05 January, 2010



Perhaps I'm not the most loved transportation guy in this State, but I refuse to label a clearly flawed project as a winner. Florida High Speed Rail (AS PLANNED JAN 2010) is a disaster waiting to happen. There are several reasons for this, that if corrected, would find me as the systems biggest advocate. But as promised a week ago, this article will detail why Florida High Speed Rail will fail.

The current route completely ignores Orlando and it's sprawling metropolitan area. Stretching from Deland on the north to Kissimmee on the south, over 60 miles of lineal city.

So the high speed rail planners have the railroad from Tampa, down the center of Interstate 4, to Disney World, then curving South to the Orange County Convention Center and the planned system hub which focuses on the Orlando International Airport.

Anyone that has ever had the displeasure of driving or using transit to the Orlando Airport can tell you that shortly after inventing the "Iron Maiden," and "The Rack," both ancient torture devices were replaced by Orlando's Beach Line Turnpike, Orange Blossom Trail, Highway's 436, 17-92, I-4, and the East-West Expressway. In short, the airport using the facilities of the former McCoy Air Force Base, is in one of those proverbial impossible locations, with no clear access from any point in the city. This access problem alone should scrap the current plans. Calculate at least one full hour to drive from any point in the city to the Airport to catch a train.

Tampa. Some years ago, Florida bowed to pressure from the Tampa Bay area communities to buy the former Tampa Union Station (TUS), which sits just above the downtown on Nebraska Avenue. This classic station from the early 1900's is a compact head-house design with what were once 10 tracks and covered platforms. Amtrak still serves the station coming in from the east between I-4 and the Cross Town Expressway.

So in their infinite wisdom, the HSR Authority, has decided a new station in the middle of a Expressway Interchange, about a dozen blocks northwest is the place for a "new" train station. This choice makes no sense at all considering the infrastructure is already in place at TUS, already connected to Amtrak and HART, and already paid for.

As the entire current project plan avoids current rail infrastructure, one cannot help but wonder if our highway centric planners in Tampa's USF/CUTR (a highway think tank that influences all Florida transportation decisions and is decidedly anti-rail) or FDOT in Tallahassee, have planned to fail? Distance from infrastructure that works, regardless of age or opinion, just for the sake of new and shinny is irresponsible in the 33Rd degree.

Last but certainly not least is the routing of the entire system on I-4, then claiming it will help curb sprawl. This is a simple diversion of the truth and Tallahassee knows it. I-4 is as much as 10 miles NORTH of every community from Orlando to Tampa. While these are certainly not large cities, they have in effect filled in to make up a megalopolis. The High Speed Rail will miss Kissimmee, Davenport, Haines City, Winter Haven, Auburndale, Winston, Plant City, Dover and Mango, as well as the aforementioned Tampa Union Station/Transportation Center site.

The claim of convenient transportation just doesn't stand close scrutiny. Convenient for what? Tampa? The HSR plan misses the connections at TUS and the urbanized core making Tampa rather unlikely to break ridership records. Lakeland? Hardly, does Lakeland even have bus service that far north? Walking from the HSR to downtown in a tropical thunderstorm should be appealing. Disney? AH HA! PERFECT! How did that happen? Someone please tell me which rail dependent residents live in Disney World besides a very rich mouse? Orange County Convention Center at International Drive? Besides serving the occasional Conventioneers this station will also serve Wet and Wild, with Sea World, The Holy Land and Universal just a few miles down the road. Orlando Airport? As we've already seen, no locals are going to waste an hour driving out to OIA to catch a train that would take one hour to get to Tampa, making a two hour trip out of a ONE HOUR and 28 MINUTE CAR RIDE. Not to mention airport parking fee's and rental cars in Tampa, plus rail fare.

Consider that every single community along the route, will have developers quickly buy up and pave the several miles between the current town limits and I-4/HSR. They will consume thousands of acres of fragile, water short, Florida land, and their customers will demand their own stations, slowing the whole system down to a fast Amtrak-like pace. The ability of our state to set up more mindless sprawl in the name of the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation, borders on criminal.

So in part one we have seen that High Speed Rail, planned by the boys and girls at one of the most rail hostile places on earth, is a washout. Tune in later when we bring you MORE reasons why $9 Billion dollars later, this train will fail to arrive.


  1. It's really a shame and reflects how much of this country is failing in every way imaginable.

  2. As much as I hate to oppose a public transit project, I agree with the points you have made. I suspect some developers who influenced this plan already have their hands on land outside of city centers and are dreaming up new subdivisions. I'd much rather see our money spent on rail and mixed-used developments within existing urban areas.

  3. Really weak argument here. I can see the holes in this like swiss cheese.

  4. If there are no hindrance against the developing of this public transit, then it must be pushed trough.



The arguments rage to this date, "Should have never been built," "waste of taxpayer money," "Doesn't go anywhere," "Nobody rides it..." etc. Bottom line is we have it, and it is finally showing signs of life. Simple extensions to the Stadium, San Marco, and the area of Blue Cross in North Riverside would turn this little train around. Addition of Park and Ride garages and multimodal transit terminals at the end points would bring on the crowds. The video must have been shot on a Sunday Morning, as downtown is certainly as packed with life as any other major City on weekdays. Jacksonville is a city of Bikes, joggers, walkers, buses and cars, one almost wonders how the photographer managed to find this quiet moment.

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