The Wrap: Florida’s Death Train kills again; GOP running circles around Dems on school choice

by | Jan 30, 2022

In the news this week:


Remember in 2011, when then-Governor Rick Scott tried to get President Barack Obama’s administration to let Florida convert $2 billion worth of federal high-speed rail cash into port expansion and highway money, but Obama said no? It turns out, Scott correctly predicted that committing billions of dollars toward building a high speed rail line would turn into a disastrous financial boondoggle that would never deliver on the promise. Obama made a big show of sending “Florida’s money” to California, which foolishly forged ahead with its own high speed rail disaster that will never be completed as promised, in large part because there will never be enough money to build it.

Enter Brightline, Florida’s supposedly privately-funded “high-speed” rail project, with promises of fast-travel between Miami and Orlando (and maybe someday even Tampa), all allegedly at no cost to taxpayers. It turns out that none of those promises are panning out. For starters, Brightline isn’t technically “high-speed” rail and never will be. In order to be profitable, which “privately-funded” projects must be, it turns out more stops are needed along the route in order to pick up more paying passengers. But more stops means less time traveling at high-speed, turning Brightline into just a regular old passenger train. Cars can drive from Miami to Orlando in roughly the same time – and their passengers don’t need a ride to and from the train station.

But Brightline’s failures aren’t limited to just its slow speed. The train service also isn’t entirely privately funded. From tax-exempt bonds and federally guaranteed loans, to local-government funded station stops and enhancements, the price tag of all the taxpayer-funded government gifts to Brightline total over a billion dollars (and counting).

And then there are the deaths and injuries. Lots of them. Nearly 50 people have been killed by Brightline trains since they began their operations. The sheer number of deaths has gotten so bad that last week, even the Miami Herald felt compelled to quantify Brightline’s horrendous death toll, and concluded that Brightline had the worst safety record of any rail line in the nation.  Of course, being the Miami Herald, they attempted to blame the administration of Governor Ron DeSantis, but hopefully by now, regular readers of The Capitolist have learned to ignore all that.

Sadly, this week, just days after the Herald’s story was published, another man was killed by the Brightline “death train,” something that local communities who didn’t want the train barreling through their neighborhoods tried for years to warn everyone about.

The bottom line is that trains are great for delivering large volume freight across the country, but less so at competing with automobiles delivering passengers. And with the constant development toward autonomous, high-efficiency vehicles, the case for passenger trains keeps getting harder and harder to defend, but state and national Democrats (and their media supporters) can’t seem to let go.



This week, some of Florida’s GOP leaders rallied at the courtyard of the state capitol in Tallahassee to promote more school choice options for parents. The Wednesday event was part of the National School Choice week, focused on pushing more flexibility in the areas of open public school enrollment, charter schools, online education, school choice scholarships, and home schooling help.

“The best thing about today’s rally was seeing all the children who are celebrating the fact that they are in a choice school that works well for them and that they love, said Erika Donalds, President of Optima Foundation, a nonprofit group focused on establishing and expanding schools of choice. “We are all here, along with these wonderful children, to encourage our legislators to continue to expand school choice so every child in Florida can attend a school they love and will help them be successful.”

Florida Democrats, long-time champions of more funding for public schools, were largely absent from the event.

The Republican push to maximize school choice options is one of those competitive advantages that is forcing Democrats to choose between the politically powerful teacher’s union and Florida parents who are increasingly dissatisfied with public school education options for their kids.  The COVID-19 pandemic has only made the dilemma even more stark, with parents desperate for school options that can deliver quality education consistently in the face of constant policy changes, mask mandates and other challenges.

Skylar Zandar, State Director for Americans for Prosperity, summed it up neatly:

“To give Florida’s children a real chance at academic success, we must offer an education system that works for all of them and prioritizes their individual needs,” Zandar says. “That means we must shift from one-size-fits all approaches to tailored education options for students.”

In the 2018 gubernatorial contest between Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum, one post-election analysis found that about 100,000 black moms, roughly 18 percent of the estimated 650,000 who voted in the election, backed DeSantis specifically because of his backing of school choice for their children. Gillum’s underperformance in that demographic is one of the major contributing factors of his defeat.

While Democrats may not have internalized the lesson, Republican leaders like House Speaker Chris Sprowls certainly have.

“Growing up in America means you have the opportunity and the right to get the education that is best for you, for your future, for your family – because you matter,” said Sprowls at the rally. “That is what we believe in, and it’s a message of hope, it’s a message of opportunity, it’s a message of belief that there’s nothing that our kids can’t do.


  1. Deborah Coffey

    There will never be enough money for clean high speed rail because REPUBLICANS won’t allow it. All the money on earth has to go to their 1% donors. Period. We are so far behind European countries in infrastructure, it’s embarrassing. Have you driven on I-95 lately? You can barely function because of the 18 wheelers! Republicans are dragging America backwards. And, WHICH political party has caused 99% of every recession and depression in America? Right. The GOP. They can’t handle money! Never could.

    • Zach

      I don’t know if this is a serious comment or is this just some socialist propaganda… if you think it’s all republicans fault then California must be the most successful state it the country… oh wait lol

      • Deborah Coffey

        But, California will have high speed rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles, electric, with speeds at over 200 mph. Very soon. And, what does Florida have?

  2. Anonymous

    Huge mistake to even try high speed rail passenger. No one will use it. Major disruptions in cities where these trains go through further contesting traffic. No thx

    • Anonymous

      There are 174 level crossings between the 67-mile longer corridor between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. Brightline did not build this corridor, but the Florida East Coast Railway did way before Brightline was even conceived, and those crossings at the time were not as heavily used as they are today. Unfortunately, this corridor wasn’t seen as a major one worth of investment in the 1980s as the Northeast Corridor, so grade separations were never done, which would improve safety and eliminate conflicts between cars and trains, making both a bit more efficient. I also must point out the article’s claim regarding adding more stations would make all trains slower, I find this as a very uneducated statement, rail operators in other countries offer different levels of service, with different total amounts of stops. I highly doubt Brightline would operate one service that would stop at every single stop versus having multiple services with varying degrees of where trains stop.
      I find this article to be ignorant in other aspects, but I’m not going to keep talking about that, I find the level crossing and station statements to be the worst parts of this article, other than the crappy photoshopped thumbnail.

  3. Anonymous

    Funny how the thumbnail you used is just a photoshoped image with just yellow and the Brightline logo slapped on it. That’s not even an SCB-40 Charger or a Siemens Venture coach!

    • Korey

      It’s not really fair to call it a death train when people try to run it and die. The train doesn’t hit people. Those people are on the tracks when the train comes.

  4. Anonymous

    That is not a Brightline train in the photo above. More like bad photoshop and yellow journalism

  5. Anon

    TALK ABOUT THE HIGHWAY BOONDOGGLE! 38,000 people die PER YEAR in car accidents! Yet this fake news outlet targets the comparatively low (although not perfect) 600 deaths from ALL RAIL TRAFFIC.

  6. ROB Ghiotto

    It would make more sense to rename Brightline to a more appropriate name of the DEATHLINE railroad. As Florida leads the nation in deaths due to trains (as of May 2022 there have been 76 deaths just by Brightline passenger trains since 2015, ref:, consideration for non-passenger safety seems non-existent. Planning to reach speeds of up to 125 mph within several years of opening and traveling parallel to US No. 1 with hundreds of roadway crossings, a smart investor would be well advised to invest in mortuaries and wrecking companies.

    It is inconceivable that state, county, and local authorities would allow such a deadly track up-grade/expansion and use of the existing Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway right-of-way for the purpose of a high-speed train. Even before the implementation of high-speed trains, it was found that freight trains (while running at much lower speeds) and travelling parallel to US No. 1 (often only allowing for 25 to 50 meters between the tracks and the south-bound travel lanes), needed to limit their speeds and hours of operations, especially in congested areas, to prevent numerous traffic and pedestrian accidents resulting in grave bodily harm and death.

    While the need for high-speed train service is acknowledged, intelligence in planning and engineering must be utilized (example: elevated track in high density/short approach areas). It is obvious that this is not the case in allowing this project to move forward as is. It can easily be observed and anticipated that multiple and numerous accidents and deaths will occur. Just by traveling south along US No.1 from Route 528 in Cocoa, Florida to its terminal in South Dade County and observing the tracks (in many areas less than a stone throws away), a wise state, county, municipal, engineering, or operating company would realize the incredible stupidity for allowing this to happen. Who will be responsible? Who will take the blame? Who will feel guilt knowing that they helped implement and allow this foolhardy and deadly project to move forward? The Mexican parent company, Grupo México, that owns the FEC railroad? County, municipal and state officials? Will there be a reckoning and accountability, or just the same old finger-pointing and pass-the-buck mentality of our politicians, news organizations, and big corporations?

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