Author Topic: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape  (Read 6584 times)

Metro Jacksonville

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Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« on: July 20, 2016, 06:15:02 AM »
Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape



Florida will soon feature one of the most advanced passenger rail systems in the United States.  While the concept of higher-speed passenger rail in the state has made national headlines, the fact that AAF is also developing dynamic mobility-centric urban centers of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) around its stations is a noteworthy topic in its own right. Courtesy of Moderncities.com, here's a look at what's happening in each major city, including downtown Jacksonville.

Read More: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2016-jul-floridas-higher-speed-rail-tod-takes-shape

JimInJax

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Re: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2016, 09:06:30 AM »
After having used the high speed rail in Europe, I would love to see this come to Jax. It really is a great way to get around over there. I HATE the drive to South FL, and being able to do it by rail, would be so much nicer. The one thing I dread when I go on a cruise is that drive to Fort Lauderdale or Miami.

Tacachale

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Re: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2016, 10:23:42 AM »
Has anything been stated that Brightline would go to the Jax Intermodal Terminal/Prime Osborn? If not, I'd be concerned that they want to build their own station elsewhere as they did with the other cities. Most are in downtowns, but Orlando's is out at the airport. Hopefully they don't decide to build by their tracks somewhere on the Southside (assuming they pull it off at all).
Do you believe that when the blue jay or another bird sings and the body is trembling, that is a signal that people are coming or something important is about to happen?

FlaBoy

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Re: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2016, 10:26:55 AM »
There is a true opportunity if this happens to connect Amtrack to Brightline here in Jacksonville. There will need to be good connections between the airport and DT and the Beaches though at some point.

johnnyliar

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Re: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2016, 10:37:04 AM »
This seems too good to be true.

thelakelander

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Re: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2016, 11:32:55 AM »
Has anything been stated that Brightline would go to the Jax Intermodal Terminal/Prime Osborn?

No but their AAF Jacksonville Segment LLC was created to confirm rights to run passenger rail on the tracks that that serve the old downtown Jax terminal.

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If not, I'd be concerned that they want to build their own station elsewhere as they did with the other cities. Most are in downtowns, but Orlando's is out at the airport.

Their stations are being built along FEC's existing line. In Miami's case, the terminal is the same site as the city's original passenger rail station. It also happens to be right next door to metrorail and metromover stations. They've also inked an agreement for Tri-Rail to serve the station too.  In Orlando's case, they don't already own ROW to serve DT Orlando. However, they did secure an agreement for ROW paralleling the Beachline between FEC's track on the cost and Orlando International Airport.  Also, Orlando's terminal is being built by the airport and is the same one that would have been built for the old Florida High Speed Rail project Rick Scott killed.

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Hopefully they don't decide to build by their tracks somewhere on the Southside (assuming they pull it off at all).

I doubt that happens unless we really screw things up......all assuming they actually pull an expansion to Jax off....
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tpot

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Re: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2016, 02:29:38 PM »
Sorry, but I just don't see a connection to JAX making economic sense anytime soon.....I believe most people using this train are going to be tourists from Europe and South America. These people want to visit Miami and Orlando. JAX is not a destination that most are interested in. Can you imagine taking a train from Miami or Orlando and getting off in downtown JAX??   Laughable........

thelakelander

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Re: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2016, 02:48:30 PM »
Probably not a good idea to look at regional transportation projects from an isolated perspective. Cocoa, Daytona and St Augustine are all tourist destinations possibly served by an extension.  Jax may not be Bermuda but it does offer the possibility of business travel connectivity, additional rail connectivity with Amtrak to destinations north and real estate development potential.  All of that could possibly be had by running a passenger train on ROW and rail infrastructure already in place and rolling stock already paid for by the Miami/Orlando link. That's a totally different investment cost than building something from scratch.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2016, 02:53:01 PM by thelakelander »
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thelakelander

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Re: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2016, 02:58:04 PM »
^With that in mind, Daytona has its eyes on this as well...

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Mica hints at possible revival for Daytona rail venture

U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, said that a planned rail service, All Aboard Florida, could soon look to expand into Daytona Beach using the Florida East Coast Railway that runs through Volusia and Flagler counties.

It's just a matter of time before they build it, Mica said.

"This is going to happen, and it could happen very quickly," he said.

Mica's overture seems to indicate a willingness by officials at All Aboard Florida to take another look at Volusia County as a possible landing spot after deciding years ago to take an alternate route to Orlando.

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Though he offered few details, Mica said he would work to bring the rail service here in five years. He pointed out that people could use the rail to connect to Daytona Beach International Airport, spend a day at Daytona International Speedway or visit the beach.

"This puts Daytona on the map," he said

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Based on previous talks, officials with the private venture indicated that if trains went north to Jacksonville, there would be another stop.

"The question is: Where would it be?" Wagner said.

http://www.news-journalonline.com/news/20151102/mica-hints-at-possible-revival-for-daytona-rail-venture

"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

thelakelander

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Re: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2016, 03:00:09 PM »
Cocoa is being eyed for a possible additional stop as well....

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Cocoa eyed for possible All Aboard Florida train station

VIERA — Brevard County officials hope All Aboard Florida builds a train station near Clearlake Road in north Cocoa, offering passengers quick access to Port Canaveral, the beach, State Road 528 and U.S. 1.

This morning, the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization unanimously selected Clearlake Road over eight other proposed Brevard station sites along the railroad corridor in Melbourne, Cocoa, Rockledge and Palm Bay.

The Clearlake Road location includes 37 developable acres near the future railroad track's southward curve, where trains will pass beneath SR 528 and begin traveling parallel with Interstate 95 towards Miami. All Aboard Florida already owns property at this curve, and Florida East Coast Railway owns the 37-acre station target area.

Next, All Aboard Florida will conduct a ridership study to determine if the Cocoa station site makes business sense.

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He said a Brevard rail station may accommodate tourists during mid-day off-peak rail hours, perhaps between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and only some Brightline trains would stop there.

http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2016/03/10/cocoa-eyed-possible-all-aboard-florida-train-station/81202466/
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tpot

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Re: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« Reply #10 on: July 20, 2016, 03:03:30 PM »
Lakelander, good point on tourist stops in Cocoa, St Augustine & Daytona and possibly even business travel. I do think a tourist transferring from a Brightline train to an Amtrak is going to be in for a rude awakening.....I also don't see an investment being made into a train terminal in JAX being done until they turn the core around....where would anyone go after getting off the train?? The Landing?? Generally speaking, shopping, food and beaches are all better in South Florida....
« Last Edit: July 20, 2016, 03:06:24 PM by tpot »

thelakelander

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Re: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2016, 03:49:31 PM »
I see potential the other way around. Arriving in Florida via Amtrak and catching Brightline. That type of person may be headed to Orlando or Miami and Jax is only used as a transfer point.  This is how things worked historically at the terminal and why Jax became known as the "Gateway City".  In Jax, JTA is supposed to break ground on JAXIS (formerly the JRTC) later this year. Funding is already in place and the anticipated completion date is 2019. So assuming regional trains come into the old Jax terminal in the future, a passenger would have the option to transfer to the Skyway, BRT, local bus, etc. I personally don't think Jax is so bad off. Tampa is the one I really worry about when it comes to connectivity.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2016, 03:51:16 PM by thelakelander »
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Jumpinjack

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Re: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2016, 04:32:17 PM »
Some MJ readers may be interested enough in the role of Susie Wiles and Adam Hollingsworth in helping this railroad to get it's approvals to read the full article in the NY Times: How Private Equity Found Power and Profit in State Capitols


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A Revolving Door Spins
Clearing the Way for a Railroad

Along a 200-mile stretch of Florida’s eastern coast, Fortress is embarking on its boldest project yet: the nation’s only purely private intercity passenger railroad.

The project, All Aboard Florida, is expected to take five years and nearly $3 billion to build. At speeds reaching 100 miles an hour, it plans to eventually carry passengers from Miami to Orlando, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

And if trains start rolling next year, as planned, and prove successful, the project may provide a template for private investment in public infrastructure for years to come.

Yet this ambitious private project hinged on the blessing of government officials.

The administration of Gov. Rick Scott of Florida conditionally agreed to lease out state property to All Aboard Florida, which plans to share the track with an existing freight train company. Federal regulators, after some initial concerns, concluded that the railroad’s safety plans met their standards. And a state-authorized nonprofit approved tax-free bonds that can help finance All Aboard Florida’s business.

Fortress, which owns both the passenger train and the freight rail, secured these victories through a mix of negotiations, public support, political power and a revolving door between the government and the private sector.

Documents obtained through public records requests pull back a curtain on the lobbying that shaped the project. The documents, many previously unreported, spotlight the role played by Governor Scott’s aides.

The governor’s former campaign manager teamed up with one of his former policy advisers to coordinate All Aboard Florida’s media strategy and meetings with the governor’s administration. They found a receptive audience, including an aide to Governor Scott who texted a Fortress employee, “Let me know if I can be helpful.”

Fortress stands to benefit from the project in several ways.

The firm owns All Aboard Florida’s parent company, as well as the freight train operator sharing the track, which means it would profit from All Aboard Florida’s success. Fortress also controls land around the track, where it is developing rental housing. And even if the passenger rail flops, Fortress might benefit from All Aboard Florida’s track upgrades, which would enable its freight operator to carry more cargo at quicker speeds.

(Fortress disputes this point, arguing that the upgrades are not needed to improve its freight operations.)

Not everyone will benefit.

Track running through Stuart, Fla., one of the coastal towns along the route of the nearly $3 billion rail project. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times
Along Florida’s Treasure Coast — oceanfront counties that include some of the state’s richest and poorest areas — some residents worry that the train will disrupt their lives. In one county, the sheriff argued that the trains, 32 each day, “could have life-threatening implications” if they stranded patrol cars on one side of the tracks as trains passed. A hospital executive warned about ambulances idling at crossings. Two counties sued to halt the tax-free bonds.

Some residents also express a deeper concern: The train is literally passing them by. Towns without stops will get the headaches of rail traffic rumbling through, without the economic benefits.

In Gifford, a low-income community pockmarked with abandoned homes, residents say they already live on the wrong side of the tracks. Fortress’s freight trains park there to exchange crews, delaying traffic and prompting local outcry.

Fortress sees it differently, arguing that the freight trains stop there because it is safe to do so. Mr. Edens, who said the passenger line was open to adding more stops, remarked that “the handful of opponents of the project are focused on their own narrow self-interests, not the greater good.”

While critics say All Aboard Florida is unnecessary — a small number of Amtrak trains already travel from Miami to Orlando — Mr. Edens said it had the potential to revitalize local economies because mass transit is “one of the real cornerstones of economic growth.” He called it a “real guidepost for how we can actually bring passenger trains back to the United States.”

Concerns that the new trains could cause traffic delays are unfounded, he said, citing data estimating that All Aboard Florida trains would take 45 seconds to clear crossings. All Aboard Florida said that it would be the only railroad in the country to operate “in full compliance with the latest and most stringent” federal safety requirements, and that it would help reduce car travel in the state.

“We’re talking about seconds,” Mr. Edens said, adding that it was “not a meaningful” amount of time.

William D. Snyder, the sheriff of Martin County, disagreed. “In my business, seconds absolutely matter,” he said.

The train’s opponents dispute some of All Aboard Florida’s data about how long the trains will block intersections, saying the company’s assessment is based on best-case assumptions. Bob Solari, a commissioner in Indian River County, said that All Aboard Florida did not in “any meaningful way protect the people and property of the Treasure Coast.”

The safety concerns, however, did not ruin the railroad project, thanks in part to some political arm-twisting.

All Aboard Florida took shape after Governor Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal stimulus money for high-speed rail between Orlando and Tampa, saying it made Florida taxpayers liable for losses. That decision, in 2011, effectively helped clear a path for an alternative train, though All Aboard Florida was still in its infancy at the time.

Adam Hollingsworth was one of the governor’s aides involved in the decision to reject the stimulus money, emails show. At the time, he was a volunteer policy adviser. Months later, he went to work for one of All Aboard Florida’s sister companies.

To push for the Fortress railway, Mr. Hollingsworth initially coordinated with Susan Wiles, Governor Scott’s former campaign manager. The railway also retained a lawyer who had previously worked for a government agency from which it needed a permit.

This team’s background was helpful to All Aboard Florida, records show.

The day before Mr. Edens of Fortress was to meet with the governor’s office, Mr. Hollingsworth texted a staff member. “You met Wes at the gov’s Christmas party,” he reminded her, referring to Mr. Edens.

After the meeting, Mr. Hollingsworth wrote the aide: “Thank you! I am glad you and the gov were favorable inclined.”

Mr. Hollingsworth followed up when All Aboard Florida was about to announce its plans publicly. The aide responded, “Great news!”

About four months later, Mr. Hollingsworth resumed working for the governor’s office, as chief of staff. Ethics rules prevented him from having further involvement with the train.

Mr. Hollingsworth did not respond to requests for comment. Ms. Wiles praised him, saying he had honored his recusal. All Aboard Florida said it “did not need nor use Adam” beyond the scope of his duties, noting that it hired Ballard Partners, a prominent Florida lobbying firm.

A spokeswoman for Governor Scott added that the state did not finance All Aboard Florida.

Still, the company has benefited from government support. In addition to various regulatory approvals, All Aboard Florida has applied for funding from the federal railroad agency. And it accepted about $9 million in federal funds.

In the future, it hopes to fund itself through bonds approved by the Florida Development Finance Corporation, a state-authorized nonprofit. The bonds are tax-exempt, but All Aboard Florida, not the government, is responsible for repaying them.

Last year, the nonprofit’s board approved the bonds, which All Aboard Florida has yet to issue. Here, too, lobbying was at work.


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COMMENTS
Before the board held a crucial hearing on the bonds, an All Aboard Florida representative emailed one of the board’s new members a reminder to submit the paperwork by close of business the next day “in order to get confirmed by the Senate.”

The email added, “Can I help with this?”

JaxAvondale

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Re: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2016, 08:25:44 PM »
I would gladly take a train from Jax to Orlando or Miami. I would be so much more productive. Last week, I flew to RSW and I ended up opening my laptop and sitting in the terminal for over an hour to get caught up on work.

CooperJax

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Re: Florida's Higher-Speed Rail TOD Takes Shape
« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2016, 09:50:20 PM »
I would love for this to come to Jax!!! I plan on moving there late next year. Jax has so much potential!!!!