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Brightline's ridership demand soars, Orlando connection right around the corner

Brightline's MiamiCentral inter-city train station in Downtown Miami
Wilkine Brutus
Brightline's MiamiCentral inter-city train station in Downtown Miami

If you’re a regular Brightline rider, you’ve probably noticed more stations — and people — during travel on the train service.

Now the latest data from the company has confirmed that ridership demand is on a fast track — with a 143% increase in passengers from this time last year.

From travelers exploring South Florida to locals commuting back and forth to and from work, the privately-owned high-speed rail line, served more than 156,000 riders in January alone. A Brightline spokesperson told WLRN the spike in ridership is despite a significant jump in average ticket fares, up 16%.

Previously, Brightline had only three stops, with trains running between West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. The Boca Raton and Aventura stations opened in late December — the new stops added nearly 18,000 riders, revealing strong demand from those communities.

The inter-city rail service's growth doesn’t end there. Brightline’s newest station to Orlando at the South Terminal of Orlando International Airport is expected to be completed in March 2023. And, as part of the expansion, Brightline has been testing trains at 110 mph in the northern and central part of Palm Beach County and will continue through March.

In an online public service announcement, the Town of Jupiter said "flaggers will be present at all crossings during the testing."

A rendering of Brightline Orlando Station entrance
A rendering of Brightline Orlando Station entrance

But don’t expect a stop in Jupiter anytime soon. The Jupiter Town Council in 2015 opposed Brightline's passenger rail project due local concerns over increase in traffic, potential impact on the Loxahatchee Bridge, and "adverse impacts on the safety and welfare of the communities, families and businesses of coastal Florida.”

The Town Council, at the time, denied a $1.75 billion in private equity bonds that would have helped finance the rail line.

But Brightline’s expansion projects are still gaining steam. This week, its final train, the 643 ton, 556 ft long “Bright Orange 2” is the last of the fleet of 10 trains to arrive in Florida. The US Department of Transportation also approved more than $15 million dollars in grant funds to help construct a Tampa extension.

Wilkine Brutus is the Palm Beach County Reporter for WLRN. The award-winning journalist produces stories on topics surrounding local news, culture, art, politics and current affairs. Contact Wilkine at wbrutus@wlrnnews.org
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