Florida is in the middle of airport, seaport, and All Aboard Florida construction. Is it enough for 100 million visitors?

September 13, 2015

Florida is booming again when it comes to tourism; everywhere you go, there are tourists by the tens of thousands. Many have questioned if All Aboard Florida, the now-under-construction, first regularly scheduled, private intercity passenger train service in the country can be financially successful. The story below presents clearly why All Aboard Florida, which will operate between downtown Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando International Airport, has great potential for success, both financially and as good intercity transportation for future passengers.

While Amtrak is not mentioned in this story, the facts presented below explain why Amtrak has two daily trains to Florida in addition to the daily Auto Train Amtrak operates from suburban Washington, D.C. to Sanford, an Orlando suburb in Central Florida, conveniently located one county away from Walt Disney World. In Fiscal Year 2014, Amtrak’s Silver Star carried 404,400 passengers (62.2% load factor) on its route between New York City and Jacksonville/Orlando/Tampa/West Palm Beach/Fort Lauderdale and Miami. The Silver Meteor carried 348,700 passengers (64.3% load factor) between New York City and Jacksonville/Orlando/West Palm Beach/Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Auto Train carried 273,600 passengers (70.9% load factor) on its route between Lorton, Virginia and Sanford, Florida.

Modern Florida was created by Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway on the east coast, Henry B. Plant’s predecessor to the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad on the west coast, and later in the early 20th Century, the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, all bringing passengers into what became the Winter Playground of the United States. Passenger trains came first to Florida, followed by freight trains. Together the combination of passenger and freight trains shared infrastructure, a corporate parent, resources, and built railroad empires. All Aboard Florida, as a corporate offspring of today’s Florida East Coast Railway, is poised to make major contributions to the movement of tourists and resident of Florida when it launches in 2017. – CCRail.com Editor

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. — The last time Erik Paul took a Caribbean cruise out of PortMiami, getting off the ship took well over an hour. The lines clearing immigration in the port were backed up, and there was such general chaos that Paul’s mother got into a heated argument with a purser when she insisted on getting off the Carnival ship before she was called.Website Insert Turnkey Packages copy

“The port was unable to handle the customer loads,” said Paul, 47, who lives in Orlando. “It seemed like a disorganized mess.” He never wants to use the port again.

With Florida on pace to host a record 100 million visitors this year, the state’s tourism infrastructure is being challenged like never before. Florida’s four large-hub airports and five major seaports are undergoing billions of dollars in renovations and construction, but some experts says Florida will have to adapt to even further increases in demand to remain competitive. Tourism is the state’s biggest industry.

“It’s akin to someone moving into a larger house,” said Robert Weissert, senior vice president for research at Florida TaxWatch, a nonprofit research group that has studied Florida’s infrastructure challenges. “Someone needs to tell them that along with a bigger house comes higher heating and cooling costs and more maintenance costs.”

Florida’s airports are getting more crowded as the state’s airports add direct flights to far-flung cities and tourism numbers surpass pre-Great Recession levels. Half of Florida’s visitors arrive by air.

Just this year, half a dozen airlines started direct flights between Orlando International Airport and Belfast, Ireland; Brasilia, Brazil; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Reykjavik, Iceland; Havana, Cuba; and Lima, Peru. The Dubai flights on Emirates Airlines are expected to attract new passengers from Asia and the Middle East to Orlando, which last year became the most visited place in the United States with 62 million visitors.

The state’s second-busiest airport has embarked on a $1.1 billion expansion, the largest in two decades, for a new garage, check-in kiosks and a train terminal to service the privately funded All Aboard Florida line, which will run from Orlando to Miami in two years. As the airport built for 24 million passengers annually approaches handling 37 million passengers, there are plans to build a new terminal in the coming years.

Read Associated Press writer Mike Schneider’s full story via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune by clicking here.


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