News & Reviews News Wire Brightline sets monthly records; announces partnership with Uber

Brightline sets monthly records; announces partnership with Uber

By Bob Johnston | January 16, 2023

Universal Orlando boosts Sunshine Corridor prospects with transit district proposal

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories, and more from brands. Sign-up for email today!

People mill about on platform next to streamlined passenger trains
People mill about on platform next to streamlined passenger trains
Boarding and disembarking passengers meet on the platform of Brightline’s Boca Raton station on Jan. 4, 2023. The new Boca Raton and Aventura stations contributed 10% of the passenger operator’s ridership in December, even though they didn’t open until just before Christmas. David Lassen

MIAMI — Aided by its seasonal Polar Express promotion and discounted $10 rides celebrating the opening of stations at Boca Raton and Aventura, Brightline’s Miami-West Palm Beach service carried 183,920 passengers in December 2022, generating $5.1 million of ticket revenue. Both are monthly records since service began in early 2018. The new stations only opened the week before Christmas, but they contributed nearly 10% to the December ridership total.

The report to bondholders, published by the Florida Development Finance Corp., says more than 1.23 million passengers were carried in calendar 2022. Annual revenue came in at $32 million, as the average fare per passenger climbed to $20.03 from $11.32 in service-shortened 2021.

One of the keys to Brightline’s continued growth is near-continuous engagement with anyone who has ever bought a ticket. Between August and December, outreach averaged a dozen reason-to-travel emailed suggestions per month. These included dedicated “Home Runner” shuttles from MiamiCentral to the Florida Marlins stadium in the summer and listings of Miami Heat home opponents once the basketball season began. Promotions involving Miami Art Week, the Boat Show, Polar Express, as well as midweek trips offering complimentary mimosas and Bloody Marys, were also part of Brightline’s active marketing mix.

Uber ride-share partnership

Electric shuttle vehicle leaves train station
One of Brightline’s electric shuttle vehicles leaves the Boca Raton station. In addition to offering its own shuttles and ride services, the passenger operator has signed a new agreement with Uber. David Lassen

The importance placed in completing the “first mile-last mile” component of travel was underscored by the announcement Brightline is partnering exclusively with Uber to provide pre-booked private and shared rides to and from its five South Florida stations.

Through ticketing options are linked through the Brightline website and app, augmenting walk-up fixed-route and electric golf vehicle shuttles and BrightBike rentals. The company also offers dedicated bus shuttles between its stations and Miami International Airport, as well as Miami Beach.

Premium-class passengers are entitled to complimentary rides within a 5-mile radius of stations, while Smart-class patrons can add a ride to and from stations for a fee without distance restrictions. The partnership represents the first time Uber has linked directly to an intercity rail service in the U.S.

Orlando development district proposed

 The week before the company revealed its vision for the under-construction Orlando terminus [see “Brightline unveils ‘first look’ of its Orlando Airport station interior,” Trains News Wire, Jan. 9, 2023], Universal Orlando Resort filed an application with Orange County to form the Shingle Creek Transit Utility Community Development District to help finance the 11-mile joint SunRail-Brightline “Sunshine Corridor” from the airport to a station adjacent to the Orange County Convention Center [see “Orlando businesses pledge $125 million …,” News Wire, May 6, 2022].

Forming the taxing district will allow Universal to sell private activity bonds and compete for federal transit infrastructure grants. The company is proposing to provide $125 million through bonds and would contribute $2 million annually for operation and maintenance of the joint SunRail-Brightline convention center station.

International Drive business participants, as part of the Orlando Right Rail Coalition, would contribute to the district’s guarantee of $13 million in annual ticket sales, the estimated yearly operating cost of the 11-mile corridor.

The station, on 13 acres of land owned by Universal, is expected to open by 2030. It will be an intermediate stop on Brightline’s route to Tampa, which will utilize the median of Interstate 4 south of the Convention Center site.

14 thoughts on “Brightline sets monthly records; announces partnership with Uber

  1. The obvious success of Brightline can be attributed to more than ownership of right-of-way and deep pockets. Instead, Brightline has consistently applied its vision to create the essence of a successful passenger rail operation in contradiction to Amtrak, including customer experience, product development, F&B, recruitment/training of motivated employees. That train has already left the station for Amtrak. Either we accept the Soviet model of standardized mediocrity, or, think out of the box.

    As California’s three regional rail JPAs have been far ahead of the curve for state-supported rail services, it is incumbent upon them to take the lead to show how it can be done to uncouple from dragging Amtrak’s over-priced anchor.

    The only caveat is for states to competently discern real, experienced private operators, e.g., Herzog, from the hanger-on rail buff companies operating out of a phone booth offering glossy marketing materials, but no hands-on railroad experience that is bankable, and a history of zero success with multiple proposals to various states. A false start converting to a private operator would doom the opportunity elsewhere.

    1. Care to specify – by name – said “hanger-on rail buff companies”, “M.E. Singer” (if indeed, that is your real name)? I know of no such entity.

  2. What is important IMO is that revenue per passenger is increasing. So the infill stations are not just swelling the number of total passengers.

  3. Apples to oranges, Brightline runs intrastate on its own right of way comparing it to a commuter operation would be the closest suitable comparison which the article indicates with the proposed Brightline/SunRail corridor development. But hey… if you’re proposing a national dedicated passenger rail system be built I’m all for it!!

    1. I would bet that if the freight railroads could get rid of Amtrak and work with for-profit passenger operators, things would be MUCH better. No one – NO ONE – wants to work with any government agency.
      Personally, I’m currently battling the US Office of Personnel Management just to try to access my Federal retirement account. It’s been going on for 11 months.

    2. I am aware of at least one case where a group proposing a new service met with resistance from the Class 1 railroad until they offered to run the service with a qualified non-Amtrak entity. The railroad became more cooperative almost immediately. Last I heard they are still talking and have done some studies.

  4. Only wat to go re downtown Miami…21 minutes from Aventura! Rode last week and super impressed…stations, trains, personnel, etc.!

  5. “1.23 million passengers were carried in calendar 2022. Annual revenue came in at $32 million, as the average fare per passenger climbed to $20.03 from $11.32 in service-shortened 2021.”

    Betcha Richard Branson wishes he had shifted his assets a little differently now.

    As for Amtrak…as stated before, they need to be redone as a regulatory licensing & safety body like the FAA is and put routes up for bid to franchisees. Let Amtrak control the rail flow like the FAA does ATC, but let the private sector take over the slots between cities.

  6. When Amtrak was formed in 1971, many considered it a “placeholder” to keep a few trains running a few more years to satisfy the “train buffs”, and eventually get rid of anything other than the NEC and big-city commuter lines.

    Making Amtrak a temporary situation would have been the right idea if the end goal was to keep the strongest trains running while finding ways to rebuild the network with substantial private-sector participation, perhaps with changes in tax laws and other financial incentives.

    Amtrak has held the national system together, but that’s about all that can be said. It is time to move on to a new model, with Amtrak working as a coordinator and support system for private firms who operate some routes while Amtrak runs those that have not (yet) gone private. Remember the Pullman Company providing a pool of equipment for different railroads to draw on?

    A nationwide central-control rail system is not manageable. Amtrak should welcome private operators and cooperate fully.

  7. Well the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, which manages the San Joaquin trains and the Altamont Corridor Express commuter trains, is very interested in getting rid of Amtrak as the San Joaquin trains operator. Hertzog Rail operates ACE, and the next step is Hertzog being hired to do the maintenance of the new Siemens railcars. Amtrak is not happy and that is a possible point of delay in getting the Siemens cars in service in CA. The biggest impediment of getting Hertzog operating the San Joaquins is the likelihood that Amtrak would pull ticketing and reservations from those trains. Based on what Amtrak did to Iowa Pacific with the Hoosier trains, Amtrak plays nasty.

  8. This is a perfect example of how things work and come together when both private enterprise and public entities work together for the common good and in the interest of the riding public. The same goes when you have all forms of transportation working together to move people. The saying “No man is an island “can certainly hold true in today’s transportation system. The railroad, the bus, the airplane, the ship, and ride sharing services both private and public working together as part of the supply chain to move people and goods to where they need to go and not in competitioin with each other. Brightline is the perfect example of how this business model can be expanded to other locales and parts of this country
    Joseph C. Markfelder

  9. Let’s hope others are paying close attention. Brightline is setting an example by working with multiple private and public entities. Amtrak has poor leadership that’s more interested in protecting their fiefdoms than being innovative. Millions for more studies and power points. Not much in new service.

  10. Is Amtrak taking heed to this? Does Amtrak even care? I would hope that the state partners supporting routes in their states are.

You must login to submit a comment