Brightline ramps up frequencies, seeks site for Tampa station

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A Brightline train approaches MiamiCentral station on new track on May 11, 2018.
Bob Johnston

MIAMI — Brightline has increased the frequency of its Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach passenger service.

Following the completion of switch and signal cutovers that permit more fluid freight and passenger operation, weekday schedules have been expanded from 11 to 16 round trips. After an existing 5:30 a.m. West Palm Beach departure, trains now leave every hour on the hour from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., except 1 p.m. Going north, trains now leave Miami at 13 minutes past every hour from 7:13 a.m. to  11:13 p.m., missing only the 3:13 p.m. trip.

Weekend schedules remain unchanged at eight round trips Saturday and seven Sunday with every-other-hour service, but timings have been adjusted to conform with the weekday “memory” schedules at all three stations.

The most significant addition is the 6 a.m. West Palm Beach departure, which expands options for commuters headed for downtown Miami.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Times reports that Brightline is evaluating three possible sites for a station in downtown Tampa, Fla., should the company win a competitive bid to extend its proposed Orlando International Airport “Phase 2” terminus. Three locations where local officials have detected interest are the site of a former jail near an existing bus transit center, land adjacent to Tampa Union Station (where Amtrak’s Silver Star stops), and an older 370-unit apartment complex whose owners could be persuaded to sell, according to observers.

Ben Porritt, Brightline corporate affairs vice president, told the Times in a statement, “We’re analyzing a set of options that will work with the alignment of the proposed route and offer unique development opportunities, which will help establish this as a destination.”   

In March, the company submitted an unsolicited proposal to utilize the median of Interstate 4 and other rights-of-way adjacent to highways to build from the airport to Tampa. [See "Brightline permits for Orlando expansion get OK; Tampa is next target," Trains News Wire, July 9, 2018.] Some of Brightline’s engineering staff had worked on previous plans for the route’s use in a 2010 high speed rail stimulus project until Gov. Rick Scott rejected its $2 billion of federal funds.

Scott then announced in late June a request for proposals, in which Brightline would compete with other companies to build and operate the 86-mile service.

All plans are due by Nov. 7, 2018. While Brightline has a clear advantage because it has already invested in the Orlando airport station, State Sen. Linda Stewart told Orlando’s Spectrum News, “I’ve heard there are four (bidders). We have new technology and new people on the block wanting to make a bid.”

One of these could be Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a California-based firm which touted the possibility of utilizing the I-4 median earlier this year.

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