14 January, 2010



Will Florida's High Speed Rail efforts crash THIS hard? Let's just say if they don't make some radical adjustments and trash the assumption that Orlando has to be the hub of a massive "hub and spokes railroad," then THIS IS where it is heading.

FLORIDA HSR phase 1 part 1
It's easy to spot the Northeast climb of the HSR route as it pulls away from Tampa, that's a heck of a way to get pointed Southeast.

Even if the entire project for Florida High Speed Rail, gets the blessing of the Federal Department of Transportation, and 100% financing, it is headed for a crash that might well bring down the whole industry.

Reason number 5 is not anyone's opinion about riders or ridership, it is however a story written in geography and no one short of The All Mighty could fix it. In one scenario (alternative "A") the train will run from Tampa, Northeast to Orlando, then with about a 10 degree turn, continue East to Melbourne (Space Coast Beaches). From Melbourne the new railroad turns 90 degrees South, and would likely hug some combination of the I-95 or Florida East Coast right-of-way, all the way through Fort Pierce - West Palm Beach - Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. Certainly no other route in the history of Florida, has ever served so many people in such a short stage length. Population is good, high speed is good, new railroads are good, so why does this one stand out as a bad plan?

To get to the answer one needs only to study the alternative routes from Orlando Southward to Miami. The Second Alternative "B" would turn South at the Orlando International Airport and roughly follow the historic Florida East Coast Railways Kissimmee River Valley line along or near the Florida Turnpike Alignment all the way to West Palm Beach - Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. This is the shortest of the current planned routes from Tampa to Miami via Orlando, but it sacrifices virtually every village, town and city on the East Coast of the State, North of West Palm Beach, to accomplish it's goal, and still maintains what is for all practical purposes a 100 degree turn, a "Fatal Corner" in the middle of the railroad system.

Alternative "C" would be the slowest schedule from Orlando to Miami, but the cheapest build, following the CSX Railroad. Running from St. Petersburg - Tampa - Auburndale - Orlando International Airport, as well as a line from Alburndale southeast to Lake Wales - Sebring - West Palm Beach - Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami. It would eliminate the need for Tampa/St. Petersburg trains to pass through Disney World - Orange County Convention Center and Orlando international Airport, before heading to the lower East Coast and Miami. So ironically the slowest option for Orlando, would be the fastest option for the Tampa Bay communities, but the hard place seems to be missing all of the Beach Communities North of West Palm Beach.

Florida ICE train 2008 map
So Far the only map that makes ANY sense, is this largely ignored 2008, ICE Train Plan

4 rail lines into Orlando and they still miss the direct connection with Jacksonville, not to mention the line of the center of the State running virtually from Miami to LAKE CITY, guess it's comforting to know Tallahassee has a sense of humor.

It's a crazy curse to plan under but the bottom line for Florida is, by ignoring the historic travel patterns and trying to make Orlando into a railroad cross roads that it never was, has put us in a unique position. We can either build the fastest route and skip most of the cities, or, we can build through most of the cities and lose the fast train.

Due to the Fatal Corner, a high speed train that rips along at 120 mph, is still going to consume all of 4:00 hours between St. Petersburg and Miami, and 2:30 hours between Orlando and Miami alone. Since this is travel time the dwell time in the stations would have to be added in to any schedule. Leaving St. Petersburg by train, stations would be initially located in Tampa, Lakeland, Disney World, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando International Airport, Melbourne, Ft. Pierce, West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami. Dwell times of just 2 minutes per station average would add another 20 minutes to the through schedule. A schedule of 4 hours and 20 minutes between end points via the fastest train in America can be easily trumped by a 1968 Volkswagen Micro-Bus full or hippies at 4:00 hours even, on I-75. This is easy math, because the hippies in that micro-bus won't be traveling 120 miles Northeast to go Southeast of Tampa/St. Petersburg.

Bus Southeastern Stages
The Bus, Greyhound, La Cubana or Southeastern starts looking better and better as Florida's number one "Alternative."

Add in a fare of around $70 dollars for an end to end ticket, plus car rental, taxi or bus fare at the other end, and keeping with the Micro-Bus starts to look better and better. The time/dollar economics doesn't get any better with a simple Tampa/St. Petersubrg - Orlando trip either, because for $30 bucks, one is still going to have to get to Orlando from "Orlando!" By the time that taxi rolls to a stop in Winter Park, Maitland or Sanford, that lone Amtrak train will be half way to Jacksonville, making the entire system, either route option A, B, or C.

The last public transportation alternative seems a mockery of the states so-called "showcase HSR system." Bottom line? $25 dollars and a Greyhound ticket will get you there faster, and Greyhound has Wi-Fi!

Stay tuned as we move on to part 3 of this series, and look at Florida's surface travel patterns, historic railroad routes and gateways, as well as Southeast High Speed Rail. Only in Part III of "WHY FLORIDA HIGH SPEED RAIL WILL FAIL."


  1. Hi. I wanted to drop you a quick note to express my thanks. I've been following your blog for a month or so and have picked up a ton of good information as well as enjoyed the way you've structured your site. I am attempting to run my own blog but I think its too general and I want to focus more on smaller topics. Being all things to all people is not all that its cracked up to be.

    Term Papers



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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