Brightline/Virgin Trains (FEC) Update

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jis

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My suspicion is that VTUSA will not get permission from FDOT to use any FDOT property to get to Disney, absent a full plan and agreement on the whole OIA - Tampa segment, possibly with penalties spelled out if the Tampa segment is not built within some stipulated time period. FDOT knows how things work in Florida and traditional Florida practices of promising the sky and finally delivering a mud patch if one can manage to get away with it. They will be extremely cautious. As a Florida resident I think that is a prudent thing to do.
 
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Brian_tampa

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VTUSA will have to use FDOT ROW as about 1/3 of the SR417 route between I-4 and MCO is owned by FDOT - the section closest to I-4. CFX owns the stretch east of there to the Sunrail tracks (and beyond, of course). Not to mention a station on the north (or west) side of I-4 at WDW is preferable I would think (meaning they would have to cross the I-4 ROW at WDW). VTUSA is kind of forced to play nice with FDOT.

I think this letter (and negotiating tactic) is FDOT's way of drawing a line in the sand, so to speak, in order to make VTUSA commit to building a true intercity service to Tampa. Of course all of this is years down the road. I just read that the initial I-4 Ultimate project is 9 months behind schedule. So the I-4 Beyond Ultimate that follows might be delayed as well. There is plenty of time to do the work, it is a matter of doing proper designing and planning around each project, of which there are at least four along I-4 and SR417! 3 road and 1 rail project. And I am sure VTUSA will have to plan around any future Sunrail extension to MCO as well. FDOT owns the Sunrail (CFRC) ROW I believe. So many moving parts here...:)
 

jis

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Yup. FDOT indeed owns the SunRail (CFRC) ROW, and hence the entire Meadow Woods transfer station is fully tied in with FDOT and its blessings.
 

chrsjrcj

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The Meadow Woods transfer station will be absolutely useless as long as SunRail offers no service on weekends and holidays. It’s not like trains run every 10-15 minutes during the week either.
 

AmtrakWPK

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Yup. FDOT indeed owns the SunRail (CFRC) ROW, and hence the entire Meadow Woods transfer station is fully tied in with FDOT and its blessings.
I would HOPE that whatever VT, SunRail, FDOT, DIsney and the Airport Authority work out together ends up being at least a semi-integrated plan. We here in Orlando and Central Florida and Florida as a whole NEED it to be. Disney would benefit tremendously if people from all over the Orlando metro area could park their car at their local SunRail station and take rail all the way to Disney and return (and Lakeland and Tampa to Disney). MCO (Orlando International Airport) will be SOOO much nicer to use if we can access it from our local SunRail station. Getting to and from Tampa from a local SunRail station will also be really nice (we already can, by taking SunRail to WPK, ORL, or Kissimmee Amtrak and then taking 91 to TPA but that's just once a day, only weekdays), and hopefully several times a day on VT. And, of course, having the ability to get from your local Sunrail station to Miami and back and from Tampa to Miami and back via the VT connex. We really need them to make this an integrated whole. Good luck.......
 

AGM.12

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If Virgin gets sandbagged by FDOT west of MCO, I wonder if their back up plan is simply build north to JAX?
 

jis

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If Virgin gets sandbagged by FDOT west of MCO, I wonder if their back up plan is simply build north to JAX?
More like if Virgin fails to produce a viable proposal west of OIA in a timely manner to preserve easements for it.

JAX will never produce anything remotely close to the ridership or revenue projected for the OIA - Tampa segment.
 

EchoSierra

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If Virgin gets sandbagged by FDOT west of MCO, I wonder if their back up plan is simply build north to JAX?
Isn't the service to Disney World being done with Disney's blessing? I suppose maybe Disney could flex their muscles if FDOT wants to hold it hostage.
 

jis

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Where did you get the idea that FDOT is holding anyone hostage? They just agreed to extend the negotiation period by 90 days beyond what was originally agreed to - an extension that became necessary because Virgin did not meet the deadline of the original MOU, a pretty odd thing for someone to do if all they wanted was to hold someone hostage. If they had ulterior motives they could have told Virgin to bug off at this point. [emoji6]
 
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cirdan

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Edit: To be clear, the rub is that I don't think anyone is served by holding up Disney access while Tampa gets sorted out. Even under the best of plans, Disney might be a 2-4 year project (once it gets approved and so on) while Tampa is probably a few years longer (due to the size, scope, etc. of the operation). Probably not quite as long as WPB-MIA to MCO-MIA, but that feels like a reasonable analogy.
I agree.

And the Tampa project needs to be well thought through. The siting of the station there could well be the argument that makes or breaks the line's ability to attract ridership. The other stations so far, and especially Miami and Orlando have pretty much been no brainers as any alternative site would obviously have been nonsensical. So it's not as if VTUSA even has much experience in actually picking a site in a totally open comparison.

A rushed and botched decision that could weigh down VTUSA's bottom line for decades is the last thing they need (or that the public needs).
 

jis

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The need for fixing requirements and plans soon is more in the area where I-4 RoW is slated to see major modification in the layout of the highway lanes in the near future. Waiting for the determination of the most wonderful site in Tampa may leave one with just a wonderful station there with an inferior or no rail connection to Orlando which would be quite undesirable too.

Anyhow, at present FDOT and VTUSA are methodically working through the issues and trying to get closure on an easement agreement in place among FDOT, VTUSA and CFEA. This involves both easement and toll compensation issues, and a closure at least in Orange and Osceola Counties is essential for both the link to resorts and easement protection and preservation through complex changes in I-4 layout.

The other point that I raised in the passing is that FDOT, and State of Florida has a fundamental interest in making sure that the entire thing to Tampa is eventually built, and not just the OIA - Resorts segment. I am sure there will be appropriate penalties and such included in the agreement that is finally entered into by the parties, and that can be done in a way that allows staged design finalization and construction. Actually raising money to do any of this will require completion of an EIS or equivalent, and if the likes of Debbie Mayfield have their way same would be required before any Florida State permits are given too I suspect.

As it turns out, as I have heard from at least one person at VTUSA, they have a core interest in the link to Tampa and a preference to serve via Resorts if they can. The high quality revenue source is the Tampa - Orlando link. Going via Resorts with a stop there just enhances its value. Just OIA and Meadow Brooks to Resorts has a potential large ridership but relatively low quality revenue, and is a very different kind of service from what VTUSA sees as its primary service niche. So bottom line is, even VTUSA will not jeopardize the link to Tampa for the sake of getting an early link to Resorts, though in the staged development plan indeed the link to Resorts may materialize earlier, somewhat like West Palm Beach - Fort Lauderdale materialized first, for the Miami Central - Orlando link.
 

cirdan

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The need for fixing requirements and plans soon is more in the area where I-4 RoW is slated to see major modification in the layout of the highway lanes in the near future. Waiting for the determination of the most wonderful site in Tampa may leave one with just a wonderful station there with an inferior or no rail connection to Orlando which would be quite undesirable too.
Yes. Makes perfect sense.

Anyhow, at present FDOT and VTUSA are methodically working through the issues and trying to get closure on an easement agreement in place among FDOT, VTUSA and CFEA. This involves both easement and toll compensation issues, and a closure at least in Orange and Osceola Counties is essential for both the link to resorts and easement protection and preservation through complex changes in I-4 layout.
What's this about toll compensation issues? Will VTUSA have to compensate for traffic they abstract from the highway?

The other point that I raised in the passing is that FDOT, and State of Florida has a fundamental interest in making sure that the entire thing to Tampa is eventually built, and not just the OIA - Resorts segment. I am sure there will be appropriate penalties and such included in the agreement that is finally entered into by the parties, and that can be done in a way that allows staged design finalization and construction. Actually raising money to do any of this will require completion of an EIS or equivalent, and if the likes of Debbie Mayfield have their way same would be required before any Florida State permits are given too I suspect.
The rumor mill is saying that the entire reason the Tampa to Orlando HSR project was scuttled was to permit conventional inter city rail on that corridor. If that is the case, it would be an act of extreme backstabbing on VTUSA's part if they now turn around and don't do their part, as the chances of anybody else stepping up and running such a service are virtually nil.

As it turns out, as I have heard from at least one person at VTUSA, they have a core interest in the link to Tampa and a preference to serve via Resorts if they can. The high quality revenue source is the Tampa - Orlando link. Going via Resorts with a stop there just enhances its value. Just OIA and Meadow Brooks to Resorts has a potential large ridership but relatively low quality revenue, and is a very different kind of service from what VTUSA sees as its primary service niche. So bottom line is, even VTUSA will not jeopardize the link to Tampa for the sake of getting an early link to Resorts, though in the staged development plan indeed the link to Resorts may materialize earlier, somewhat like West Palm Beach - Fort Lauderdale materialized first, for the Miami Central - Orlando link.
Sounds logical to me. Any short-haul service or opening of long-haul trains to short-haul riders will just be icing on the cake but can never spin big money simply because there is a limit to what you can charge for such a short ride and because VTUSA preferably wants to keep those seats available for long-haul riders rather than having them blocked on that section wilh little chance of re-selling them in significant numbers for,say, Resorts to Tampa.

Methinks at the end of the day if Disney wants something special they are going to have to bring theor own money to the table.

Anyway, if VTUSA genuinely didn't want to run to Tampa, I don' see why they would be going through the motions. The objective is totally genuine IMHO.
 

jis

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What's this about toll compensation issues? Will VTUSA have to compensate for traffic they abstract from the highway?
The issue is with the responsibility for paying down the construction bonds for the tollways which assumed certain traffic projections. CFEA and I suppose by proxy, FDOT, which indirectly is on the hook for those has taken the position that if the underlying revenue source that supported the issuance of those bonds are adversely affected by something that uses CFEA property and uses FDOT permit, there must be mitigation for the adverse effect included, since the whole exercise must be revenue neutral to tax payers. Since higher speed rail service would divert otherwise toll paying traffic, there must be mitigation. Fortunately it is nothing huge, maybe a dollar or so per ticket, but it has to be agreed to before FDOT and CFEA will sign off on easements and permits.
The rumor mill is saying that the entire reason the Tampa to Orlando HSR project was scuttled was to permit conventional inter city rail on that corridor.
The simple reason that the HSR was scuttled was politics, backed by a legitimate (from a certain perspective) concern that Florida did not want to pick up the subsidy tab for it that would possibly have followed as was projected in the planning documents. The more interesting rumor was that Scott and his friends preferred something in which they had an investment and could make some money off of, and the HSR project was not it. :D

I tend to believe the taxpayer burden theory because Florida has also steadfastly refused to subsidize any local Amtrak run service unless it meets some relatively high cost recovery barrier. That is not to say that Scott was not also motivated by possibilities of personal gain in following a different course, which has actually turned out to be somewhat true afterall. ;) It is a separate discussion as to whether that is a reasonable or logical stance or not, but it is what it is.
 
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jis

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Brightline, the high-speed South Florida rail service, surpassed the one million ridership mark for 2019, a spokesman said Monday, placing it on path to reach a goal of serving nearly 3 million customers by the end of 2021, its third full year of service.

In its most recent financial filing, the company said it crossed over the 100,000 mark in a single month for the first time in November.

Although the company has yet to formally publish its financial results for December and the full year, spokesman Michael Hicks said Brightline nearly doubled its ridership year over year on the strength of “back-to-back” record months in November and December. He added that commuter passes “more than doubled in 2019,” and that “business travel is at an all-time high.”

Hicks said the company has sufficient cash to meet its operational needs for 2020. Revenues for the 11-month period of 2019 were $19.2 million, according to the filing, an increase of 147% year-over-year.

.....
Read the whole article at...
http://enewspaper.sun-sentinel.com/infinity/article_share.aspx?guid=e18f45a8-2f43-4fe0-95f7-a8939b10fe4e&fbclid=IwAR2U2wIjJLikMsHG9yV5Phw1-Xp86Y55qR4LLDy-x2HH2YeoD9ZfBt-KUhw
 

Qapla

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I really do not like trying to read an article in a link that blocks the text with a pop-up that requires me to either sign-up or turn off my ad blocker ... I was unable to finish reading the article.
 

jis

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Well beggars can’t be choosers. I guess you get what you pay for [emoji51]
 

west point

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These counties have cost FEC some and Brightline a lot of cash. A reward would be for Brightline to say when the counties come begging for a station(s) for Brightline to build to say " forget it "!
 

Anderson

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These counties have cost FEC some and Brightline a lot of cash. A reward would be for Brightline to say when the counties come begging for a station(s) for Brightline to build to say " forget it "!
Eh, those stations are potentially worth millions in incremental revenue for the railroad. That being said, I suspect that what we will see is a rather frosty attitude towards coordinating with the county (more Indian River than the other one).
 

jis

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These counties have cost FEC some and Brightline a lot of cash. A reward would be for Brightline to say when the counties come begging for a station(s) for Brightline to build to say " forget it "!
Whadya mean “these counties”? Only two counties are involved - Martin and Indian River. Brevard has been supportive from day one notwithstanding the carpetbagger legislator originally from Vero who now calls Melbourne home [emoji51]

Anyway Martin is most likely getting a station, and Indian River probably not, at least initially. Though Vero is a good candidate though in terms of distances from adjacent stops Sebastian may be better.
 
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