Transportation in Florida
Brightline Texas? Brightline Examines Expanding Outside Florida
As privately owned and run intercity passenger train Brightline begins service this weekend between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, the company already is talking about providing similar service between Dallas and Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte, Chicago and St. Louis and other regions across the United States.
Brightline spent $2 billion on the stations, trains and infrastructure to connect the three southeast Florida cities. Company officials say another $2 billion and three years will extend service to Orlando International Airport.
Wes Edens, co-founder, principal and co-chief executive officer of Brightline owner Fortress Investment Group, says that his firm has a vision “well beyond the state of Florida” for corridors that share the same characteristics of the cities Brightline connects in Florida -- “too far to drive, too short to fly.”
Brightline president and chief operating officer Patrick Goddard, in an interview with Florida Trend, made clear that Brightline hopes to be the one to implement privately owned intercity service in new corridors nationally to address the nation’s traffic congestion problems. Such service disappeared in America in the last century. “We absolutely think that we now have the blueprint, we’ve got the playbook,” Goddard said. “This is the proof of concept that we can actually get this done with private capital.”
Goddard said adding service in new regions would require working through a host of issues. In southeast Florida and up the coast through Brevard, Brightline had the advantage of developing private rail service on a rail line owned by a corporate sibling. “These are not uncomplicated things to figure out,” Goddard said, but, “we got it done here and we got it done in a very compressed time period. We believe we’ve got the playbook to do it again.”
Dallas-Houston is the “most obvious” place for private passenger service, he said, but he also cited Charlotte-Atlanta and Chicago-St. Louis. “There are others that we’re evaluating,” Goddard said.
A question mark around Brightline has been whether the service will prove commercially viable. To date, Brightline hasn’t revealed ridership numbers for its West Palm Beach-Fort Lauderdale leg, which has been open since January, but company officials have said they’re pleased with the response to the service. A desire to expand to new corridors provides an indication the service will work financially.
“This is a model that is commercially viable,” Edens says.