Amtrak is no All Aboard Florida, but it’s rolling

January 10, 2016

By Scott Powers, Florida Politics

As All Aboard Florida tries to get everyone onboard its proposal to run higher-speed passenger trains between Orlando and South Florida, my wife and I boarded the closest thing last week, Amtrak’s Silver Meteor train, for a getaway from Orlando to South Beach.Brightline All Aboard Florida 635824147308369280-Five-Brightline-Trains

All Aboard Florida wants to run 16 passenger trains a day on round trips between the Orlando International Airport and stops in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, starting late next year. The company says its Brightline trains could go 79 to 125 mph on the route, which would head east from the Orlando airport into Brevard County, then cruise south along the coast for a 220-mile trip, and make it in just three hours.

The Amtrak Silver Meteor route travels down the center of the state then veers east toward the coast in Palm Beach County, all at speeds far less than 79 mph. We bought tickets starting from Winter Park, for a scheduled seven-hour trip to Miami.

Even at seven hours, the train was an easy choice for us, leaving us wondering whether All Aboard would be able to deliver better at a comparable price, as it proposes. Driving to Miami is draining. Flying to Miami strikes me as overkill, and airplanes are not comfortable enough nor airport experiences simple enough anymore to rate as worth the added cost of flying a short trip.

Trains, as All Aboard would want everyone to know, offer neither problem.Website Insert Coach Business Class Food Service copy

My wife and I arrived at the Winter Park Amtrak station at 11:35 a.m. and found a free Amtrak passenger parking space, 30 feet from the station door. By 11:42 we and our suitcase were checked in, so we had almost 45 minutes to kill. It was a gorgeous Florida day, so we wandered Winter Park’s Park Avenue shopping district.

Relatively few Orlandoans ever consider taking Amtrak to South Florida.

Amtrak reported that 377,550 riders got on or off its two trains on this route, the Silver Meteor or the Silver Star, in Orlando or South Florida last year. That included riders who got on the trains anywhere between Orlando and New York, where these trains originate.

Estimates for Brightline’s annual passengers start at about 1.5 million.

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