A new, privately owned train line connecting Miami and Orlando opens to the public
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
There's a new train line connecting Orlando to Miami, a high-speed passenger train operated by the private company Brightline. Molly Duerig with member station WMFE was at yesterday's grand opening in Orlando.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: What do you think about the very first Brightline coming to Orlando?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Oh, yeah.
MOLLY DUERIG, BYLINE: Hundreds of invited guests, news reporters and government officials crowded onto Brightline's new train platform at the Orlando International Airport Friday to welcome the first train from Miami as it pulled into the station. Officials say it's a high-speed passenger rail service traveling up to 125 mph between central Florida and several south Florida cities.
MIKE REININGER: Suddenly, there's a new way to get to where you want to go. We think it's a better way.
DUERIG: That's Mike Reininger, Brightline's CEO. He says Brightline plans to offer hourly service with 16 round trips a day. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings says now that Brightline is here in Orlando, he's hoping it can help expand the SunRail, a regional commuter train connecting several central Florida counties.
JERRY DEMINGS: I don't want it to be just about moving tourists around. I want it to be about moving the workers around who need a cost-efficient and effective way to be able to get around.
DUERIG: Brightline ticket prices start at $79 each way for adult passengers traveling between Orlando and Miami, but children travel at half that price. The Orlando-Miami route takes about 3.5 hours, which is close to the time it takes to drive. But Brightline's director of public affairs, Katie Mitzner, says the train is a great alternative for travelers.
KATIE MITZNER: This is a car-free, carefree experience. It's efficient. It's comfortable. It's eco-friendly. They can be as productive or unproductive as they want on our trains. We do the work for them.
DUERIG: The first train arrived slightly late in Orlando Friday after a different Brightline train in South Florida struck and killed a pedestrian on the tracks. Mitzner says safety is Brightline's No. 1 priority.
MITZNER: We have invested millions of dollars throughout our corridor to make it as safe as possible. Ultimately, it comes down to human behavior. And we want to reiterate to everyone, stay off the tracks. Don't go around the gates. Stay off the right of way.
DUERIG: Brightline officials say they hope to continue expanding the rail service to connect other cities separated by a distance too long to drive, too short to fly, like Orlando and Miami.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Thank you, and enjoy the ride.
DUERIG: For NPR News, I'm Molly Duerig in Orlando.
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