Getting onto a flight that you’re running late for? That’s more of a team effort. You need a sympathetic person checking you in, quick security, another new friend at the gate. Making a flight says as much about the airline and its sympathy for the tardy as it does about you. But traveler vs. train – now that’s a pure test of ability.
Some people reminisce about hitting the game-winning shot in high school; get a third beer in me and I’ll tell you about the time when I sprinted into the station in Sheffield, England, 45 seconds before the train was due to depart, ran to the farthest platform and slid onto my train just as the doors were closing. Skill.
Train travel offers many benefits, and not just to time-challenged travelers who want to practice track and field. It’s more comfortable than driving, less stressful than flight and it can take you to places where there’s no water, which gives it a distinct advantage over boating.
Soon we’ll have more opportunities to enjoy train travel thanks to new Florida passenger rail company Brightline. Expected to open in the coming months, the service will return passenger trains to downtown's Florida East Coast tracks for the first time in nearly 50 years. Passengers will be able to travel between downtown Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach – and eventually to Orlando, when Brightline’s entire route is completed.
In this month’s issue we take an in-depth look at Brightline, including the many questions that surround it. The business model, the route, the way it may or may not share the rails with Tri-Rail and access to the New River with the many big boats that makes up Fort Lauderdale’s most well-known industry – questions exist, and reporter Mike Seemuth looks at all of them.
If that is a look at the specifics of our new train company, let this be a recommendation of the more general pleasures and practicalities of train travel. We’ve let rail travel slip in this country, but now there’s a movement to bring it back. When South Florida and Orlando are connected by rail, we’ll join such places as the Pacific Northwest where rail is resurgent after a dormant period.
And won’t that be better for us. In this place of hostile, aggressive travel, train travel calms. One of my favorite Tri-Rail stations is Golden Glades - for the simple reason that if you’re at Golden Glades Station, you’re not in the Golden Glades Interchange. I’m not sure why anybody who can take the train to Miami International chooses instead to drive; personally, I prefer the calm before the storm to the storm before the other storm.
Travel on trains with kids and you’re an actual face to them, not the back of a head. Travel alone and you can engage in self-improvement. I once spent a year commuting an hour each way on a train, and it was one of the most productive, best-read years of my life. It’s amazing what you can get done during a commute when somebody else is handling the driving.
As with everything else, things can go wrong with train travel. And Brightline is no guaranteed success. But we’re talking about more trains, not fewer, and that’s a step in the right direction. I’ll try the new train. I’ve even bought a new pair of sprinting shoes for the occasion.