Virgin Trains is Connecting Florida’s Most Visited Cities with Speed, Convenience, and Comfort
[Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes]
[Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes]
Virgin Trains recently received approval to expand in the state of Florida. Their fully funded $4 billion, 170-mile addition will connect Miami to Orlando. The new track is expected to be completed by 2022.
This is only Phase 2 of Virgin Trains ambition venture. Phase 3, which is in planning, proposes two options. Either a connection from Orlando to Tampa, or from Orlando to Cocoa Beach. Both services will have trains traveling at 125 mph, making Virgin Trains the only high-speed rail in the US!
That’s not all. By the end of the year, Virgin Trains plans to add three new South Florida stops as a means to boost ridership. Two possible locations, though unconfirmed, are Hollywood and Boca. Once this occurs, Virgin Trains will be the one true inner-city express train service.
If you have never ridden on Virgin Trains, or their predecessor the Brightline, then you have been missing out on an amazing inner-city travel experience.
Whether you are traveling from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach or round trip from West Palm Beach to Miami you can expect the following amenities on every ride:
Premium seats between Fort Lauderdale and either of the other destinations range from $10 to $15 for the “smart” economy seats. You can upgrade to the “select” premium seats for $20, which include access to free snacks and a beverage during your commute.
American life enforces dependency on automobiles, which comes at a price. Especially in the form of land use. Developers building high-rises are required to build parking garages under the assumption that each resident owns and uses a vehicle. The same applies to retail shopping zones, cultural centers and more. Parking lots now cover over a third of land use in some major US cities. Houston is estimated to have 30 parking spaces for every resident. That’s a ton of wasted space.
But the American dream is changing. More and more Americans want to lower their dependency on vehicular travel in an effort to go green. Fort Lauderdale residents prize transportation alternatives, whether they are scooters that can take us a few blocks to a mile, or a diesel-electric train that can take us from Fort Lauderdale to Miami in 30 minutes or less.
The details of this shared preference are in the numbers:
“Virgin Trains noted it has seen growth in ridership and revenue in every quarter, including growth in business and commuter riders, and that nearly half of its riders travel the full length from West Palm Beach to Miami, which it cites as a strong indicator that trains are preferred transportation options for trips too short to fly and too long to drive.” (Sunshine State News)
With the addition of new inner-city stations along the Miami—West Palm Beach route, and with the groundbreaking connection to Orlando, city planners will be inclined to connect local hubs to the downtown Fort Lauderdale train station.
With rising demand to live, work, and socialize in downtown, our ability to move people in and out in the least congestive way should take priority. This could come in the form of new ride-sharing services, express but routes, transit similar to the Sun Trolley, and more.
Whether our city prioritizes and optimizes micro-mobility (the fastest growing sector in the mobility market), autonomy and electricity, shared vehicles, or one-way express lanes will depend on infrastructure capabilities and citizen preferences. We need to consider the options today to make advancements when the time arrives.
At any rate, the Fort Lauderdale Virgin Trains station will be a central connection point for anyone traveling east-west or north-south. And we will need to be able to move commuters to the focal points throughout downtown and greater Fort Lauderdale once they arrive by train.
Florida is expected to increase by 6 million residents over the next decade. We currently receive 12.8 million tourists annually. With the construction of the new convention center by the port of everglades and David Beckham’s professional soccer stadium off Commercial Boulevard and Northwest 12th Avenue, we will see even larger numbers of people enjoying our city.
Fort Lauderdale is becoming a key destination for new residents, visitors, entrepreneurs, industry giants and more. Therefore, having high-speed rail connecting Fort Lauderdale to other major cities throughout Florida is going to be a huge economic driver.
Company spokesman Ben Porritt contends that the project [the Orlando connection] will be a huge boon to the economy of the state. “Virgin Trains will be a transformative project that will help Florida stay economically competitive while bringing thousands of jobs and tremendous economic impact to the state. We have seen incredible support for this project and are confident it will bring a necessary public benefit to the millions of Florida residents and visitors.”
The estimated economic impact over the next eight years for the new train service is estimated at $6.4 billion.
The expansion of Virgin Trains to Orlando (and beyond) will create thousands of jobs. It is expected to add more than 10,000 jobs during construction and around 2,000 jobs when complete.
Virgin Trains will be the only privately owned rail service in the U.S. And with experience running high-intensity trains in the U.K. over the last 20 years, it is promising that their knowledge and ability to expand sustainably will attract new businesses to the area.
Leading up to 2022, we can expect heightened interest in areas bordering the rail line. Being able to connect our downtown to Miami, West Palm Beach, Orlando and more will invite new commerce and open our economy to untapped markets.
1) You own a business in Orlando. There is a trade show at the new convention center in Fort Lauderdale. You want to feature your new product/service in front of the industry’s leading experts. So, you take Virgin Trains to downtown Fort Lauderdale and book a room at the Dalmar to attend the trade show. During your commute, you work on the train so you don’t miss out on any business developments while you are away. On the way back to Orlando, you reach out to colleagues you met at the trade show, expanding your network without having to take a break from work in order to drive home.
2) You and your family are going on vacation and want to make the most out of your trip. Your cruise departs from the port of everglades on Monday. You take a few extra days off work and fly into Orlando on the weekend to take the kids to Disney World. On Sunday, you and your family board Virgin Trains and arrive in Fort Lauderdale well-rested and relaxed. You didn’t need to go through the hassle of having to rent a car for that extra day of vacation travel. You board your cruise Monday and it’s smooth sailing for the rest of the week.
Welcome to the new American dream.