Why Does Florida Need Amtrak?

May 21, 2009 120 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Here are five reasons why Amtrak may be the solution to Florida's commuter and intercity rail problems.

Triangles of service that rail could offer to Florida

Here are five reasons why Amtrak may be the solution to Florida's commuter and intercity rail problems.

1. Amtrak already has operating agreements with the freight railroads. They also have qualified crews to operate trains over the Florida territory as well as passenger equipment and maintenance facilities within the state. These are features that no one else can offer.  

2. The liability agreements that are required to run passenger trains on a freight railroad are already in place. This issue was the main sticking point in negotiations to operate Sunrail in Central Florida. Amtrak has the problem solved.
3. Amtrak is likely to receive an increase in federal funding in the coming years with a pro rail administration in Washington DC. This money could be spent within the state without going through the complicated federal funding process.

Emeryville, CA's (pop. 6,882) Amtrak station is a part of a 20-acre mixed-use transit oriented development called Emery Station.  It includes 580,000 square feet of office/retail space and 101 condominiums.  This station is located five miles north of Oakland's station and is a part of Amtrak's San Joaquin corridor, operating between Oakland and Sacramento.

The Emeryville station is served with four daily roundtrips between Oakland and Sacramento.  Amtrak also runs a corridor service that connects Los Angeles and San Deigo, called the Pacific Surfliner.  Along this corridor, Amtrak trains run every hour, making it ideal for commuter service.

A similar service in Florida would provide opportunities for cities like St. Augustine, Lakeland, Daytona Beach and Tallahassee to create transit oriented development within their boundaries.

4. Track capacity and infrastructure improvements needed for commuter rail systems such as Sunrail will also be needed for Amtrak. Partnering with Amtrak lays the foundation and reduces the cost for future commuter rail systems all across Florida.

5. Amtrak wants to increase their presence in Florida.  Amtrak views Florida as their number one under-served market in the entire nation. Previous negotiations with Florida DOT officials yielded no results because of a lack of interest. Pressure needs to be applied to state officials to get them on board with the vision Amtrak has for Florida.

A statewide intercity rail system (corridors highlighted in green) would connect Florida's major metropolitan areas with each other and many of their rapidly growing suburban and bedroom communities.

Other Metro Jacksonville articles about Amtrak corridor service:

November 13, 2008
Amtrak Hiawatha Corridor Service

November 20, 2008
Amtrak Capitol Corridor Service

December 12, 2008
Amtrak Keystone Corridor Service

February 6, 2009
Amtrak Pacific Surfliner Corridor Service