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New Brightline train arrives in Orlando

A train attendant helped usher guests onto Brightline's first Orlando-Miami connection.
Molly Duerig
Train attendant Khaliah Jones helped usher guests onto Brightline's first Orlando-Miami connection at MCO Terminal C on Sept. 22, 2023.

Brightline’s first train service from Miami arrived in Orlando on Friday. The high-speed passenger rail service will travel daily between Central Florida and several South Florida locations, according to Brightline officials.

“We topped out at about a little over 125 miles an hour today,” Brightline CEO Mike Reininger said shortly after the first train arrived at the Brightline station, located at the Orlando International Airport’s new C Terminal.

Brightline will provide hourly service between Central and South Florida, running sixteen round-trips a day “very soon,” Reininger said.

Right now, each train holds about 300 people, but Reininger said the company plans to expand capacity by incrementally adding cars.

“Ultimately, we think the system is gonna take maybe 8 million people a year, back and forth,” Reininger said.

One-way tickets for adults begin at $79, according to Brightline’s website, but groups of four or more save 25%. Brightline’s director of public affairs Katie Mitzner said children travel at half-price and that the company offers different corporate packages.

“We have many target demographics,” Mitzner said. “We have leisure travelers who want to get down to South Florida or get up to Orlando to go to the parks. We have commuters who work in one spot or the next, and don’t want to make that drive anymore.”

For Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, the new train service also provides an opportunity to enhance Central Florida’s commuter train, the SunRail.

“We should be able to ride on the infrastructure that Brightline is putting in place here to help us expand upon our local commuter rail,” Demings said. “That’s really what I’m most excited about, is the potential to have an alternative mode of transportation to move people who live and work here in Central Florida around more efficiently.”

“I don’t want it to be just about moving tourists around. I want it to be about moving the workers around,” Demings said.

Reininger described Orlando’s inaugural Friday train from Miami as a “special event train” for invited V.I.P. guests, ranging from government leaders to media representatives. Hundreds of people gathered on the platform at MCO Terminal C to welcome the train.

Hundreds of invited guests gathered on the platform at MCO Terminal C to welcome Brightline's inaugural train to Orlando.
Molly Duerig
Hundreds of invited guests gathered on Brightline's platform at MCO Terminal C to welcome the private company's inaugural train to Orlando on Sept. 22, 2023.

The train’s arrival in Orlando Friday was delayed partly because it made several stops to pick up VIPs along the way, Reininger said, but also because a different Brightline train struck and killed a pedestrian on the tracks in South Florida.

Although Reininger could not speak to the details of that incident Friday, another Brightline official indicated that the pedestrian likely took their own life.

“Safety is our number one priority. And we have invested millions of dollars throughout our corridor to make it as safe as possible,” Mitzner said.

Brightline has the country’s worst per-mile death rate of the nation’s more than 800 railroads, according to an ongoing Associated Press analysis. Most of the 98 deaths attributed to the rail line have been pedestrians or drivers taking their own lives.

“Ultimately, it comes down to human behavior. And we want to reiterate to everyone: stay off the tracks,” Mitzner said. “Don’t go around the gates. Stay off of the right-of-way. If you see tracks, think train.”

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a trained listener, call 988. Visit 988lifeline.org for crisis chat services or for more information. 

Molly is an award-winning reporter with a background in video production and investigative journalism, focused on covering environmental issues for Central Florida Public Media.
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