Brightline’s Virgin Partnership Lands A New Stop

Brightline’s Virgin partnership just landed a stop on the Treasure Coast 

Excerpt: Commissioners on Saturday agreed to proceed with a proposed settlement with Virgin Trains USA, formerly Brightline. 

Commissioners voted 4-1 to move ahead with the settlement, which was thrown into question Tuesday after Indian River County commissioners voted to reject the offer, which guarantees a Treasure Coast station, fencing, and additional safety improvements. 

Martin County's decision means Indian River County will stand alone Tuesday during a hearing in federal court. Treasure Coast governments, as well as CARE FL, have filed a series of federal and state lawsuits challenging the railroad over the last four years. 

Bottom Line: From the onset, I’ve been a cheerleader for Brightline, now Virgin’s, effort to connect the state by rail. For me, it's not that complicated. Our population in Florida continues to boom, traffic continues to get exponentially worse and there’s only so much land and room to work with to build and expand roads and that require public investment anyway. To me, it makes sense to have rail as an option and despite many public concessions to attempt to make it viable, Brightline/ Virgin is a private company placing the majority of cost/risk on the company rather than all of it on taxpayers. Many critics have focused on the light adaptation to date, but the growth trend has been generally impressive. For the two quarters we have info to compare here’s what we see.

Number of passengers: 

  • 1st quarter 75,000  
  • 2nd quarter 106,000 

Monthly growth in usage is progressively as well. One way of looking at the numbers will be that those are 181,000 fewer people making those trips on the roads of South Florida. Importantly, the more expansion there is the greater the potential value proposition that exists. For example, the value in using Brightline to get from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale pales in comparison to the person looking to commute from Miami to Orlando. So, in other words, the greater the distance I’d argue the greater the adaptation potential and benefit.  

The Martin expansion is a major next step and it’s my hope it’s not the last. The company’s estimate for 2020 usage is 3 million if Orlando is a destination at that point. Even if it were half of that number that’s more than a million fewer trips on cars on our crowded roads.

Photo by: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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