Travel Thursday: Brightline Changes Southern Florida Travel Yet Again

If Getting There Is Half The Battle…

In Southern Florida, the major complaint that larger cities have to deal with from people on the outskirts is the traffic when it comes to trying to enjoy a metropolis area. There are some great cities to visit down here, but you just need to be able to get in, enjoy, and get out. Easier said than done.

I’ve been to Miami a handful of times in the past 8 years which is not a great deal as it’s only about 25 miles away, but Interstate 95 from Fort Lauderdale to Miami is a road that my passengers often just shut their eyes while trying to co-pilot. All 95 drivers know the three spots where traffic always comes to a stop on the way down and they prep for the given that all lanes north will be a red-light parking lot when returning north, because it always happens. The travel into the city is just something that you don’t want to do so the event must be very much so worth it, and if it isn’t, you just don’t go.

Oh my, how all of that just changed this week.  A close friend had been wanting to go north to West Palm Beach, do dinner, and come back home on the Brightline Train. Then COVID happened, and the train was no longer running. Now that the company is putting its trains back in service, opening up the Brightline app was my saving grace and such a blood pressure lessener.

Wait, What Is Brightline?

Brightline homepage screen shot

Brightline is the only provider of modern, eco-friendly, high-speed rail service in America. The company currently operates between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in Florida and is scheduled to complete construction to the Orlando International Airport by the end of 2022. Brightline was recognized by Fast Company as one of the Most Innovative Companies in travel, offering a guest-first experience designed to reinvent train travel and take cars off the road. Brightline plans to bring its award-winning service to additional city pairs and congested corridors across the country that are too close to fly and too long to drive, with immediate plans to connect Las Vegas to Southern California. For more information, visit www.gobrightline.com and follow us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

When Brightline was proposed, it sounded like an answer to my north & south travel woes. Tonight, I found out it was amazing solution to such a horrific problem. Parking the car at the Fort Lauderdale Station Parking Garage, the walk to the terminal was less than a minute. Slipping on our masks, we were greeted with Brightline workers with warm words and smizing eyes. Everyone was great, helpful, and educated us newbies on what was going on, what we should do, and what to expect. The platform attendee answered all my questions I had and added some info about all that Brightline has to offer. We were pleasantly surprised to hear that next time we want to ride the Brightline, we could actually book a home pick up from their soon to be fully electric fleet of private cars. Starting December 1st, the Brightline+ Bundle will be for customers that want to book their train and bundle rides to and from the station. Full service!

Brightline homepage screen shot

My home is in the Fort Lauderdale radius and most of the places I want to go to in Miami are within that city’s circle above. I’ll be more than all set. And travelers heading out on a cruise in either Miami or Fort Lauderdale will be happy, too, as the ports of both cities are within the radius.

Once we arrived and disembarked the train, we did not need to go anywhere Miami as MiamiCentral Station was where we wanted to be. It is good to note that there are well over 200 other local destinations travelers could get to using not ride shares, but the other two rail services in Miami (Metromover and the Tri-Rail), but we were there to enjoy the opening of Citizens at MiamiCentral, a 16-stall food hall, as well as checking out the signature bar Mary Mary and the autonomous shop MRKT. Citizen is operated by C3 (Creating Culinary Communities). C3’s popular culinary brands, including EllaMia, Umami Burger, Sam’s Crispy Chicken, Krispy Rice, El Pollo Verde, Cicci di Carne, Sa’Moto and Cindy Lou’s Cookies, will occupy 11 of the 16 food vendor kiosks with redesigned spaces. With plans for expansion, C3 restaurant brands featured in the culinary market feature menu’s from celebrity chef partners Dani Garcia, Katsuya Uechi. ‘Iron Chef’ Masaharu Morimoto, Alvin Cailan and Dario Cecchini. Several brands present in the original food hall footprint will remain, including Rosetta Bakery, Patagonia, KUENKO, and Art de Vivre.

We enjoyed the tasting of so many great offerings, both adult liquids and yummy food options.  We were talking with some great people while enjoying one of Cindy Lou’s cookies when we realized our train was leaving in 3 minutes. Hightailing it out of there, throwing our masks back on, and being efficiently guided through security, we made our train back to Fort Lauderdale. The station is spacious yet small so not a lot of hurrying actually had to happen.

Was It Worth It?

The current cost of adding Brightline to the east coast of Florida is $5 Billion and $1 Billion of that went into creating the MiamiCentral Station, a 9-acre complex which also includes 3 million square feet of residential (800 apartments), office, commercial, and retail space. It is a great addition to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and by the end of 2022, the people of Orlando, making high speed train service available to about 20 million Floridians.

But is it worth it for me? The lack of stress from driving and making sure to not get into an accident, the $30 to $55 per day or overnight parking fee in Miami or Miami Beach, that is enough alone. The train seats were comfortable and, depending on if you buy a $10 or $27 one way ticket, there is free food and beverage service onboard.  We talked to train attendants as she was handing us beers and snacks and she informed us that they will get back to bento box and other services on the train.

And this will as well free me up to make some overnight/weekend trips to Miami. Subtract $55 x 3 for three nights of hotel parking, it would be nice to save $165 and the worry about which far away parking garage is my car in on South Beach. More than a little money saves as it’s a peace of mind, too. 

What I am saying is, for me, this just opened Miami back up to me.  I used to drive to Western Miami for work every day, but to then go back down there for fun, driving, well, the fun had to be something spectacular. With Brightline and my experience yesterday, I’m truly a fan of looking into more Miami happenings, restaurants, festivals, getaways, anything down there, now that I have a more than easy option to commute to such a wonderful city. All of the above fully opens to the public on November 8th. 2021.

Brightline will be offering a new Premium service that will be offered onboard, previously known as Select, and will be a first-class experience with added amenities to take care of our guests every need. This is the same elevated first-class service our riders know and love and includes cold refreshment towels, individual sanitation wipes, an onboard snack basket, complimentary alcoholic beverages at the Premium lounge and complimentary alcoholic beverages per segment on board. This Premium service will also include morning and evening in-station food snacks and small bites, unlimited non-alcoholic beverages, and a reduced priced menu for purchases. All our trains will also offer a Smart class selection, a comfortable business-class option with an array of food and beverages available for purchase. Additional features guests will have access to while riding with Brighltine include: enhanced ADA accessibility, bike and carry-on storage, checked luggage options, pet friendly travel options, free charging points and free, high-speed Wi-Fi for the duration of the ride and while at the stations. 

So if you are in Southern Florida or visiting, check out the Brightline for some of your travel and commuting needs. And if you are in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, get ready!

 

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