News & Reviews News Wire Brightline to add Cocoa, Fla., station

Brightline to add Cocoa, Fla., station

By Bob Johnston | March 13, 2024

Second stop between Orlando and West Palm Beach already has a $20 million investment pledged

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Railroad tracks in foreground with line curving off under highway in background
With the Florida East Coast mainline in the foreground, Brightline’s route to Orlando curves off under the Beachline Expressway in a January 2023 image taken while the Brightline route was still under construction. The newly announced Brightline station in Cocoa will be near this junction. David Lassen

COCOA, Fla. — Brightline and local officials announced their intention Tuesday to build a station on over 40 acres of Brightline-owned land near the junction where its trains from Orlando International Airport join Florida East Coast Railway’s north-south main line.

The planned Cocoa, Fla., station is 40 miles east of the company’s Orlando terminus, and 90 miles north of the recently-chosen intermediate stop at Stuart, Fla., [see “Brightline ceremony marks selection …,” Trains News Wire, March 4, 2024]. It is about 127 miles from West Palm Beach. The Cocoa facility will serve the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the booming Port Canaveral cruise facility, and nearby communities such as Titusville, Rockledge, and Melbourne.

In an email to News Wire, Brightline public affairs director Katie Mitzner says the company “is ready to begin the formal process with Space Coast stakeholders to fulfill our vision for a Brevard County station. The Space Coast Transportation and Planning Organization, Brevard County, City of Cocoa and other community leaders have started to bring the region together to identify potential federal, state and local resources for a station to be located in Cocoa. We agree the time is now to finalize a plan.”

In fact, those players began planning for a Brightline stop in 2016, when the Space Coast planning group funded a study of five hypothetical station locations at a time when anti-passenger rail activists in a number of counties were fighting the proposed expansion.

Based on that study, the location near the curve “came out No. 1, followed by the site of FEC’s former Cocoa-Rockledge station,” Samantha Senger, Cocoa’s director of communication and economic development, tells News Wire. “We’ve been working with Brightline ever since then to show our interest; we think it is a natural choice because they are already slowing for the curve and there is plenty of land for parking.”

Stuart’s winning proposal came with more than $45 million attached in a competition with other potential developers for location. “Here, we needed Brightline to confirm the location so we could go to our community partners to move the project along,” Senger says. “The Space Coast TPO has already committed $15 million in its 2026-2027 fiscal year budget and the Cocoa City Council has earmarked $5 million towards the station, so we’re going to work with our community partners like the tourism offices and seek federal grants to get the money that we need. Creating an intermodal transportation hub will be a transformative project for this region and I think we’ll have a really good opportunity to get some of those funds.”

Details such as the cost of the facility, a start date for construction, and a target for completion have not been publicly divulged, but its impact will be significant. Port Canaveral is projecting 7 million passenger movements in 2024, its CEO tells the Orlando Sentinel. In a statement to News Wire, Cocoa Mayor Michael C. Blake says, “the infrastructure investment will have a great economic impact on our community, with the goal of improving connectivity and accessibility for residents and visitors to the Space Coast.”

Changes to seat, connection policies

Inside of passenger car
Inside a Brightline Premium class coach on Feb. 8, 2023. The passenger operator is changing some booking and last-mile connection policies as of Thursday. Bob Johnston

Meanwhile, Brightline is adjusting its seat selection and connection policies. In an email to previous ticketed riders this week, Brightline says that beginning this Thursday, March 14, passengers riding in Smart class between South Florida stops will have seats automatically assigned, “to ensure that as many seats remain available together as possible — especially for trains that are almost fully booked.” Seat selection for all Premium class travelers and Smart class passengers riding to or from Orlando will continue.

Also as of Thursday, Brightline+ through ticketing that includes “last mile” transfers via Uber and Mears connections (in the Orlando area) are being dropped. Instead, “Premium guests will receive a $10 Uber voucher automatically applied to their Uber wallet for each one-way ride. This provides the flexibility to control rides, tip drivers, choose vehicles, and [do so] more directly through the Uber app.”

Orlando-bound ridership continues to expand at the expense of West Palm Beach-Miami clientele. The company’s January ridership and revenue report to bond holders continues previous trends [see “Brightline growth continues …,” News Wire, Feb. 5, 2024], with Orlando travelers (122,560) exceeding South Florida-only passengers (113,560) for the first time. Overall patronage is up 51% from last January and total revenue for the month rose 226% from $4.7 million then to $15.3 million in 2024.

5 thoughts on “Brightline to add Cocoa, Fla., station

  1. Note an airline pilot in the photo, probably deadheading between MCO and MIA. Very convenient for airline crews getting re-positioned between 3 major airports without having to use buses, rentals or heaven forbid, a 45m hopper.

    The next municipality on the station wish list will be Daytona Beach. They already have allocated the land, but don’t have a service. Unfortunately Brightline is going for Tampa next due to Jacksonville’s underfunded and delayed transit updates. (They are working on their autonomous recirculator plan). The closest the proposed Jacksonville heavy rail plan will get is St Augustine. So it will probably be at least 10-14 years before Daytona sees anything unless FDOT gets involved.

    1. Don’t be surprised if they cut that 10-14 years in half. Brightline is on a roll and there is even talk around here about getting a Flagler County stop between St.Aug and Daytona, Bunnell could be a stop like it was in the old FEC days. Plenty of parking where the old station sat and room for redevelopment of that downtown area.

    2. There was a pitch to run SunRail up the I-4 median from Sanford to Daytona, and one was floated to somehow use the now FDOT/SunRail deal to DeLand but I don’t think they are going to go anywhere.

      Now that SunPass is active in Duval County and the new First Coast Tollway is nearly done to the St John’s River and the new Shands Bridge is currently in engineering, I would expect the rail side planning to pick up not long after that bridge finishes.

      Somewhere all of the streams are going to have to reconcile themselves, with Amtrak using the CSX line, sharing it with SunRail past DeLand, Brightline’s connection at Cocoa, Amtrak licking its chops to use the FEC to reach Miami Central, and through it all, Jacksonville wanting to prove they are really a part of Florida.

      I can’t tell you how many people drive to Orlando from Jax to get better international flights so they don’t get stuck in Atlanta purgatory constantly.

      People fly to Jax to reach St Augustine, which has recently reached the top 10 in global travel destinations. Which way do you think they would prefer, coming in via Brightline rail from MCO or on a commuter bi-level from Jacksonville?

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