Brightline set for 110mph speed test… the fastest boondoggle in Florida

by | Jul 26, 2023

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.


  1. Van E Hamlin

    Brightline can only survive as a commuter train. It needs to stop in every county between Orlando and Miami. The idea of a non-stop bullet train was never viable because cars and airplanes are better solutions to direct trips. Cars are cheaper and planes are faster. However, a commuter train allows riders to make routine trips from their small town home to a urban workplace. I say routine because so many people now work remotely from home. The cost needs to come down and the amenities need to improve.
    Slower speeds should reduce noise and improve safety. More attention must be paid to timing the road barriers with increased speed. Closed circuit TV and remote communications systems must warn pedestrians and drivers of approaching trains sooner.
    I predict that Brightline goes out of business when the federal subsidey stops.

    • Jojo

      Apparently you are not knowledgeable on how the train works. Orlando to Miami in 3.5 hours. Driving 3 hours maybe.. Not on Friday or Sunday when everyone is communiting back and forth. Air.. Good luck, security, delays, ok..

  2. It's Complicated

    If a motor vehicle gets hit by a train at high speed there is close to a zero % chance anyone in that vehicle survives, and a high likelihood that many/most people on board the train will suffer injuries when it derails as a result of the accident. For some reason, many drivers struggle with the notion that stopping on a railroad track is dangerous. Maybe Florida needs to do a Public Relations Campaign like the “Dumb Ways to Die” video produced in Victoria, Australia for Metro Trains.

    • Gary H

      Which is why true high-speed rail has no grade level crossings.

    • Martin

      Luckily it’s extremely easy to not get killed by the train. It just takes a little of personal responsibility rather than blaming someone else.

      Just how you don’t stop in the middle of an intersection, you don’t stop on tracks.

  3. David Douglas

    They never claimed to be true high speed service and are on track for nearly 2 million riders in 2023 and 60 million in revenue, doesn’t sound like a boondoggle to me. All of the deaths are the result of people trying to beat the train, under the influence of alcohol/drugs or were committing suicide. This writer is a clown.

    • Brian Burgess

      $60 million in revenue is a pittance compared to their operating costs. Do the math and then you can throw your insults.

  4. SP

    Sad that Brightline and the City of Cocoa and Brevard County governments could not come up with a train station and stop near where SR 528 and US 1 meet. They just cut out the cruise terminal traffic that goes to Port Canaveral. Bus services would have been clamoring to get a piece of that ‘traveler’ pie.

    • Gary H

      Leaving Port of Canaveral out of the equation was a major calculation error on the part of Brightline and Brevard County. From Orlando International you can watch the steady stream of buses and vans hauling pax to the Port. Certainly a missed opportunity to increase revenue and ridership.

  5. J

    Yet another lazy dogmatic twat attempting to pass off fiction as fact. The majority of this piece is heavily uninformed and easily fact-checked. The only meaningful argument brought up is one of funding. It is no secret that BrightLine is not wholly privately funded. They have received public funds. However, this fails to examine the larger argument of what receives public funding. The supposedly pleasant drive the author mentions between Miami and Orlando is also publicly funded, lest he forgets that the financing for any road project comes from a majority of federal and state dollars. The taxes collected as part of the “gas tax” only cover a small portion of those funding amounts, something true on roads with and without tolls.

  6. Tarno_inz

    I predict that, in good time (within 4 years), BrightLine will come back asking for a station at Port Canaveral, arguing that they need it to be profitable.

  7. Ned

    I guess this writer has never heard of a thing called automobile fatalities when he argues against this on account of “safety” – as if no one has ever been harmed in or by a car. Ha! Enjoy your traffic jams, car clown.

    • Martin

      Does the car drivers insurance pay for the train repairs?

      Can passengers sue the driver blocks the tracks for mental trauma and costs of delays?

  8. Yorkman Lowe

    The cost of driving is not just gas. It’s mainly mechanical wear & tear, and depreciation of the car.
    Last time I checked, the IRS estimated the cost of operating a car was 55c/mile, and it’s likely higher now. Not to mention that driving is work; it’s not sitting back and taking a nap and having a drink.

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