Brightline Trains bring high-speed rail to Florida
Leave the car. The bullet train is the present and the future of travel in Florida.
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BAt the end of 2022, the journey between Miami and Orlando should be much easier. Unbearable traffic, expensive pitstops, road rage and high carbon footprints will be a thing of the past as Florida enters an era of high-speed rail travel.
This welcome change is courtesy of Light line, an eco-friendly high-speed train company that is slated to begin service to Miami and Orlando in December. It’s the latest plot point in a series of game-changing, state-transforming transportation upgrades.
Brightline has changed the way people live, work and play in South Florida since launching its first bullet train service in 2018 between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Soon after, it expanded to downtown Miami. Anchored by futuristic glass-encased stations (complete with fabulous work pods and watering holes), the multi-billion-dollar privately funded rail service currently ferries passengers at 79 mph between these key cities on tricked-out trains ( that run on clean biodiesel fuel), providing friendly, top notch service throughout the journey (a rarity in travel these days).
Here, everything you need to know about the state’s high-speed rail service — present and future — and why you’ll want to ditch the car on your next trip to Florida.
Current Brightline Destinations
Brightline currently operates between three major metropolitan areas – Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach – with nearly hourly service from early morning to late evening. The trip takes less than 30 minutes between Miami and Fort Lauderdale and another 35 between Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach, less than half the typical travel time by car (during rush hour).
While trains carry passengers from one city center to another, Brightline also offers door-to-door service through Brightline+, a fleet of Brightline-branded electric cars. When booking a train, passengers have the option of reserving an electric vehicle to pick them up or drop them off anywhere within a five-mile radius of the station. (As of press time, this service is free and also fixes a few issues.)
How much do Brightline tickets cost?
Before purchasing a ticket on the Brightline app or website, you will first need to choose between two classes of service: “Smart” and “Premium”. Both promise comfortable seating, free Wi-Fi and a greater Brightline train experience. However, Premium means seats in Coach 1, where complimentary snacks and drinks (including alcoholic) are provided with slightly more spacious seats. It also gives access to the pre-departure lounges at the stations, where snacks and drinks are also available.
Tickets in Smart start at $10 for the route between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, $27 in Premium. For Miami to West Palm Beach, fares start at $15 in Smart and $37 in Premium. In perspective, a carpool usually costs between 50 and 75 dollars from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and more than 100 dollars between Miami and West Palm Beach.
Note that Brightline also offers many promotions at all times, most of which can be found on its website. For example, this South Florida-based writer currently enjoys an unlimited monthly pass for $199 to commute between Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
The Brightline experience
The three Brightline stations currently in service feature a similar modern aesthetic, highlighted by wide reception lobbies, cantilevered spaces above the tracks, geometric furnishings and floor-to-ceiling windows. They’re solar-powered and packed with eco-friendly design elements like state-of-the-art Dyson hand dryers in the toilets and water fill stations.
Passengers are encouraged to arrive 15 minutes before scheduled departure, but boarding does not close until 5 minutes before. There are check-in counters at the entrance for those who need to drop off large suitcases, but most will skip this area and head straight upstairs for security. It usually takes a minute to scan your ticket yourself from the app and have your small hand luggage checked.
Once through, the pre-departure area consists of stylish seating areas and plenty of work pods, with no shortage of sockets or USB chargers. There’s a sit-down bar at each station, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and some pretty awesome cocktails) as well as a fully self-contained take-out market (think: a minibar that auto-fills when you touch drinks). things but on a much larger scale). There’s also a pre-departure lounge for those who splurge in Premium Class.
Once boarding is announced and the train approaches the track, you will notice Brightline’s signature yellow exterior. Inside, the colors are neutral and the cars spacious. Interior aisles measure 32 inches, making it easy to maneuver rolling suitcases, strollers, and even wheelchairs. The seats on the train look like premium economy airplane seats; there’s plenty of leg and elbow room as well as a seat recline that slides forward instead of landing on the passenger’s knees behind. Each seat also has two USB ports and two outlets, so you can charge all your electronic devices at the same time.
Onboard, Brightline’s Wi-Fi exists at blazing fast speeds, powerful enough for streaming and video calling. The network is the same in all stations and all trains, avoiding connectivity interruptions.
During Smart Class travel, attendants walk the aisles with food and drink to purchase. In Premium, passengers receive a snack and two beverages of their choice in the traveling trolley. As the cart passes, don’t be surprised if an attendant chats with you. Like everyone I’ve encountered working for Brightline, the onboard attendants are friendly and customer service oriented. This extends to security guards, porters, bar staff etc. Such a hospitality-focused experience is refreshing, especially when service levels at hotels, restaurants and airlines appear to be at historic lows.
The future of Brightline
Construction is underway for an Aventura station (between Miami and Fort Lauderdale) as well as a Boca Raton station (between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach), both slated to debut by December 2022. Additionally, the tracks connecting West Palm Beach and Orlando are approaching. completion. The station, which will be located at Orlando International Airport, is also expected to be open by December 2022. Once these three destinations are in service, Brightline will head to Tampa, Florida shortly after, while also boarding on a West Coast equivalent: an express train linking Southern California and Las Vegas in just three hours. Construction is expected to begin in 2023.
For now, Brightline is actively transforming the way people live and vacation in South Florida. State-of-the-art high-speed trains are changing the face of local and regional travel, with the best yet to come.
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