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Front Page » Transportation » Tri-Rail into downtown Miami awaits Brightline’s action

Tri-Rail into downtown Miami awaits Brightline’s action

Written by on December 3, 2019
Tri-Rail into downtown Miami awaits Brightline’s action

Thousands of would-be downtown commuters wait anxiously to learn when Tri-Rail trains will roll into Miami Central station, and they aren’t alone.

The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, Tri-Rail’s parent, must wait for Florida East Coat Railway, which owns the Brightline commuter service, to have its Positive Train Control (PTC) system certified by the federal government before it can move forward.

PTC is a federally mandated safety system that must be installed and running in all US trains and along tracks by December 2020. The system Tri-Rail uses isn’t consistent with the one Florida East Coast Railway uses, but there are ways to make them interoperable.

Once Brightline’s PTC is certified, “We will apply to be a tenant on their tracks,” said Steven L. Abrams, authority executive director, in June. “We are dependent on their certification.”

Brightline hasn’t given Tri-Rail officials any indication of how the process is going, Mr. Abrams said this week. “PTC is very costly and complicated to install. We talk with them frequently and we ask, but we don’t know. I’m sure they’re working on it very diligently, because nobody wants to face the consequences of missing the 2020 deadline.”

Brightline was contacted for comment on this story, but no response had been received by press time.

In February, Bonnie Arnold, former Tri-Rail spokesperson, said many issues had been resolved at MiamiCentral, Brightline’s station. Tri-Rail has two sets of tracks there; Brightline three.

“We’ve solved the level-boarding issue,” Ms. Arnold said then. “As soon as they let us know that 90% of their work is done on the tracks, we can get in there and finish the rest.”

Rail partners have invested $70 million to establish the TriRail Downtown Miami Link, funding 26 trains and 9 miles of new rail infrastructure. The 450-person trains will provide a one-seat ride to and from downtown Miami and the West Palm Beach area, with stops all up and down the coast.

Early computer-simulated models predicted an outpouring of interest from new riders and regulars alike for the daily Tri-Rail trips. About 2,000 riders from Fort-Lauderdale and West Palm Beach would be flocking to downtown Miami on day one alone, of whom 1,000 riders are expected to be first-time passengers, those models predicted.

11 Responses to Tri-Rail into downtown Miami awaits Brightline’s action

  1. Macacovelho

    December 4, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    I will be of those 1,000 new riders. I just moved from downtown Miami to Hollywood for the more affordable real estate, but continue to work downtown.

    I am somewhat lucky that I use an electric car and therefore get to use the 95 Express for free, but it really doesn’t alleviate that much. I’m saving around 10-15 minutes average on a 50minute commute. I would be very annoyed to pay 20.00/day to save just 10 minutes. I don’t understand how so many people take the express everyday. Maybe they are fooling the carpool system, riding for free also. I heard it’s easy to do.

    I’ll be the first one to get on the Tri-Rail. I am not surprised by Virgin’s stalling, as it doesnt benefit them to have TriRail take away their train’s traffic. But what they should realize is that they’ll get a lot more traffic in their stores, and even possibly real estate, which is where they will be making most of their money, anyhow. Just look at Hong Kong’s model.

  2. Richard S Webster

    December 4, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    The writer needs to get his facts straight. Florida East Coast Railway does not own Brightline. They are 2 separate companies.

    • Mark-Anthony Barnes

      December 14, 2019 at 1:31 am

      Ummm Brightline, while operating as a separate company is, in fact, a company fully owned by the FEC. A subsidiary basically.

  3. Michael Gleason

    December 4, 2019 at 9:46 pm

    Miami-Dade County must freeze development of Virgin/Brightline stations at Aventura, PortMiami, or any intermediate point until such time as Tri-Rail service is fully implemented along the FEC Corridor.

  4. Carlos

    December 5, 2019 at 4:11 am

    Welcome to the 21 century! SHAME SHOULD to Key West.

  5. Daniel Teigman

    December 5, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    I almost never comment on a story, but here I must. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of Tri-Rail reaching MiamiCentral. For eco-aware commuters like me, taking the local train to all stops from Miami to West Palm Beach really is without precedent — for work and for recreation.

    When MiamiCentral opened a few years ago I was excited to see the downtown Tri-Rail signage. At the time, Tri-Rail’s arrival in Miami was a major part of the marketing pitch. I was totally on board. Pardon the pun.

    Now, the signage is a reminder of how slow things move in this state and the US at large. Sitting at this end of the keyboard, as other countries like China and India invest in high speed rail or related infrastructure projects, we in the US languish.

    What happened to the country I was born in? What happened to our ability to dream big and execute bigger? Maybe I’m still sulking in the post-Apollo anniversary glow, celebrating what we could do a half century ago but no longer. I just hope the December 2020 deadline isn’t missed and that just maybe, Tri-Rail will grace MiamiCentral with its presence sometime soon. As a writer there’s nothing like beating a deadline.

    Bottom line: the moon was 238,900 miles from Cape Canaveral. Miami is 72 miles from West Palm. This shouldn’t be that difficult.

    When Miami’s Tri-Rail train finally come in, I look forward to riding it.

  6. Dawson Allen

    December 8, 2019 at 3:46 am

    The new Brightline stations in South Florida are very exciting, and the prospect of Tri-Rail trains in downtown Miami even moreso. Congratulations to everyone advancing this worthy project.

  7. Mark-Anthony Barnes

    December 14, 2019 at 1:29 am

    So it’s become more clear with each passing day that Virgin/Brightline isn’t going to let TriRail even attempt to try and establish commuter rail on their tracks.

    This, to me, feels like a bait and switch con given it was just a short two years ago that both our political leaders and Virgin/Brightline were out there publicly celebrating tri-rails return to downtown (still waiting) and to the FEC corridor. Now we see Virgin/Brightline dragging feet with getting positive train control implemented on their tracks while simultaneously seeking to build additional stops that would see them become a fully fledged commuter line (which is what they basically are right now) and asking the cities and counties to flip the bill)

    By doing all of the above Virgin/Brightline has effectively given tri-rail, and South Florida’s tax payers, the middle finger saying to us ”thanks, but no thanks” to any sharing of their tracks.

    To this I say fine and recommend local and state leaders read on to hear out A couple of solutions in the face of this reality.

    In this proposal it is Broward county and the city of Fort Lauderdale who really hold all the cards of power in this game of trains for two very simple reasons.

    One has to do with a train platform at the Fort Lauderdale international airport, and the second is a ”new” New River Bridge over the waterway for which it is named. Two coveted things the owners Of Virgin/Brightline have been lobbying diligently for and for obvious reasons.

    Having an airport stop could potentially add thousands of more passengers to Virgin/Brightline’s daily ridership.

    Also the current new river bridge in downtown fort Lauderdale is befuddled with limitations due to its age and the needs of the maritime industry, and are limitations which currently favor boat traffic over trains. A higher bridge crossing would result in less openings daily thus allowing more Virgin/Brightline trains to cross it far more often than they’d be alllowed to should Virgin/Brightline start increasing their frequency(something they have promised to do starting late next year)

    Both projects, if built, would cost 10’s of millions of dollars to complete. Of course Virgin/Brightline wants tax payers to foot the bill or substantially contribute to both projects construction .

    Both projects would serve the public good by increasing access to both downtown and To the ever growing passenger roles being flown to and out of FLL. annually. It makes a lot of sense that leaders would want to do all that they can to help out but…

    …Let’s be honest folks, Brightline is EXPENSIVE and only has gotten more costly over time (1 way tickets between Miami and Ft Lauderdale are frequently 20-30 dollars during rush hours).

    For your average commuter, spending $150 -175 a week or $8k to $9k+ Annually, is just too costly for the vast majority of everyday commuters in South Florida and makes using the 95 Express toll lanes look like a cheap bargain in comparison.

    To add insult to injury to this train dichotomy, Virgin/brightline seem determined to not allow trirail the use of their tracks, all but guaranteeing that those of us who don’t have a 6 figure salary also won’t be able to partake in using less costly and efficient alternatives to driving the slow moving parking lot that is now I 95 and Broward Blvd during rush and event hours.

    So what to do?

    Two options as I see it:

    enter Broward County the city of Fort Lauderdale and the State

    1) condition any government help to build a bridge over the new river and/or an FLL airport station(both of which are owned by tax payers and are located within Broward County and the city of Fort Lauderdale ) on Virgins allowing access rights to Tri-Rail service on the full length of its SFL FEC line. It’s that simple.

    Or if that proves to be to burdensome for Virgin/Brightline trains then…

    …And this is where things get radical.

    2) Build a Link from tri -rails Fort Lauderdale airport station that runs alongside the south side of the FLL airport and have it connect to The current brightline tracks so that tri rail can have the option to at least service two of south Florida‘a largest city urban centers it’s two largest airports, and potentially both it’s seaports.

    In addition to this, build a new river bridge that soars 40 -50 feet high over the river and Broward blvd, then slopes down to 25- 30 feet as it crosses ancillary streets, descending to ground level once again only after going over sunrise blvd thereby alleviating any more rush hour freight trains (I mean really FEC rail? Must the mile long freight train come through downtown at 8:25 AM in the morning?)

    At Broward blvd build an integrated tri rail and Virgin Brightline station like the one in Miami that spans Broward blvd.make it look just as, if not more, snazzy than the one in Miami. This would create a new gateway into the city’s core and might also enjoy some connectivity with any planned shared new government Centers for both the city and county. Current plans have both building two towers on the same plot alongside the current brightline station on its east side track.

    From here have the Tri-Rail turn west via a rail viaduct (again 30-40 feet high)that goes up the blvd (in the middle) and eventually reconnects the tri-rail service at, or near the current ftl Lauderdale tri rail station, or a new one where the two tracks meet, (which I’m thinking would be at the Broward Blvd park and go parking lo that currently serves 95 express commuters.

    Also require that any track built over the Broward blvd portion can also serve a dual purpose for any future metrorail or light rail service in Broward (why we have found doing things like this (dual purposing) so hard to do on so many of America’s underused heavy rail lines in major cities is baffling).

    So yeah, number 2 is radical, but not impossible and is personally my preferred option because I feel it opens up more value and possibilities for commuters.

    Sigh! Alas, it is doubtful either one of these options will come to fruition, at least not without some real leadership from the mayors of Broward and Fort Lauderdale.

    What we are more likely to see is more of the same, a private company that would have the ghal to ask for state backed bonds and government tax dollars to fund its growth while denying the public affordable access to its tacks and on to the urban centers in which they work. Urban centers that are in dire need of getting tens of thousands of working professionals in and out of the office each day in better more efficient ways.

    Anyone made to endure 95 or Broward blvd during the rush knows that both those options are only becoming worse each day as our population grows and are roads that have long ago far exceeded their intended volume capacity’s and are anything but efficient. I gag!

    • Raymond Del Papa

      December 19, 2019 at 6:09 am

      The truth her is that the tracks that connect trirail at 79 street with the Florida East Coast are operated as a freight line under the FEC railroad. They did not need positive train control. When those tracks join the Brightline tracks at Little River they already have PTC into the Miami Central Station. It is the FEC that is holding things up.

  8. Mauipete

    December 22, 2019 at 8:00 am

    Brightline’s fares are WAY too expensive.