Brightline's Future in S. Fla.; Sharks Enjoying Winter Along Florida Coast; The Art Of The Spiritual

Jan 25, 2018

In less than two weeks since the launch of Brightline train between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, three people have been hit as a result of illegally crossing the train tracks. Two of the three accidents resulted in deaths. WLRN’s Broward reporter, Catie Switalski, covered the inauguration of the Brightline train. She joined the program to talk about train safety protocols and what to expect from Brightline in the future.

At the moment, the Brightline trains are traveling at around 79 miles an hour, but can go up to  110 miles an hour, making it very dangerous to try to cross the tracks when the train is approaching, explained Switalski.

In its first weeks of service, instead of focusing on marketing the benefits of this new high-end train service, Brightline has concentrated on improving rail safety along the tracks.

About 20 new digital signs were recently installed in the Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach stations aimed at increasing train safety and preventing illegal crossings.

The Miami to Fort Lauderdale route is still under construction. Brightline predicts this route could be functional by the end of spring or summer, said Switalski.

Ticket prices vary depending on the type of trip, whether single or round trip, and coaches, whether Smart Coach or Select Coach. Currently, prices are at an introductory rate, but they are expected to go up later in the year.

Snacks and beverages are sold on the train and it offers a Wi-Fi connection. 

Seeking Warmer Waters

Just like many snowbirds, sharks come to spend the winter along the coast of Florida. Stephen Kajiura, a Florida Atlantic University professor of biological sciences,  tracks shark populations throughout the eastern coast of Florida. Kajiura, the shark expert, joined the program to talk about his research.

For the last eight years, Kajiura has been boarding a small plane that flies “low and slow,” some 500 feet above the coast, surveying the water. The flights usually last about an hour or so. On the plane, several 4K cameras record shark activity.

Kajiura, with his research team, then analyzes the footage and slowly counts each shark to average the population  of different shark species. Kajiura repeats this process several times monthly in the winter when more than 10,000 sharks come for the warmer Florida waters. In the summertime, the sharks return to the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas.

Unexpected circumstances can get in the way of Kajiura’s aerial surveys. When President Trump visits his Mar-A-Lago home, not only are traffic routes changed and blocked, but no-fly zones are instituted that prevent Kajiura from conducting his research. “You have to try to squeeze in your sampling time whenever you can,” Kajiura said. In the past year, over a quarter of his area survey time was compromised by the president’s trips to Palm Beach, he explained.

The influx of sharks coming to South Florida in the winters is a sign of a healthy eco-system, Kajiura explained.  Beachgoers should not be concerned. “People are totally oblivious,” he said' “Go to the beach and have fun.”

Anticipating Black History Month

Black History Month is almost here and the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center (AHCAC) is leading the celebration with some of Miami’s best black opera singers. “The Art of a Spiritual” showcases the technical complexity of the negro spiritual while embodying the historical and spiritual aspects of the compositions. Classically trained singers, baritone Angel Refuse and mezzo-soprano Isis Robert,s will be part of the spiritual concert. They joined the program to explain more about spirituals.

In the times of slavery, slaves were not allowed to communicate. However, the masters allowed them to practice their religious beliefs. Slaves were musically inclined but could not use instruments like the drums, because master thought the could communicate through drumming, but they were allowed to sing, explained Roberts.

The singing of psalms and other religious themes in the fields was used as a means of expression but also of communication. “Slaves used spirituals to communicate with each other through the songs,” she said.

The tradition of the spirituals carries a contemporary feeling that audiences can use to relate and further understand issues prevalent in modern times. “[Spirituals] are not always religious.” explained Roberts.

Roberts is the director of Voices of Heritage, an-house vocal music apprenticeship program of the AHCAC. Her work with the program honors various eras of the African diaspora and the importance of keeping the spiritual tradition alive. “We want to make sure that our young people understand the heritage of it,” she said.

The Art of a Spiritual will take place on Jan. 27  from 7 to 9 p.m, at the African Heritage Cultural Art Center, 6161 NW 22nd Ave., Miami.