News & Reviews News Wire Tri-Rail to launch West Palm Beach-MiamiCentral limited-stop, rush-hour service July 1

Tri-Rail to launch West Palm Beach-MiamiCentral limited-stop, rush-hour service July 1

By Bob Johnston | June 1, 2024

| Last updated on June 2, 2024

Schedule begins as riders seek cheaper alternative with end of Brightline’s $10 South Florida fares

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Blue locomotive at commuter rail station
A southbound Tri-Rail all-stop rolls into Fort Lauderdale in January 2018. Bob Johnston

MIAMI — Commuter operator Tri-Rail will launch a weekday round trip from West Palm Beach to Brightline’s Miami Central beginning July 1 that will skip 11 stops all its other trains make.

The move, announced after a South Florida Regional Transportation Authority board of directors meeting Friday, comes as Brightline discontinues its $399, 40-ride “SoFlo” monthly pass, whose price conflicted with fares paid by Miami-Orlando passengers [see “Brightline drops monthly passes …,” Trains News Wire, May 13, 2024].

Tri-Rail operates with CSX and Amtrak on tracks parallel and generally several miles west of Brightline’s Florida East Coast Railway route. Its trains run from the Mangonia Park station north of West Palm Beach to Miami Airport, making all stops. On Jan. 13, it launched connecting shuttles from the intermediate Metrorail Transfer station in Hialeah to MiamiCentral [see “Tri-Rail sets date to launch long-planned service …,” News Wire, Jan. 5, 2024].

The new round trip thus becomes both Tri-Rail’s first direct service and first express offering.

The morning express from West Palm Beach departs at 6:30 a.m., five minutes before an all-stop local that originates in Mangonia Park on the current schedule. The three intermediate stops are at Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, and Metrorail Transfer, where it will assume the slot of a shuttle into Miami Central. Arrival is scheduled for 8:05 a.m., shaving about a half-hour off the all-stop travel time.

The afternoon train will take the place of the 5:35 p.m. shuttle and arrive at West Palm on the heels of the all-stop that departed a half hour earlier from Metrorail Transfer. Tri-Rail’s standard six-zone pricing; senior, disability, and student discounts; and monthly pass and employer discount plans will apply. The adult one-way, Miami-West Palm fare is $8.75. A monthly pass is $155.

A check of next week’s Brightline fares shows rush-hour pricing in the $39-$44 range ($29 for most other hourly departures) with a key 5:45 p.m. Miami-West Palm trip blocked for sale (but a $94 Smart fare to Orlando is available). Hourly Brightline trains with intermediate stops at Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and Aventura are carded at 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Tri-Rail spokesman Victor Garcia tells News Wire, “The entire schedule will have changes, though just a few minutes in some cases, intended to help our on-time performance based on detrimental meets we are currently encountering with the train shuttles. The schedule will be basically the same, with two express trains and two additional trains added at the end of the run both northbound and southbound.”

He says the limited-stop trainset will do shuttle duty and then layover at Hialeah Yard for maintenance. A 4-car set is being considered, “but we’ll monitor to see what is necessary.

It remains to be seen what the net effect will be on comparative Brightline and Tri-Rail revenue and patronage, but there has been quite a bit of angst expressed in the local press by people who changed their commuting habits as a result of Brightline’s fares and service, such as this opinion piece in the Palm Beach Post: Dear Brightline, I’m breaking up with you.

2 thoughts on “Tri-Rail to launch West Palm Beach-MiamiCentral limited-stop, rush-hour service July 1

  1. As for the woman letter, I get her angst. She bought into Brightline’s biz model but only if the fares were right. Ultimately, I think Brightline will get their fare structure back in order when the new trainsets arrive to help resolve the Stuart Bridge problem.

    But on the flipside, if she expected Brightline to maintain those low monthly fares indefinitely, that might have been a shade of wishful thinking.

    It’s like something on the internet that has been “free” for years but now reality requires whomever to charge for the service. People get mad because they reorganized their life to work with the free service and just like that, they take it away. Something you don’t want to pay for and won’t.

    As for Brightline, this may be a way to get people far more interested in the Tri-Rail offering, which still makes money for Brightline. Per mile carriage rates and track and platform rentals will bring more revenue and just people who want to avoid Hialeah completely.

    Once the Tri-Rail to Miami Central hits its stride and has volume (along with Brightline new trainsets) I would suspect pricing will normalize again.

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