With a booming population and record-breaking tourist visits, Florida has been looking to high-speed rail to help deal with the swelling number of travelers. But the much-touted All Aboard Florida, which is will link Miami with Orlando, might very well be All Aboard South Florida, according to a recent study reported in The Miami Herald.
The report, conducted by a New Jersey-based consulting firm, estimated that half the rail line’s business will come from people traveling only between the region’s major cities: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. So out of the predicted 5.3 million riders who will utilize the service by 2020, well over 2 million will be South Florida locals.
This isn’t too surprising, given the well-documented increase in congestion and commute time. Already, highways intended to link up with most of the state (Florida Turnpike) or the country (I-95) are used more for inter-city travel. Efforts to expand and improve existing infrastructure are making little difference, since the population continues to grow and urban sprawl (along with the car culture it supports) remains persistent.
The “optimized’ fare structure mentioned in the report is only more likely to increase usage rates: round trips between Miami and Fort Lauderdale will be only between $11 and $15, compared to Miami and Orlando fares ranging from $85 to $130. And though the riders will be an even split between local South Florida use and long-haul, it will be the latter and more expensive fares that will make up over three-quarters of revenue.
While these fares are higher than Tri-Rail, All Aboard Florida will also run faster due to the fewer stops: there will be 16 round-trip trains a day between Miami and Orlando, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach; by comparison, Tri-Rail has 18 stops between Miami and West Palm Beach.
Scheduled for completion in 2017, construction has already begun on stations in the three South Florida cities, as well as the railroad tracks between them. Regulatory and financing obstacles remaining, such as federal environmental impact study and approval of a $1.75 billion bond issue, which is being blocked by Indian River and Martin counties.
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