Brightline "Silver" Atlantic Coast or below Jacksonville

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Brightline "Silver" Atlantic Coast or below Jacksonville

Postby Jeff Smith » Wed Feb 06, 2019 5:22 pm

Here’s a thought (be afraid, be very afraid! 🤪😉 ):

Brightline is interested in expansion to Jacksonville, of course (see separate thread). Recent news shows Jacksonville wanting Amtrak to return to the FEC tracks and station: (Amtrak on the Florida East Coast FEC.

That topic primarily concerns Amtrak on the FEC, which is likely a dead letter now with Brightline.

However, bringing Amtrak to an FEC/Brightline terminal opens interesting possibilities... could Brightline assume Amtrak’s Florida operations?

Yes, there would be hurdles. Track rights, for one, that belong to Amtrak. We’ve talked about that elsewhere for expansion. However, could that be overcome by Amtrak contracting operations out?

That brings up the unions. The employees at those crew bases would have to be reassigned. How would that work if Amtrak just discontinued the routes, a la Sunset East, and other routes such as the Desert Express, Floridian (irony intended), etc.?

How would such a schedule work? Of the current LD’s, the Silvers overall in Florida are day trains, not requiring sleepers. Get off at Jax, transfer to a nice Siemens Brightliner (I like that term! TM!)

From Jax, you grab your train to Daytona, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, etc., running down the FEC or on new ROW (and IIRC the Silvers run on a lightly used CSX line controlled by FL?).

Would assuming Amtrak’s operating rights (and I don’t know the legality thereof; why I suggest “contracting”) allow faster and less expensive Virgin expansion? There going to run more than one train a day, of course, so a separate ROW is preferable.

Anyway, with Virgin talking about covering the points Amtrak presently covers, can Silver Service be endangered?
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Re: Virgin/Brightline “Silver Service” on Atlantic Coast?

Postby dumpster.penguin » Wed Feb 06, 2019 8:17 pm

Virgin Brightline is a real-estate company that boosts its land value by turning it into a node on a useful transportation network. The Brightline idea relies on a density of developable sites on a transportation network that it can control. Unless Brightline Virgin has its eye on buying CSX and redeveloping downtowns dotting the way to New Jersey, the "Silver Service" will safely persist as a tardy slog through moldering stations.
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Re: Virgin/Brightline “Silver Service” on Atlantic Coast?

Postby benboston » Wed Feb 06, 2019 8:47 pm

I can picture Miami Central becoming a huge station of the likes of Grand Central, with trains leaving every minute and with destinations across the country. Of course, it will be electrified by that point.

I agree that for now, it would make sense to run service from Miami to JAX and from there, a transfer to Amtrak. Eventually, through Brightline service could be run all the way to Boston!
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Re: Virgin/Brightline “Silver Service” on Atlantic Coast?

Postby benboston » Wed Feb 06, 2019 8:48 pm

dumpster.penguin wrote:Virgin Brightline is a real-estate company that boosts its land value by turning it into a node on a useful transportation network. The Brightline idea relies on a density of developable sites on a transportation network that it can control. Unless Brightline Virgin has its eye on buying CSX and redeveloping downtowns dotting the way to New Jersey, the "Silver Service" will safely persist as a tardy slog through moldering stations.


I honestly wouldn't doubt that they'd eventually do this. I also really like how they are using the techniques as the old railroads by selling property near the stations.
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Re: Virgin/Brightline “Silver Service” on Atlantic Coast?

Postby Arlington » Thu Feb 07, 2019 9:46 am

dumpster.penguin wrote:Virgin Brightline is a real-estate company that boosts its land value by turning it into a node on a useful transportation network. The Brightline idea relies on a density of developable sites on a transportation network that it can control. Unless Brightline Virgin has its eye on buying CSX and redeveloping downtowns dotting the way to New Jersey, the "Silver Service" will safely persist as a tardy slog through moldering stations.

I'm really glad to hear you say that Brightline is a real-estate company. I totally agree.

As a real estate company developing mixed-use (retail, residential, office) tall buildings, it will never operate even an inch more service than it needs to ensure:
1) Tenants may use it directly, choosing to locate their home or office at one station because they have office or home or clients near another station
2) Foot traffic increases (for retailers)
3) Clients of Tenant-Professionals find it useful
4) General "placemaking" and being "busy place" where it is easy to catch an Uber/Lyft
5) Attracting synergistic additional density & transit BUILT BY OTHERS. NY Central did not have to build the Chrysler Building or the Subway to benefit from both.

As a corridor service, they also are aware that the Northeast and Metrolina have huge populations and huge Florida affinities and so are happy to
6) Do the intra-Florida leg of air trips that touch MCO (particularly xxx-MCO nonstops from "spoke" cities along I-85 and I-95, same as they'd welcome European & Asians...as long as they touch MCO)

A key to all of the above is *daytime* activity--using the train to beat traffic at the morning and evening rush and such service between 5am and 11pm as it takes to "protect" the rush hour trips.

So, to my eye, that says "yes" to things that add value to their real estate and don't dilute the corridor service:
- Definitely accepting commuter service operated by Tri-Rail as "good for tenants"
- Maybe accepting AMTRAK OPERATED Silver Service if it can be slotted in a way that doesn't gum things up

And Virgin's S-1A says in the (far) future corridors like: "Examples of other potential expansion markets include
Atlanta, Georgia to Charlotte, North Carolina (240 miles)
Dallas to Houston, Texas (240 miles) (which I'm sure they'd pounce on if TC ever goes bankrupt)

But then, from what they say they do want, it is pretty clear
1) They have the discipline to resist the temptation to "connect our corridors" (they are happy to leave gaps where there's no market)
2) They won't do a new coach configuration for "long haul"
3) They won't do service between 1am and 5am (it just doesn't fit their metabolism...and Texas Central says the same thing)
4) For any "tempting" big city off the Florida network, their answer will be "Fly to MCO on a freakishly cheap, frequent, and competitive flight, then pay full fair ride on our local-monopoly corridor service"
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