Florida’s so-called privately financed high speed rail service, Brightline, says they are ready to start cruising from Orlando to Miami at 110mph. So…step right up and buy yourself a rail ticket to Florida’s “high-tech” future – a future of financial and logistical chaos featuring centuries-old tech. It’s all aboard a government-guaranteed (and partially government funded) gravy train, Florida’s very own contribution to the utopian ideal of high-speed rail service.
Who doesn’t want to sit back and sip a luke-warm cup of coffee while zipping along at an eyebrow-raising 110 mph from Miami to Orlando? Except, of course, the train only peaks at 110mph…that’s not the average speed. And, except, of course, if you happen to have access to a car, where you can do the same thing in roughly the same time, and maybe even have a more enjoyable trip. And a cheaper one. Driving from Orlando to Miami would only cost about $36 in gas, and you don’t need to pay for a rental car when you get to Miami. Compare that to Brightline’s price of $79 to $149 a pop, (rental car not included) and the promise of high-speed rail in Florida is like a typical political speech: it sounds wonderful until you consider the facts.
Brightline’s promise to whisk us from Miami to Orlando is starting to look a lot like a cruel joke. And the punchline? It makes no stops in Brevard County. And that’s the real fine print of so-called high-speed rail: if you have to stop too often, it isn’t “high speed,” but if you don’t have any stops, not very many people can get on the silly thing.
Beside the fact that the business case for Brightline is as sturdy as a wet paper bag, it’s also not exactly “privately-funded,” as the spin goes. It’s swaddled in a cozy blanket of tax-exempt bonds, federally-guaranteed loans, as well as $15.9 million in free federal funding, and other expensive taxpayer-funded goodies. Including town after town along the way paying through the nose to maintain safety at the intersections where Brightline’s “bullet train” rips across local roads, 32 times per day. If you live along the route, I’m sorry. Because that’s a Brightline train screaming through your backyard every 45 minutes. One could be forgiven for mistaking Brightline for a plump baby bird, beak open, squawking for more government worms.
Speaking of bullet trains ripping through small towns…that brings us to the matter of safety. At least 88 unfortunate souls have already died thanks to the Brightline “Death Train,” and that’s just in South Florida alone. If safety standards were a limbo contest, Brightline might be the undisputed champion in racing to the bottom. “Look, listen and live” is the tagline Brightline’s brilliant PR gurus have started throwing around lately. For passengers, what will they cook up next? “Pay, pray and survive”?
Let’s also not forget that our transportation future may not even involve rails. Autonomous, high-efficiency vehicles aren’t that far off. Why are we investing in what is essentially a 19th-century technology, when 21st-century solutions are knocking on the door?
For decades now, high-speed rail has been sold to us as “the future,” a sleek, efficient alternative to our highways. But according to Brightline, the future is apparently here, and it wants its money back. Let’s hope Florida taxpayers aren’t forced to issue the refund.