Brightline Trains Florida discussion 2024 Q1

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So you're suggesting the an impatient driver can't distinguish between a Brightline train and a freight train and therefore will try to blow a crossing that is active. I recommend that you have a serious discussion with the local school board about life skills education, especially driver training. Everyone is on the hook for recognizing what is.
When the train is way down the track and your view is possibly obstructed, you might not be able to tell the difference. I hang out at a station on the NEC where I can see at least a mile away and I can't tell, till the train is closer, if it's an Acela or Regional. And if not for the lights on the trains, I can't tell if it might be a work train or freight train (yes, we have freight trains on the NEC). How do you expect non RR fans to distinguish that far away?
 
I haven’t done really any brightline research.

Are there any plans to eliminate some of the more crucial grade crossings?

I know it’s utterly impossible to do all of them as they’re in the hundreds, but what would it take to improve this now major passenger corridor, grade crossing wise?

I imagine FDOT is impossible to work with.
 
Eliminating one collision would probably pay for it.
In the intangible cost of human life, sure. That's a great sentiment, but what about actual cost? I have no idea if BL is able to recover any repair costs from insurance companies from the boneheads who continuously try to beat the train. I believe I read that the nose cone is relatively quick and inexpensive to fix. This seems to be shown by the fact that two vehicle collisions in three days haven't reduced schedule today. No cancelled trains so far as I can tell.

It's a hard number to justify when everything is in place to promote safety, yet people still manage to find ways.

People think that the Shinkansen in Japan has a zero death rate. That's actually not true. There have been quite a few deaths by suicide. The numbers are hard to come by, but they are more common than one would think. If you use the same definition that Shinkansen uses for accident rates, Brightline, with none being their fault either, is still batting 1.000, too.
 
Eliminating one collision would probably pay for it.
That might be true, but the costs accrue to three different parties (and their insurance companies):
The driver who has medical/funeral costs, damage to vehicle ,etc.
The railroad, who has damages to the train and the crossing gates, and possible from being sued by the driver (even if the railroad isn't at fault)
Local governments, who have to pay the costs of the first responders.

The problem might be that unless one can come up with some kind of cost sharing formula, neither the railroad nor the government by themselves would save enough costs to justify in their minds sending the money to eliminate grade crossings or at least install quad gates everywhere. The state government might be an obvious candidate for providing outside money to delas with this problem, and my personal opinion is that the states should increase vehicle fees and increase the gas tax to pay for stuff like that and more, but in this country and attempt to make it more expensive to drive a car is met with severe resistance by the voters, who believe it's their God-given right to be able to drive anywhere they want on good roads without having to pay for them. Maybe they could charge tools at railroad crossings. The transponder technology is advanced enough so this can be done without too much trouble. And those without a transponder can have a bill sent to them in the mail. The toll money could be used to eliminate grade crossings.
 
In the intangible cost of human life, sure. That's a great sentiment, but what about actual cost? I have no idea if BL is able to recover any repair costs from insurance companies from the boneheads who continuously try to beat the train. I believe I read that the nose cone is relatively quick and inexpensive to fix. This seems to be shown by the fact that two vehicle collisions in three days haven't reduced schedule today. No cancelled trains so far as I can tell.
I think much of the cost is intangible. Such as passengers who may suffer excessive delays or even cancellations and may as a result not travel by Brightline again or speak badly about it to their friends. Also costs of re-booking passengers (there probably are not sufficient empty seats available on following trains at short notice, so many passengers will have to continue their journey by Uber or whatever). It is not just the train in the accident that is affected but also trains going the other way and following trains - depending on how long it takes to clear the site and inspect that everything is safe. This could easily be several hours. I guess these costs significantly exceed the costs of simply fixing a nose cone or touching up scratched paintwork and vinyls.
 
I'm not an engineer so I guess I don't really understand why longer arms and an equally balanced counterweight would drive the cost of gates that cover all lanes would be much higher than one that only covers half the lanes. Likewise, looking at how they are constructed, I also don't understand why putting a set on each side of the road to block all lanes should be cost prohibitive - they don't look to be THAT expensive ... electric driveway gates are affordable to many people, even ones with wide driveways.
 
From the Roaming Railfan videos of BL construction, each quad gate project seemed to involve upgraded communications, and significant road work. If the manufacturer claims higher safety, could the legal/insurance costs included in the product be higher? In any case, it might be a limited market.

One ROW improvement for BL, involving earth moving, led to probably legitimate claims of more flooding on some adjacent parcels. But that's another matter. BL did not have unlimited money, nor would it have spent it at the max. Better drainage would have cost more. Attaching the rails to the ties was sometimes done with a hand-held machine the size of a small refrigerator, other times it was more automated. At one point Georgia ran out of ballast, and it was shipped from Canada, then trucked to the sites.

Roaming's videos must be the best ever made of railroad construction. Too many highlights to mention. Very knowledgeable, but he steered clear of any controversy.
 
From the Roaming Railfan videos of BL construction, each quad gate project seemed to involve upgraded communications, and significant road work. If the manufacturer claims higher safety, could the legal/insurance costs included in the product be higher? In any case, it might be a limited market.
It seems to me that BL were working from the premise that if you do things well, you won't have to go back and re-do them for a long time.

If you try to fix up and modify existing stuff it needs re-doing much sooner and ends up costing you more.
 
It seems to me that BL were working from the premise that if you do things well, you won't have to go back and re-do them for a long time.

If you try to fix up and modify existing stuff it needs re-doing much sooner and ends up costing you more.
It did built the trestles wide enough for double tracking on the high-speed line. And it used some innovative techniques. My fascination with Roaming's videos began with the second tunnel under 528, the slip tunnel. One piece of European equipment was blurred out because it was proprietary. BL had to tunnel under 528 in two places to get over the eight lanes and two ramps of I-95, then skirt FEC's yard north of 528, to get back to the south side of 528.

On a bridge on the coastal route, it used high performance concrete, patented from Europe, allowing a much thinner pour. HPC uses fibers rather than, or in addition to, rebar.

The welded rail was joined by thermite in some locations (video of that!), and electrically other places.
 
If this doesn't merit an entirely separate thread, I understand, but I figured it was worth a try.

Its hard to discuss BL Florida without touching up the hundreds of grade crossings between Miami and Coco.

Whenever I look at a map of the BL route, I see so much redundancy. Sometimes there are crossings within less than an 8th of a mile.
Given that this is literally a deadly problem, why can't FDOT/BL/FEC etc. work to either reduce the number of grade crossings (especially redundant ones) by closing a few, while simultaneously eliminating some by grade separation? Picking a few high volume/traffic roads to grade separate, while outright closing a few of the redundant/less used roads would definitely cut the number down in a meaningful way.

I have my own theories as to why this is the case, but this seems like something that ought to be discussed - plans should exist, but I don't hear about it.
Do plans exist to address this issue? Looking forward to hearing more about this.
 
The crossing at Pineda Causeway was separated over the last few years, but not because of Brightline specifically, just because of FL-404's extension all the way to I-95, widening it from two to four lanes, and its role as access to barrier islands and an air force base: Pineda bridge over railroad tracks will improve traffic flow

Most of the rest of the crossings can't easily be grade-separated due to the railroad's role in the urban development of the east coast. Even ignoring places where passenger stations exist today, many of the only cute, walkable parts of communities along the route are there because of the passenger service that existed 70 or more years ago, and I can imagine it'd be tough to sell the disruption of grade-separating tracks to the people that live, work, or own businesses in those areas.
 
Brightline paid the cost to upgrade all the crossings to up-to Class 5 requirements. I don't know if it's enough, but I timed the crossings just the other days. Lights to approaching gates down = 10 seconds. Approaching gates down to clearing gates down = 10 seconds. All gates down to train barreling through at 90 MPH = 10 seconds. 30 seconds total from lights to train.

Meanwhile, at least the other night, the trains came pretty close to meeting at US-192 in Melbourne. Certainly less than a minute between the SB and NB trains. Gone was the long-long-short-loooong horn. It was pretty much laying on the horn repeatedly through both sets of crossings (Strawbridge and New Haven) - in both directions.

Somewhere I read that some countries have chains on their crossing arms as a deterrent to bad behavior. I know there was one crossing in Japan when I was a kid (track has since been elevated) that had a drop down "curtain" rather than arms. Of course, this could trap vehicles.

IDK. 30 seconds. Is that enough? Is 5 seconds for a yellow light enough to know to stop or else you'll get rammed by cross traffic?

How do you fix stupid? Or suicidal?
 
Brightline paid the cost to upgrade all the crossings to up-to Class 5 requirements. I don't know if it's enough, but I timed the crossings just the other days. Lights to approaching gates down = 10 seconds. Approaching gates down to clearing gates down = 10 seconds. All gates down to train barreling through at 90 MPH = 10 seconds. 30 seconds total from lights to train.
I wonder if the 30 seconds is stretching it? If they come down too early, people waiting are going to get impatient and when car drivers get impatient they get dangerous.
 
I wonder if the 30 seconds is stretching it? If they come down too early, people waiting are going to get impatient and when car drivers get impatient they get dangerous.
I think it's a nice compromise. It actually seems pretty fast. In all honesty, from the time the lights start flashing until the train passes (for Brightline) is typically less than a stop light. Since there is activity every 10 seconds, I think the physical action of the gates every 10 seconds keeps that ADHD at bay. You can't accommodate every person's preference.
 
December results are out. As usual, this is short distance, then long distance, then combined.
Code:
2021    November     61,045     0.6         $  582,979    $ 9.83    $ 9.55    0.8     $13.11
2021    December     95,348     1.3         $1,259,547    $13.63    $13.21    1.6     $13.63

2021                156,393     1.8         $1,842,309    $11.51    $11.78    2.4*    $15.34

Year    Month       Ridership   Tix Rev-A    Tix Rev-B     PPR-A     PPR-B    Tot Rev  Total PPR
2022    January      64,243     1.3         $1,254,666    $20.24    $19.53    1.5     $23.35
2022    February     77,806     1.6         $1,624,589    $20.56    $20.88    1.9     $24.42
2022    March       107,069     2.3         $2,289,135    $21.48    $21.38    2.7     $25.22
2022    April        93,922     1.9         $1,926,340    $20.23    $20.51    2.3     $24.49
2022    May         102,796     2.2         $2,178,247    $21.40    $21.19    2.6     $25.29
2022    June         92,304     1.7         $1,713,162    $18.42    $18.56    2.1     $22.75
2022    July        111,582     1.9         $1,896,894    $17.03    $17.00    2.3     $20.61
2022    August      100,116     1.9         $1,917,221    $18.98    $19.15    2.4     $23.97
2022    September    91,577     1.8         $1,769,268    $19.66    $19.32    2.5     $27.30
2022    October     102,615     2.1         $2,126,183    $20.46    $20.72    3.0     $29.24
2022    November    102,544     2.2         $2,213,925    $21.45    $21.59    3.4     $33.16
2022    December    183,920     3.7         $3,733,576    $20.12    $20.30    5.1     $27.73
                    
2022                1,230,494  24.6        $24,643,207    $19.99             31.8     $25.84

2023    January     156,137     3.5         $3,538,064    $22.41    $22.66    4.7     $30.10
2023    February    151,654     3.7         $3,654,861    $24.39    $24.10    4.7     $30.99
2023    March       179,576     4.7         $4,710,278    $26.17    $26.23    6.5     $36.20
2023    April       151,080     3.4         $3,446,135    $22.50    $22.81    4.9     $32.43
2023    May         168,137     3.5         $3,468,666    $20.82    $20.63    5.2     $30.93
2023    June        149,536     2.7         $2,706,602    $18.06    $18.10    4.2     $28.09
2023    July        156,478     2.8         $2,818,169    $17.89    $18.01    4.3     $27.50
2023    August      149,821     2.6         $2,581,416    $17.35    $17.23    4.0     $26.70
2023    September   125,475     2.6         $2,588,549    $20.72    $20.63
2023    October     126,059     3.1         $3,092,227    $24.59    $24.53
2023    November    112,423     2.9         $2,915,128    $25.79    $25.93
2023    December    121,386     3.5         $3,470,426    $28.83    $28.59

2023                1,747,762   39.0       $38,992,570    $22.31    $22.31
Code:
Year    Month       Ridership   Tix Rev-A    Tix Rev-B     PPR-A     PPR-B    Tot Rev  Total PPR
2023    September    17,578      1.5          $1,479,364   $85.33    $84.16   
2023    October      79,686      7.3          $7,314,378   $91.61    $91.79
2023    November     93,184      8.4          $8,360,468   $90.14    $89.72
2023    December    115,683      9.0          $8,970,060   $77.80    $77.54

2023                306,131     26.1         $26,125,220   $85.26    $85.34
Code:
2021    November     61,045     0.6         $  582,979    $ 9.83    $ 9.55    0.8     $13.11
2021    December     95,348     1.3         $1,259,547    $13.63    $13.21    1.6     $13.63

2021                156,393     1.8         $1,842,309    $11.51    $11.78    2.4*    $15.34

Year    Month       Ridership   Tix Rev-A    Tix Rev-B     PPR-A     PPR-B    Tot Rev  Total PPR
2022    January      64,243     1.3         $1,254,666    $20.24    $19.53    1.5     $23.35
2022    February     77,806     1.6         $1,624,589    $20.56    $20.88    1.9     $24.42
2022    March       107,069     2.3         $2,289,135    $21.48    $21.38    2.7     $25.22
2022    April        93,922     1.9         $1,926,340    $20.23    $20.51    2.3     $24.49
2022    May         102,796     2.2         $2,178,247    $21.40    $21.19    2.6     $25.29
2022    June         92,304     1.7         $1,713,162    $18.42    $18.56    2.1     $22.75
2022    July        111,582     1.9         $1,896,894    $17.03    $17.00    2.3     $20.61
2022    August      100,116     1.9         $1,917,221    $18.98    $19.15    2.4     $23.97
2022    September    91,577     1.8         $1,769,268    $19.66    $19.32    2.5     $27.30
2022    October     102,615     2.1         $2,126,183    $20.46    $20.72    3.0     $29.24
2022    November    102,544     2.2         $2,213,925    $21.45    $21.59    3.4     $33.16
2022    December    183,920     3.7         $3,733,576    $20.12    $20.30    5.1     $27.73
                    
2022                1,230,494  24.6        $24,643,207    $19.99             31.8     $25.84

2023    January     156,137     3.5         $3,538,064    $22.41    $22.66    4.7     $30.10
2023    February    151,654     3.7         $3,654,861    $24.39    $24.10    4.7     $30.99
2023    March       179,576     4.7         $4,710,278    $26.17    $26.23    6.5     $36.20
2023    April       151,080     3.4         $3,446,135    $22.50    $22.81    4.9     $32.43
2023    May         168,137     3.5         $3,468,666    $20.82    $20.63    5.2     $30.93
2023    June        149,536     2.7         $2,706,602    $18.06    $18.10    4.2     $28.09
2023    July        156,478     2.8         $2,818,169    $17.89    $18.01    4.3     $27.50
2023    August      149,821     2.6         $2,581,416    $17.35    $17.23    4.0     $26.70
2023    September   143,053     4.1         $4,068,427    $28.66    $28.44    5.8     $40.54
2023    October     205,745    10.4        $10,406,582    $50.55    $50.58   12.8     $62.21
2023    November    205,607    11.3        $11,275,488    $54.96    $54.84   13.9     $67.60
2023    December    237,069    12.4        $12,441,381    $52.31    $52.48   16.7     $70.44

2023              2,053,893    65.1        $65,108,408    $31.70    $31.70   87.7     $42.70
 
Just for some amusement, here were my projected December results:
Code:
2023    December SD  123,665     3.2         $3,206,641    $25.79    $25.93
2023    December LD  102,502     9.2         $9,196,515    $90.14    $89.72
2023    December TOT 226,167    12.4        $12,403,155    $54.96    $54.84   15.3     $67.60
And here were the actuals:
Code:
2023    December    121,386     3.5         $3,470,426    $28.83    $28.59
2023    December    115,683      9.0          $8,970,060   $77.80    $77.54
2023    December    237,069    12.4        $12,441,381    $52.31    $52.48   16.7     $70.44
I was slightly high on the South Florida results and moderately low on the Orlando results in terms of ridership, but my though my overall ridership projection was a bit low, my overall revenue projection was just about dead on. Ancillary was a bit off, however.

So, my thinking:
The December numbers are encouraging in terms of ridership, but Brightline increasingly looks like they may be in a bit of trouble on the revenue front vs projections:

Code:
2023    Q4       SD  359,868     9.5         $9,477,781              $26.34
2023    Q4       LD  288,553    24.7        $24,644,906              $85.41
2023    Q4       TOT 648,421    34.2        $34,122,687              $52.62

Q4 Combined - Brightline Filing
2023    Q4       SD  580,000    17.0        $16,889,600              $29.12
2023    Q4       LD  330,000    36.0        $36,098,700             $109.39
2023    Q4       TOT 920,000    53.0        $53,479,600              $58.13   64.0     $69.57
The short version is that Brightliine was off by a little over 10% on short-distance yields, but off by 38% on short-distance ridership. Blame the lack of capacity. On the LD side of things, they were actually pretty close on ridership (they were off a bit over 10%; blame the slow ramp-up in October, but they actually exceeded the nominal pace for ridership in December) but were off by 23% on the yield front.

Somewhat disturbing here is the dip in PPR on the LD front. There are two obvious possible culprits here. One is a shifting ridership mix from being Premium-heavy to being more Smart-heavy. I believe that this is part of it - there were, after all, no more than about 40,000 Premium seats on the route in December, so the share there probably did slide, and there's a substantial pricing difference. There were also some holiday discounts aimed at inducing travel on certain days, and that would also have taken a hit.
Regardless of the cause, for Q4 Brightline was off substantially on projected ridership and revenue. It does look like they can flog some extra ridership out of the system (and December is a historically strong month for them), but based on prior years I don't expect to see these ridership totals surpassed until more cars are available.

As an adjunct to all of this, based on their statement that excluding special services not run in 12/2023 but run in 12/2022 ridership was up 66%, it looks like in December of 2022 they derived about 40,000 riders from the Polar Express (December 2023's ridership divided by 1.66 yields 142,812 vs the overall stated number of 183,920).
 
Are they going to be making money off Tri-Rail? Folks should really be using the new Tri-Rail service for short distance so they can sell the long distance on Brightline.
 
Are they going to be making money off Tri-Rail? Folks should really be using the new Tri-Rail service for short distance so they can sell the long distance on Brightline.
Yes, but IIRC they're bonding out that revenue. Also, Brightline's business model explicitly expects several million Brightline riders within South Florida.
 
Yesterday (1/25/24) the crossing gate on Babcock (a significant thoroughfare) in Melbourne was having fits. Sometimes it would just light up and go ding-ding for a few second and then just shut down. No gate movement. At other times it would cycle through the entire sequence of gate closure and opening, but no sign on any train anywhere in both cases. There were two Police Cruisers sitting around watch this happen over and over again. I suppose it must have eventually gotten fixed, but I did not hang around to see the end of it.
 
Yesterday (1/25/24) the crossing gate on Babcock (a significant thoroughfare) in Melbourne was having fits. Sometimes it would just light up and go ding-ding for a few second and then just shut down. No gate movement. At other times it would cycle through the entire sequence of gate closure and opening, but no sign on any train anywhere in both cases. There were two Police Cruisers sitting around watch this happen over and over again. I suppose it must have eventually gotten fixed, but I did not hang around to see the end of it.
When I was up there last week they had Palmetto Ave closed (which is how I like to get to my usual downtown Melbourne destination) for signal work, so there're probably some lingering issues or continuing work going on.
 
Are they going to be making money off Tri-Rail? Folks should really be using the new Tri-Rail service for short distance so they can sell the long distance on Brightline.
I didn't quite understand this. Tri-rail is cheaper and makes more stops. People who can afford BL will take it if it's more or less as close to their destination. If/when commuter rail opens on the FEC corridor, that will be a different matter. In the meantime, the competing train services to FLL airport will be interesting. Tri-rail is closer, but BL is quicker. BL has its mix of shuttle and premium uber. Tri-rail has a mix of shuttle a $5 vouchers for taxis and uber. FLL is a popular second airport for Miamians.

One advantage of Tri-rail is no reservations. On BL you have to make a costly change if your plane is late coming in, as far as I know. It's similar to the dual train services at BWI, EWR, and, just barely, ORD.

Reading the BL website, I see it offers the same shuttle service, at the same cost, between MIA airport and Miami Central station. "First come, first served." The frequency and service hours of BL and Tri-rail are vaguely comparable to Amtrak and commuter rail at BWI and EWR (if you include the NWK Penn bus).
 
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