Sales Tax Hike Sought For Infrastructure
By Blanca Venegas
Florida East Coast Industries’ All Aboard Florida rail project seeks to reinvent Florida’s leisure ground transportation business by offering a compelling hospitality experience for its passengers.
"We want to create an experience for our guests that allows them to opt out of their cars," All Aboard Florida’s recently-appointed President and COO Donald C. Robinson said. "Think of this as a hotel room on wheels."
The privately-owned intercity rail system’s amenities and services is to include WiFi internet service, gourmet meals, beverage service, comfortable seating, luggage accommodations, reserved business and coach service seating, and online reservations.
The project not only is to provide convenient and cost-effective travel by connecting South and Central Florida through a 230-mile route of combined existing and new tracks, but will also offer travelers "an escape to highway congestion and costly delays" by offering 13 to 16 daily departures from each of the two terminuses — Orlando and Miami, the company says. Each train is to have the capacity to carry 400 passengers.
"We consider it an important project for the state in general," Michael Reininger, president and chief development officer for All Aboard Florida, said during an interview with Miami Today, "Orlando being an important tourist destination that has a propensity towards domestic tourism and Miami an equally large market that has a high degree of international visitors, particularly through the Miami International Airport."
According to the project’s website, more than 50 million trips are taken each year by people traveling between the four major cities that will be served by All Aboard Florida. More than 5% of all Florida residents live within five miles of the proposed stations.
Although the exact locations for All Aboard Florida are still undetermined, the website says, the route includes intermediate stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The project could potentially expand to Tampa and Jacksonville in the future.
Access to international airports, seaports and other existing and future transit systems is also to be available.
"We are certainly working on the procurement strategies and how the service will operate," Mr. Robinson said.
According to the US Travel Association’s latest employment and exports numbers, the American travel industry is leading the nation’s economic growth and recovery by having added 8% of the 88,000 new jobs in March.
All Aboard Florida will create over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs throughout the state during the implementation phase of the business and could potentially create thousands more once the facilities are up and running, Mr. Reininger said.
"Overall visitation and economic impact that we are talking about are roughly the equivalent of a big football game, but doing it every week, not just once," Mr. Reininger added.
The estimated cost to construct the passenger rail service is about $1.5 billion and will be "operated and maintained with no risk to Florida’s taxpayers," the company says.
"One of the best opportunities we have with this project is that we own the right of way and the rail already," Mr. Robinson said. "Unlike any other rail projects in the US, we have a lot of infrastructure already in place."
The company says it expects to begin passenger service by the end of 2015.
Details: www.allaboardflorida.com To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e-MIAMI TODAY, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.