What's not to like about privately owned high-speed rail?
TBO.comOrlando Sentinel on high-speed rail between Orlando and Miami:
Published: August 9, 2012
Published: August 9, 2012
It's been a year and a half since Rick Scott killed a plan for high-speed rail between Orlando and Tampa. Florida's governor insisted the project was too risky for taxpayers, despite a promise of $2.4 billion in federal funding.
Fortunately, a plan for passenger rail service linking Orlando and Miami is a train of a different color. As proposed, it wouldn't leave taxpayers on the hook.
Dubbed All Aboard Florida, the $1 billion project would be privately built and operated. Service would begin as soon as 2014, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. It would deliver a boost to the state's economy, creating 6,000 jobs during construction, employing 400 people once it's running, and spurring transit-oriented development.
We're usually skeptical of proposals that look too good to be true. But the firm behind this one, Florida East Coast Industries, is one of the state's oldest real-estate companies. It already owns the rail corridor from Miami to Jacksonville.
One of its affiliates, Florida East Coast Railway, runs freight trains on the corridor, which includes 200 of the 240 miles that passenger trains would travel. The company has been negotiating to secure a right of way to build tracks from Cocoa to Orlando International Airport.
Almost every passenger-rail system in the country gets government subsidies, but the folks behind All Aboard Florida insist they can pull off a privately funded operation. They have some big numbers on their side: 50 million people a year travel between Orlando and South Florida, and 95 percent travel by car on crowded highways. Trains could offer them a safer, more comfortable and faster alternative, though two other factors — a competitive price and convenient operating times — would be crucial in persuading drivers to park their cars and hop aboard.
All Aboard Florida representatives have been in talks with the airport about building a rail station there. But the project's success could depend on how soon there's a connection between Metro Orlando's SunRail commuter line, scheduled to start running in 2014, and the airport. …
We've expressed our doubts about a recent proposal to create the connection with a privately funded maglev train, a technology that hasn't been successfully utilized by any passenger rail system in this country. …
Leaders should be eager to find other ways — without putting taxpayers at unreasonable risk — to help realize all the benefits of private train service between Orlando and Miami.