Brightline’s website crashes after debut announced

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A simulated service trainset leaves Brightline’s West Palm Beach “workshop b” maintenance facility on Thursday, Jan 11.
Bob Johnston
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Efforts to fill trains the first day Brightline tickets went on sale hit a big snag Thursday.

Although Brightline finally announced that its first revenue runs between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., would begin Saturday, Jan. 13, the booking portion of the company’s website was able to accommodate only a few transactions before it crashed.

Instead of being able to buy tickets, travelers were greeted with a disclaimer.

“Due to overwhelming excitement, we’re experiencing site traffic delays and booking glitches. We have temporarily suspended booking rides where train times are displaying ‘sold out’ while we work through the kinks. Thanks for your patience.”

Potential customers were advised to “please check back later today” on Thursday, but by early Friday morning only Jan. 13 and 14 departures were shown as available while all other 2018 dates were listed as “sold out.” During one attempted Saturday purchase, a customer was advised to start over. The website also said the Brightline app was available but no app could be found on Apple’s “App Store.”

Tickets are sold by agents at the new Brightline stations, yet buying online is essential because all seats in both “Select” and “Smart” class are reserved and are to be chosen at the time of booking. The temporary “Try our Train” fares for “Smart” class are $10 one way during the introductory period. The three Smart cars on each train have a two-seats-on-each-side configuration, but passengers can book tables with four facing seats.

For another $5, the Select car provides 1-2 seating with wider seats. Beverages and snacks are complimentary in Select and available for purchase from a cart in Smart class.

There are 11 round-trips weekdays and 10 on weekends. The Monday-Friday departures start at 6 a.m. from West Palm Beach and 6:55 a.m. from Fort Lauderdale and end at 7 p.m. and 7:55 p.m. respectively, with mostly hourly service (one hour is skipped in the morning and two each afternoon). Weekend trains leave West Palm Beach every hour and a half starting at 8 a.m., with the last departure at 9:30 p.m. From Fort Lauderdale, the first train heads north at 9:25 a.m. and the last at 10:55 p.m.

Trips are carded at 40 minutes, but the non-stop journey is projected to actually take 35 minutes including five minutes of recovery time into the terminals. Brightline officials say 80 percent of the running is at 79 mph. In contrast, Tri-Rail trains on former CSX Transportation tracks mostly adjacent to Interstate 95 further west make seven intermediate stops and require 58 minutes, but the one-way adult fare is $6.20.

More details are expected to be announced at a media event Friday. The current schedule pattern will be in effect until service is extended south of Fort Lauderdale to Miami, where Brightline’s new Miami Central station is expected to open within the next two months.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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