient and relatively expensive.

mankai on July 6, 2014 at 6:54 PM

What’s that word?

MONORAIL!

Bouncing Beatnik on July 6, 2014 at 6:56 PM

Florida East Coast Industries, LLC (FECI),

is one of Florida’s oldest and largest full-service commercial real estate, transportation and infrastructure companies. Headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida, FECI has a rich history dating back more than a century. Mr. Henry Flagler first established a predecessor company in 1892, which became a pioneer in the development of Florida’s eastern coast. Today, FECI continues to transform Florida as the parent company to the following real estate, transportation, and infrastructure businesses within the state.

http://www.feci.com/

canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 6:58 PM

All Aboard Florida

http://www.allaboardflorida.com/facts/index.html

http://www.allaboardflorida.com/

All Aboard Florida
@AllAboardFla

We are developing a privately owned, operated and maintained intercity passenger rail system to connect South and Central Florida.

https://twitter.com/AllAboardFla

canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 7:02 PM

…do it!

JugEarsButtHurt on July 6, 2014 at 7:03 PM

How long did it take to build the trans Continental railroad?

avi natan on July 6, 2014 at 7:07 PM

I have high hopes for this. There has been chatter about extending it up here to Jacksonville, but that would come long after it’s established. I would use it occasionally, but as noted above, it’s virtually impossible to get around Florida without a vehicle. Even here in Jax, we’re so spread out and our public transportation system is so pathetic, that you’d be helpless without a car.

joekenha on July 6, 2014 at 7:09 PM

Ooooooooooooooooooooh I knew there was a agenda!!
(sarc)

All Aboard Florida @AllAboardFla · Apr 22

#EarthDay AAF will remove 3M cars from roads each year, & the trains will be the most eco-friendly in the country!

canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 7:11 PM

I can’t wait to visit Orlando or miami, by rail, then not be able to see the sites because i don’t have transportation.

Sounds great.

lorien1973 on July 6, 2014 at 7:11 PM

Soros (or some other Fascist Lefty) should build a one-way train from Central America through Mexico to the Southwest USA and called it the Keystone XL Railroad.

Obama would undoubtedly be happy to subsidize such a worthy endeavor by unilaterally throwing trillions of dollars at it in subsidies …

I mean, who would stop him?

ShainS on July 6, 2014 at 7:11 PM

Seeing a bunch of Boeing fuselages in the river recently gives me slight pause.

HopeHeFails on July 6, 2014 at 6:53 PM

For those who didn’t see it (I saw it on ZeroHedge):

Train Derails In Montana, Dumps Boeing Fuselages Into River

ShainS on July 6, 2014 at 7:14 PM

How long did it take to build the trans Continental railroad?

avi natan on July 6, 2014 at 7:07 PM

Six years (1863 – 1869), 1900 total miles …

ShainS on July 6, 2014 at 7:18 PM

How long did it take to build the trans Continental railroad?

avi natan on July 6, 2014 at 7:07 PM

avi natan: It appears,………1863-1869??

A transcontinental railroad

in the United States is any continuous rail line connecting a location on the U.S. Pacific coast with one or more of the railroads of the nation’s eastern trunk line rail systems operating between the Missouri or Mississippi Rivers and the U.S. Atlantic coast. The first concrete plan for a transcontinental railroad in the United States was presented to Congress by Asa Whitney in 1845.[2]

The world’s First Transcontinental Railroad was built between 1863 and 1869 to join the eastern and western halves of the United States.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcontinental_railroad

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Transcontinental_Railroad

canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 7:18 PM

canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 7:18 PM

But how long did it take to build obozo’s intercontinental railroad?

Flange on July 6, 2014 at 7:21 PM

test

newrouter on July 6, 2014 at 7:24 PM

But how long did it take to build obozo’s intercontinental railroad?

Flange on July 6, 2014 at 7:21 PM

Heh.

57 continents is a long ways.

Of course, they didn’t really build that, anyways …

ShainS on July 6, 2014 at 7:32 PM

canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 7:18 PM

But how long did it take to build obozo’s intercontinental railroad?

Flange on July 6, 2014 at 7:21 PM

Flange: That ” Shovel Ready Jobs” is still on the drawing board,
going on almost six years!! (sarc):0

canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 7:39 PM

MeanWhile,..in Iran,….GO GREEEEEEEEN:

Iran
8h
US company signs $1.175 billion bio-energy plant deal with Iran – @AFP
Read more on yahoo.com
======================

US company ‘signs $1.175b Iran bio-energy deal’
AFP
July 5, 2014, 9:19 pm
**********************

Tehran (AFP) – A US company has signed a preliminary agreement to invest $1.175 billion (864 million euros) in Iran, in a rare joint commercial project to turn rubbish and human waste into electricity.

California-based World Eco Energy told AFP it plans to produce 250 megawatts daily by burning trash and by processing algae and salt and waste water into power.

Iran will match the US investment, the company said.

A company spokesman said the project, in the southwestern province of Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari, would create 600-700 jobs, 80 percent of which would go to locals.

It is scheduled to start in September 2014 and is an early indication of the foreign business that may flow back to Iran if US, European and UN sanctions are lifted.

Iran is in the final phase of negotiating with world powers about a conclusive deal to resolve international concern about its nuclear programme.

Despite the uncertainty that clouds Iran’s economy, still shut out of the international financial system because of an embargo on banks and the energy sector, a more positive outlook is starting to prevail.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/business/world/a/24394066/us-company-signs-1-175-bn-iran-bio-energy-deal/
====================================

eco energy
Advanced Control Solutions
http://eco-energy.us/

canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 10:57 AM

canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 7:42 PM

canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 7:18 PM

But how long did it take to build obozo’s intercontinental railroad?

Flange on July 6, 2014 at 7:21 PM

Flange: Speaking of Hopey,…another awesome Economic Speechy com’n
again to infinity!!!!:)

https://twitter.com/markknoller

Mark Knoller @markknoller · 45m

POTUS week ahead: Tues: meeting with NATO’s @AndersFoghR; Wed/Thu: Dem fundraisers in Denver, Dallas & Austin & economic speech.

canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 7:46 PM

Speaking of Hopey,…another awesome Economic Speechy com’n
again to infinity!!!!:)
canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 7:46 PM

Great, another civet to the economy. Wonder what he’ll poop out this time.

Flange on July 6, 2014 at 7:49 PM

canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 7:46 PM

Great, another civet to the economy. Wonder what he’ll poop out this time.

Flange on July 6, 2014 at 7:49 PM

Flange: No kidding,..maybes Teachers related:)

Mark Knoller @markknoller · 1h

Tomorrow at the WH: teachers invited to lunch with Pres Obama to discuss effective eduction in America’s classrooms. Press gets photo op.

canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 7:57 PM

canopfor on July 6, 2014 at 7:57 PM

I’ll give him credit, he sure puts the prop in propaganda. Everyone is a prop to him.

Flange on July 6, 2014 at 8:07 PM

If its all private money, I’m fine. Profitability will be tough, although it has something to recommend.

Here’s the basics:

I used to live in So Fla with kids, and frankly hated the drive up to Orlando and back, although we did it multiple times a year, because of the traffic.

Being a transplant from the NE, I am certainly comfortable and like the idea of (non-subsidized) rail between city centers (e.g., NYC and Philly), where it saves time for business.

Here are the issues:

1) You still need a rental car at the other end, as Florida residents are less likely to stay in a Disney resort

2) We used to get an all-year round pass for the price of a 2-day pass at LegoLand, and sometimes enjoyed that. It was 40 minutes from the other parks

3) We used to go over an do Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach as part of a day (either on the way up or back), and had an all-year pass to NASA Space Center

… so, while it saves aggravation on the driving up/back, it wouldn’t have saved me money because of the dynamics of what we did.

In general, for in-state residents, a lot of the parks have special passes that residents take advantage of to keep parks full during off-peak (and spending lots of money on extras, line-jumping, and food/concessions, etc. … I used to get mugged by my kids at the LegoLand lego store).

I think in general it will be attractive to So Fla people wanting less aggravation … but it also restricts what you do (meaning you only capture a subset), how much you save (e.g., need a rental car or stay in the most expensive hotels and cab around to anything outside of resort), and otherwise limits the appeal.

Is there still enough left over to make a profit? Not sure. I’d be suspicious that they would continue to get subsidies even after it goes in

[sarcasm on] … after all, for the good of a stronger ekomoni, comrades, we must all sacrifice.

PrincetonAl on July 6, 2014 at 8:20 PM

. . . . . And they think they can have it running in less than two years.

Jazz Shaw on July 6, 2014 at 6:31 pm

.
I’m not big on passenger rail, but I believe they could achieve this goal … IF THEY WOULD JUST GET THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF IT.
.
That statement includes dispensing with ‘environmental studies’, and most other regulations that drive the costs of any such project, “to infinity, and beyond.”.

listens2glenn on July 6, 2014 at 8:34 PM

so help me out. it is supposed to make money and help out florida residents while only having 2 places to board, lauderdale and palm beach?
so what do all the so called other southern residents do to take advantage of a train now clogging up its streets and making loud whistles all day and night long?
this is basically a private train for certain southern residents and no others…everyone else just gets to wave as it passes them while stopped at crossings.
hmmmmm.
and they even have to subsidize it.

trailertrash on July 6, 2014 at 8:47 PM

Seeing a bunch of Boeing fuselages in the river recently gives me slight pause.

HopeHeFails on July 6, 2014 at 6:53 PM

.
For those who didn’t see it (I saw it on ZeroHedge):

Train Derails In Montana, Dumps Boeing Fuselages Into River

ShainS on July 6, 2014 at 7:14 PM

.
. . . . . *HEAVY* sigh . . . . .

The insurance underwriters aren’t going to be blase about that one.

Went to ABC news to learn whose track is involved … it is MRL

listens2glenn on July 6, 2014 at 8:49 PM

. . . . . this isn’t some space age, light rail or magnetic field Buzz Lightyear project, but rather standard (albeit rather fast) passenger train service primarily on existing rail lines with some repairs and improvements.

Jazz Shaw on July 6, 2014 at 6:31 pm

.
Environmental impact study, grade crossing and bridge issues, concrete ties, super-elevation (“banking”) in curves, probably heavier rail …

listens2glenn on July 6, 2014 at 9:07 PM

Train Derails In Montana, Dumps Boeing Fuselages Into River

ShainS on July 6, 2014 at 7:14 PM

I like the way they write about it in the article. “plane parts” Yeah, like, the biggest part of them all……

BobMbx on July 6, 2014 at 9:10 PM

First of all, this isn’t some space age, light rail or magnetic field Buzz Lightyear project, but rather standard (albeit rather fast) passenger train service primarily on existing rail lines with some repairs and improvements. Also, it’s at least a mostly private endeavor. (I say “mostly” because they are still relying on a not yet approved $1.6 billion loan from the Federal Railroad Administration.)

I expect because it is using federal money that it will have to be operated and built by greedy unions, and that will condemn it to failure.

slickwillie2001 on July 6, 2014 at 9:20 PM

Why are leftists so ashamed with 19th century transportation?

Rail is great for freight but terrible for passengers.

jukin3 on July 6, 2014 at 9:29 PM

All aboard the fail train!

Kenosha Kid on July 6, 2014 at 9:39 PM

Why are leftists so ashamed with 19th century transportation?

Rail is great for freight but terrible for passengers.

jukin3 on July 6, 2014 at 9:29 PM

I’m guessing you mean, “Why are leftists so enthralled with …”

Actually, on limited lines, rail travel can be great for passengers. The problem is it is rarely great enough for enough of them to make a profit without subsidies.

Governments should not be in the business of subsidizing specialized transportation. What is the difference between subsidizing Joe Biden’s Amtrak trip and the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska?

ò¿ó

But a leisurely overnight trip with a compartment and a dining car, if the time permits, would be so much nicer than dealing with the TSA and flying these days, if they could fill enough of them.

Adjoran on July 6, 2014 at 10:01 PM

Can’t stop a train…

Another crony capitalism waste of money destined to suck taxpayer dollars before long. Pandering governor was against it before he was for it.

The rail will stop in MIA, FTL and WPB only. The stations are located in the most dangerous part of town, at least on the southern end. Connecting transportation, a huge money loss and unused worthless aging system, is almost nonexistent and dangerous. A taxi will cost you plenty and you’ll have to call and wait, they don’t taxi-stand park around there. The cost of a single ticket appx. $30 is the same as gas and you can avoid gangland cracktown and find all the wheels on your car when you get back. For two its cheaper to drive 2-3 hrs. from your home to destination. There are also single track sections that will cause unknown delays due to the increased FEC traffic using the new rails.

To top it off thirty some trains will whizz through the few sleepy S.E. Fl. oceanfront towns with any character left, stopping traffic, cutting off small businesses, and chasing away the retired folks with time and money to spend at the quaint spots. The enviromaniacs will also go nuts over the impact to an already destroyed estuary system and wildlife.

So why do it? The ‘privateers’ involved are quietly buying up real estate along the right of way and in the depressed slums around the few stations. Once the rail is in they will gentrify the destinations and lease footage to the big corps. The money will go to support the pols who will get more taxpayer money for the privateers. This is a Republican governor so its not unions, but still the robber barons.

There is no huge miami-orlando commute going on that this will reduce. A family visiting Disney will not take the train and taxi to hotels and taxi to the park at 4x the cost of driving. In fact nobody I know will use the train or uses the present miserable system that takes 4 hours to get you ten miles. The train will putz out and the retail centers will expand to high rises residential and be the cash cow communities as has happened ad nauseum in all the rest of S. Fla.

If rail was to be done for the masses it should be done down the center grassway of the interstate with stations at the major exits where people actually work daily. It should stretch through all three counties where people commute from daily, not end at 45th street, 70 miles short.

Rea1ityCheck on July 6, 2014 at 10:03 PM

I’m glad that I will be dead before the USA bans private travel.

Tard on July 6, 2014 at 11:33 PM

I thought they already had a train running between WPB and Miami.

Anyway, yeah, I’m with some others on this. I haven’t looked at the details of the plan, but I lived in Florida for many years, and off the top of my head, I don’t see the practicality. What’s the point of getting on a train in a place where you need a car, only to be dumped off in another place where you need a car? Who would use this? People who live in Florida already have cars. Tourists would be better off just renting one. Plus driving around in Florida is the best way to see it and get a flavor of it. They might be able to dupe some Europeans who don’t know what they’re doing into using it, but beyond that, I’m skeptical.

WhatSlushfund on July 6, 2014 at 11:55 PM

Am=Trak already does the route and has more stops.

katy the mean old lady on July 7, 2014 at 12:14 AM

They could do some rail thingy between Miami Beach and Key West, there might be some uptakers on that, but that’s what booze cruises are for. Woo hoo! Spring Break y’all!

WhatSlushfund on July 7, 2014 at 12:39 AM

It’s amazing how often you encounter Republicans when you are traveling abroad, who absolutely adore the transit system there. But refuse to support it in the United States. What is that about, really?

libfreeordie on July 7, 2014 at 12:49 AM

So, $2.3B start up. If you assume a $150 ticket, a line running once a day, seven days a week and a 5 year return on investment, then you’d need a minimum 8,400 paying riders per day. Modify to suit — four round trip runs a day would require 2,100 riders per run, or 1,050 per leg. Of course these numbers don’t begin to address operating costs.

I’m thinking it’s gong to be a loser, but only for those responsible for chipping in the $1.6B, so no big deal.

Dusty on July 7, 2014 at 1:45 AM

High Speed Rail makes sense
In certain circumstances
Few and far between

This looks like a case where people have analyzed the situation, determined that distance, density, rates of intercity travel, availability of alternatives, cost and existing infrastructure make a certain rail project make sense.

Compare this to California, where they decided that High Speed Trains are aesthetically appealing, and have been trying to make the numbers make sense ever since.

If the opportunity is there, people will find it and the lines will be built. The problem is that there are ample opportunities for big profits on projects that make no sense at all, because government is throwing money around.

Haiku Guy on July 7, 2014 at 7:22 AM

It’s amazing how often you encounter Republicans when you are traveling abroad, who absolutely adore the transit system there. But refuse to support it in the United States. What is that about, really?

libfreeordie on July 7, 2014 at 12:49 AM

You’re not stupid, just obtuse. You can read. You know why the vast majority of folks here are against it. Stop it.

307wolverine on July 7, 2014 at 8:27 AM

Disney World has been moving people around for decades with monorail, quick fast and easy. I don’t really see the need for another train to take people from Orlando to Miami. I mean really, who wants to go to Miami. The voters already stopped a bond issue needed to build a rail line from Tampa to Miami. It seems the libs want the sunshine state to look more like the NE coast where everyone commutes long distances for their jobs. This will end up being just another grab for govt money.

Kissmygrits on July 7, 2014 at 8:45 AM

It’s amazing how often you encounter Republicans when you are traveling abroad, who absolutely adore the transit system there. But refuse to support it in the United States. What is that about, really?

libfreeordie on July 7, 2014 at 12:49 AM

Where, precisely, abroad do Americans absolutely adore mass transit systems? Some European cities do have nice subway systems, which work fine when the workers aren’t on strike, otherwise people go to work on roller skates. (I’ve seen this in France!!!)

But subways can only be dug where there’s at least 20 feet of dry rock below the surface of the earth. Dig a hole 3 feet deep in Florida or Houston, and it fills up with water.

Whether trains are economical or not depends on where people want to go, and what are the competing technologies. For a train to compete with air travel, it needs to connect two large cities less than about 400 miles apart (so that the wait time at airports outweighs the speed of the plane) without either congested or mountainous terrain between them. Miami to Orlando might fit the bill, perhaps Chicago to Saint Louis or Houston to Dallas as well. San Francisco to Los Angeles, definitely not–the terrain in between is far too mountainous and expensive to cross–it’s much cheaper to fly over the mountains, or over the ocean.

The decision to build a train line between two cities SHOULD depend on economics ONLY–would enough people ride the train (at a cost savings for them) to pay off the construction of the rail line within several years? The airlines are not subsidized–they pay taxes to use airports, as do passengers. If rail travel is less expensive than air travel, let the railroads compete on a level playing field, and keep the government out of the transport business.

Steve Z on July 7, 2014 at 11:07 AM

Sooo…they want to build another already-obsolete railroad in Florida.

Let’s see: 3 hours from Orlando to Miami, plus 2 hours at each end for ground transportation to/from train stations located inconveniently in bad parts of each town…plus you’re a prisoner of a practically non-existent ground transportation system at your destination…I think I’ll PASS!!!

Driving is quicker, cheaper, and less hassle at both ends of the journey.

landlines on July 7, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Unless I can get on without disarming, I’ll keep driving. How likely do you suppose that is, having the grope squad honor our CCH licenses?

Demonized on July 7, 2014 at 3:54 PM

There is already an auto train in Florida that assists snowbirds in going back up north with their cars. It leaves from Sanford (near Orlando) and stops in DC. You have to dive your car to Sanford and wherever home is in the northeast from DC, but it sure beats driving the whole distance. Why don’t they incorporate the ability to transport your car from Miami to Orlando? As most people have mentioned, if you’re going from Miami to Orlando and plan on staying a week visiting the theme parks, you’ll definitely need transportation. If you add on a rental car to the cost of the train ticket, then most people would just decide to drive anyway, especially if you’re talking kids, etc. In the northeast passenger trains are effective because those are old, compact cities with existing and well developed mass transit systems. This is NOT the case for the sunbelt, which continues to be an impediment for the development of passenger rail. If I were an investor, I’d think long and hard about this…

gatorgab on July 7, 2014 at 5:06 PM

Of course the track cuts through the most traveled areas of palm beach and Martin Counties, so I’m sure nobody will even notice the extra 32 trains, especially during rush hour.

John Deaux on July 7, 2014 at 5:59 PM