Intercity Rail Madison Milwaukee

Wisconsin Moves Ahead with Train Purchase Deal, Intent on Connecting Madison with Milwaukee

» Talgo will establish train manufacturing plant in Milwaukee. But state Republicans suggest they’ll oppose rail expansion if it gets in the way of highway spending.

Despite being a marginal player in the world high-speed rail market, Spanish train manufacturer Talgo is hoping to make a big push for orders in  North America. Thanks to a deal it signed with Wisconsin last year, it’s well on its way: The company has agreed to locate a new U.S. plant in Milwaukee, with plans to deliver 125 mph trains to the state for service to Madison by 2013.

If state Republicans gain power, however, the state’s rail efforts could be short-lived.

Under the leadership of outgoing Democratic Governor Jim Doyle, the Badger State has been one of the country’s leaders in developing improved rail service. The Governor announced last March that he would move forward with a plan to expand services between Chicago and Milwaukee,and reopen the passenger link to Madison. Future services could be offered to Green Bay. Later in 2009, Mr. Doyle signed a deal with Talgo to buy two 14-car trains for train operations, in exchange for that company’s commitment to locate a new plant within the state.

Wisconsin’s investment was rewarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation in January, which announced $810 million for the Madison-Milwaukee line, enough to have 79 mph trains operating along the 85-mile line within three years. The corridor would be upgraded to 110 mph by 2015.

Talgo announced this week that it would build its plant in a former automotive facility in Milwaukee, eventually creating about 75 jobs there. The State of Oregon revealed today that it would buy two additional 125 mph 13-car trains for its Eugene-Vancouver services, bringing total Talgo orders to about $85 million from the Wisconsin plant, a significant first step for the ambitious Spanish concern. As of now, the plant will build only Series VIII trainsets, which are fully compliant with Federal Railroad Administration rules and operate using diesel propulsion. This train is not what would be considered a truly high-speed train in other countries.

Yet as an initial response to a desire for increasing rail services, the deal seems like a good one for Wisconsin. Not only will it get new trains, but it will also get manufacturing jobs, which it has been losing for decades.

With Democratic majorities in both the State Assembly and Senate, lawmakers approved the deal with the federal government last month along partisan lines. The GOP suggested that Wisconsin shouldn’t be saddled with the operating costs of the new corridor, which would start at around $7.5 million a year. This line of reasoning is similar to that expressed by Ohio Republicans, who similarly claim to be willing to reject federal funds for improved rail service if the state is asked to subsidize operations costs.

Republican gubernatorial candidate front-runner Scott Walker is taking a hard line against the Milwaukee-Madison project, claiming that he would shut down the corridor “if it takes money away from new-and-improved roads.” Another candidate, Mark Neumann, is also critical of the program, arguing that tax cuts would be a better use of public funds and that “if high speed rail were economically sound it would already have been built by the private sector.”

Democratic candidate Tom Barrett, the Mayor of Milwaukee, is a big supporter of the project as he claims it would serve as an economic stimulus for the troubled state. He also has made the quite legitimate claim that Wisconsin will have already spent $57 million on preliminary construction activity by the time the next governor is sworn in — it doesn’t make much since to pull out once so much money has already been invested.

Both Republicans are currently leading Mr. Barrett in polls in advance of the November election.

One could argue about the specific merits of the Milwaukee-Madison service, but the considerable success of Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee — it has the third highest ridership per mile of U.S. intercity rail routes after the Northeast Regional and Capitol Corridor lines — suggests that Wisconsin’s population is well prepared for improved rail operations.

Just as in Ohio, Republican objections in Wisconsin are difficult to take seriously, because they’re incoherent. Why is it problematic for the government to sponsor rail construction when highways aren’t built by the private sector either? Why should roads always be prioritized in state spending, when trains are used by thousands of people each day too? More importantly, why is it that the first serious investment in passenger rail service Wisconsin has seen in decades is immediately greeted with skepticism, while road spending continues apace in the state, at more than $2 billion a year?

Nonetheless, Wisconsin’s rail investments are likely to move forward — the public has demonstrated clear support for the mode over the years, and there have been plenty of Republicans in the state, including former Governor Tommy Thompson, who have been serious proponents of new train services. But the increasingly hysterical GOP fear of investing in transportation projects that aren’t automobile-oriented may come to pose a mounting obstacle, in Wisconsin and beyond.

Image above: Talgo Series VIII Train, from Talgo

Amtrak Intercity Rail Ohio

Despite Federal Investment, Ohio 3C Corridor Under Threat from State Republicans

» Republicans on state board could overrule use of funds for new rail service between Cincinnati and Cleveland.

Of the corridors receiving multi-million dollar grants from the federal government last month for improved rail service, Ohio’s 3C line arguably provides the most bang for the buck. By 2012, at a cost of $400 million, the state will be able to reactivate passenger operations between Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, via Dayton — a service that’s been out of commission for decades. It will provide the first trains to the state capital since 1977.

In the process, the state will be able to connect the nation’s 24th, 26th, 32nd, and 61st largest metro areas, creating a linear conurbation of almost seven million people. It’s one of the most promising new rail lines in the United States.

Yet the federal grant, which offers enough money to buy trains and ready tracks and stations for passenger services, has not yet convinced reluctant Republican members of the state legislature to get on board. Afraid of being saddled with operations expenses for an indefinite period ahead, they may prevent the project from being implemented.

Republican concerns may be primarily motivated by partisan rancor, but the claimed benefits of the 3C system as currently designed are legitimately worth questioning.

Governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat who is running for reelection this fall, has been a strong supporter of the project for more than a year. Under his leadership, the state department of transportation has focused on the 3C line as the core of a statewide rail strategy called the Ohio Hub, envisioned as a connection between the East Coast rail network and the proposed Midwest High-Speed system. “If there aren’t those who are willing to get in and join the fight,” Mr. Strickland remarked recently in reference to those skeptical of the benefits of the rail service, “then at least get out of the way.”

In face of Republican opposition, Wisconsin legislators approved the receipt of a similar $822 million grant for rail service between Madison and Milwaukee last week.

Ohio State Senate President Bill Harris, a Republican, sent a letter to Governor Strickland yesterday, arguing that he would move to kill the project unless his concerns were addressed. The Ohio GOP has focused on the expected $17 million in annual operations subsidies necessary to keep the line running as a point of confrontation. A number of state legislators have also questioned whether ridership estimates — currently put at about 500,000 a year — are realistic.

Commuters will be able to drive or even ride a Greyhound bus between the affected cities more quickly than on the 3C train, which will be limited to an average speed of 39 mph and a top speed of 79 mph because of insufficient improvements to the existing freight tracks to be used for the service. Trains would run four round-trips a day on the 256 miles between Ohio’s two largest regions.

To move into the implementation phase, the 3C project will have to be approved by the State Controlling Board, which requires a super-majority of five out of seven votes to advance rail spending. Senate President Harris inserted language requiring the super-majority last year because of concerns about the project. The Controlling Board currently has a 4-3 Democratic majority, not enough to prevent Mr. Harris from encouraging a Republican block on the system.

Some GOP concerns about the project’s implementation are worthy of consideration. How many people will choose to ride the train between Cleveland and Cincinnati when the journey will take 6h30 to complete and the bus trip only requires five hours? Even if ridership estimates do play out as envisioned, should the state subsidize riders at an estimated $35 per journey?

An express trip between Paris and Lyon, cities which are separated by a larger distance than are Cleveland and Cincinnati, takes less than two hours on the TGV high-speed train. That service is highly profitable for French rail operator SNCF.

But proponents of improved rail service for Ohio argue that the 3C investment is simply the first step towards a renewed and eventually much faster high-speed line. Advocates of the Chicago-St. Louis service, which received a $1 billion grant last month, make a similar argument, despite clear questions about whether a slow operation will attract many riders. The much larger capital costs that would be necessary to connect Cleveland and Cincinnati in two hours — and each to Columbus in an hour or less — would produce a rail system capable of financing its own operations costs because of its ability to attract many more choice riders. A train traveling at an average speed of only 39 mph will never be able to do the same.

Nevertheless, the $17 million Ohio expects to invest each year in operating subsidies for the 3C line represents roughly half of one percent of the state’s $3 billion annual transportation budget. This commitment is not akin to a drug “addiction,” as is claimed by one Republican member of the Controlling Board. Where is the GOP outrage about unnecessary road construction? I certainly don’t hear it. Nor have Republicans been pushing wholeheartedly for a big enough rail investment to avoid those operations subsidies altogether.

Indeed, this hypocrisy when it comes to transportation spending, expressed over and over not only in Ohio but nationwide, makes the “fiscally conservative” argument against rail difficult to take seriously. It sounds far more like an argument against alternative transportation, point blank.

The 3C line will offer all the advantages of rail service over intercity bus lines, including improved comfort and better stations. Though it’s a modest beginning, getting it in the ground will convince people to get out of their cars, and it will give people without automobiles an increasing sense of mobility around the state — those benefits should not be dismissed. The 3C project is far from a high-speed line, but at least it’s the first step in what will be a long process. It’s better to get started when the federal government’s throwing around grant money.

Image above: Ohio 3C Rail Map, from Ohio Department of Transportation

High-Speed Rail Intercity Rail

High-Speed Rail Grants Announced; California, Florida, and Illinois Are Lucky Recipients

» Wisconsin, North Carolina, Washington, Ohio, and Michigan also getting big investments. But no corridor is fully funded for true high-speed service.

After months of speculation about which states will get funding from the Federal Railroad Administration to begin construction on new high-speed corridors, the news is in. As has been expected, California, Florida, and Illinois are the big winners, with more than one billion in spending proposed for each. But other states with less visible projects, including Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Washington will also get huge grants and begin offering relatively fast trains on their respective corridors within five years. The distribution of dollars is well thought-out and reasonable: it provides money to regions across the nation and prioritizes states that have made a commitment of their own to a fast train program.

President Obama and Vice President Biden will make the announcement today at an event in Tampa.

Despite the excitement, though, there is plenty of work that still needs to be done — and huge amounts of money that still needs to be spent — to get most of these projects up and running. Eight billion dollars of spending won’t be enough for even one true high-speed line.

California voters committed $10 billion in taxes to a high-speed line between San Francisco and Anaheim in November 2008, and their unrivaled effort has been justly rewarded, with a commitment of $2.25 billion to the project, about half of what the state applied for in August. These funds will go to environmental work and initial construction along corridors between San Francisco and San Jose; Los Angeles and Anaheim; Fresno and Bakersfield; and Merced and Fresno. The state rail authority has pledged an equal match, though it has not yet established exactly how much each corridor will receive.

Roughly one hundred million more would go to improvements on existing Amtrak corridors throughout the state, including a large expansion of San Jose’s Diridon Station and 110 mph trains on the Pacific Surfliner between San Diego and Los Angeles.

With the largest project planned in the United States — the full corridor, with trains running at 220 mph speeds by 2020, will cost $42 billion — California has a lot of work yet to be done. With $2.5 billion more in high-speed funds allocated in the government’s fiscal year 2010 budget, it could reap further rewards, but it will be competing with the rest of the nation in its efforts to receive those expenditures as well. Washington will have to find significantly more money for high-speed rail to make the full San Francisco-Anaheim line a reality.

Florida, as has been hinted repeatedly by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, will get a large infusion of money as well: $1.25 billion. This is half of what the state requested, but it is clear that the federal government is convinced of this project’s merits. As a result, the state is likely to receive an additional $1.5 billion over the next few years to ensure that an 84-mile Tampa-Orlando line is up and running by 2014, connecting the cities in less than an hour at maximum speeds of 168 mph. The state government’s decision to invest several hundred million dollars in a commuter rail system for the Orlando area allowed Washington to argue that the state is making a full-fledged commitment to rail.

So is Illinois, with Governor Pat Quinn and the state legislature agreeing to spend $400 million on the proposed corridor between Chicago and St. Louis. With $1.133 billion, the state will be able to afford significant upgrades to the line on the way to 110 mph service, decreasing travel times from 5h30 to 4h00. Missouri will get some of those funds for upgraded and more reliable operations between St. Louis and Kansas City.

$823 million will go to new train service from Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin and $244 million to an upgraded corridor to Detroit. Both will meet the St. Louis line in Chicago, which is poised to renew its claim to be America’s premier rail hub. After spending $47.5 million on new Talgo trainsets and working for the opening of a new manufacturing facility in Milwaukee, Governor Jim Doyle will get the new service he desires on the 80 miles of track between Milwaukee and the state capital at Madison.

The government has picked the Ohio 3C line, which will implement new service between Cincinnati and Cleveland, via Columbus, for $400 million, enough to get 79 mph trains operating there in two or three years, the first trains on the corridor since 1971. This new line has been supported by state government and will reinforce the state’s existing Amtrak network. Though the state wanted $1.53 billion for 110 mph service, it will have to wait.

On the other hand, a line through Fort Wayne in northern Indiana, proposed for a major upgrade on the way to Cleveland, will not be funded in this first phase. That’s an acceptable decision, since Ohio has pledged money to its service while Indiana has not.

North Carolina and Virginia will receive a $620 million grant to increase top speeds to 90 mph between Charlotte and Raleigh, via Durham and Greensboro. Between Richmond and Washington, the state of Virginia will build eleven miles of new track that will form the first segment of the region’s plans for 110 mph service. Both states have been active for more than a decade in funding their own services.

Washington and Oregon have grand plans for a 150 mph, fully separated corridor between their two largest cities, but the federal government’s $598 million grant will on provide enough money for a slight reduction in travel times, two new round trip trains, and better reliability. Service south to Eugene from Portland may see some improvement as well.

Notable for the lack of major proposed investment is the Northeast Region, which will only get $485 million in total from the stimulus’ high-speed rail funds. The Amtrak-operated Northeast Corridor has already been pegged for $706 million in upgrades, funded by a separate source of money.

As part of the stimulus funds, Vermont will get $50 million to reduce trip times to Burlington by 30 minutes within two years. Massachusetts will receive financing to reroute the Vermonter service north of Springfield. Maine will be able to reactivate the 30-mile train line between Portland and Brunswick. Connecticut will get money to build 11 miles of new track along its proposed New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line. New York, contrary to expectations, has not received a full-throated endorsement of its project to upgrade operations between Albany and Buffalo; it will only get limited funds ($151 million) for track upgrades. Several crossing improvements will further speed up trains between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, which are already the second-fastest in the country.

Iowa and Texas will get small grants to fund minor improvements for their systems. Texas’ huge T-Bone project has not received any funds, for two clear reasons: there is no political advantage in funding a project in a state unlikely to vote Democratic at the national level for the next decade at the least, and the state government has done nothing to fund the project independently — or even approve its exact route.

As a whole, these investments are genuinely exciting; they confirm the administration’s commitment to high-speed rail and they have rewarded states that have invested their own funds in the program. The DOT has chosen projects that are responsible first investments and which will improve rail-based mobility in the affected states. The Administration, despite President Obama’s pledge of a spending freeze, suggests that it’s still ready to provide $5 billion for high-speed rail over the next five years.

But that’s not enough. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) would extend 2010’s commitment of $2.5 billion annually until 2014, which would do more. But for projects like California’s to truly get off the ground without defunding everything else, there will have to be even more money available. The government is going to have to step up: today’s announcement is just a start.

U.S. Invests in High-Speed Rail
(table is sortable)
StateAwards (millions $)Projects
California2344» $2.25 b - ROW, construction on CAHSR
» $51 m - Surfliner service improvements
» $23 m - Capitol service improvements
» $20 m - Train improvements
Florida1250» $1.25 b - 84 miles of new track between Tampa and Orlando
Illinois1236.3» $1.102 b - Improvements to Chicago-St. Louis line for 110 mph
» $133 m - Station and line enhancements along Chicago-Detroit line
» $1.3 m - Planning study
Wisconsin822» $810 m - New stations, implementation of PTC on 80 miles between Milwaukee and Madison
» $12 m - Minor enhancements between Milwaukee and Chicago
Washington590» $590 m - Bypass tracks, upgrades for Seattle-Portland line
North Carolina545» $520 m - Improvements to increase travel speeds to 90 mph on Raleigh-Charlotte line
» $25 m - Congestion mitigation between Raleigh and Richmond
Ohio400» $400 m - Upgrades for rail implementation along 3C corridor between Cleveland and Cincinnati
New York152» $148 m - Improved tracks between Albany and Buffalo
» $3 m - Three miles of new track on Albany-Montréal line
» $1 m - Planning study
Northeast Corridor112» $112 m - Engineering work on Balto dwtn tunnel; other work in RI, NJ, MD, and DC
Virginia75» $75 m - Third track along Richmond-DC line between Arkendale and Powell's Creek
Indiana71» $71 m - Minor rail improvements on Chicago-Detroit line
Massachusetts70» $70 m - Relocation of Vermonter service to more direct route
Vermont50.5» $50 m - Vermonter route improvements
» $500,000 - Planning study
Michigan40» $40 m - Renovations to stations at Troy and Battle Ck; New station in Dearborn
Connecticut40» $40 m - 11 miles of 2nd track between New Haven and Hartford
Maine35» $35 m - 35 miles of track restoration between Portland and Brunswick
Missouri31» $31 m - Improved grade crossings, bridges on line between St. Louis and Kansas City
Pennsylvania27» $26.2 m - Eliminates all grade crossings between Philadelphia and Harriburg
» $800,000 Planning study on extension of 110 mph service to Pittsburgh
Iowa18» $17 m - Four remotely controlled powered crossovers on BNSF Ottumwa subdivision
» $1 m - Planning study
Oregon8» $8 m - Improvements to Portland Union St, engineering on Portland-Eugene line
Texas4» $4 m - Signal timing improvements on Austin-Fort Worth line
Colorado1.4» $1.4 m - Planning study
West Virginia1» $1 m - Planning study
Georgia0.8» $800,000 - Planning study
Minnesota0.6» $600,000 - Planning study for rail improvements to Twin Cities
Delaware0.5» $500,000 - Planning study
Kansas0.3» $300,000 - Planning study
Alabama0.2» $200,000 - Planning study
New Mexico0.1» $100,000 - Planning study
Information from U.S. DOT here and here
Commuter Rail Intercity Rail Minneapolis

As Minnesota’s Proposed Northern Lights Express Rises in Cost, Chances for Its Construction Fall

Northern Lights Express Route Map» 155-mile line between Duluth and Minneapolis would cost nearly $1 billion.

The Northern Lights Express is too expensive to justify construction.

For inhabitants of northern Minnesota hoping to be provided a quicker route into the Twin Cities, that fact is heart-breaking. Indeed, the initial promise of this 155-mile line, which would run between Minneapolis and Duluth, via Cambridge, Hinckley, Sandstone, and Superior, was exciting for its proponents: it would provide two-hour service along a corridor whose Amtrak operations were discontinued in 1985 and provide for increased economic competitiveness in parts of the state that have suffered as Minneapolis has grown.

The Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance, which has been pushing the train link since 2007, completed a preliminary study of the corridor last year, and claimed that the project could offer eight daily round trips by 2012 at the cost of just over $300 million — or up to $615 million using a more conservative estimate. New trains would run on a mostly double-tracked corridor at speeds up to 110 mph. With an estimated 3,000 daily passengers, the cost hardly met standards of efficiency even then. Yet the group has already managed to convince the federal government and a series of local bodies to hand over several million dollars in planning funds so far; the hope was that a quick start-up of this NLX project would mean a steady flow of funds and rapid completion. The line would, according to backers, generate $2 billion worth of investments in the affected areas.

But the news this week that state rail officials now estimate that the project will cost up to $1 billion to construct strikes a death blow onto the fantasies of its proponents. While there are certainly reasons to support improved passenger rail, Duluth’s relatively small metropolitan population — at less than 300,000 — means that the corridor will never be able to attract the ridership numbers to make this line more worthy of investment than the hundreds of other rail links in the United States that require significant upgrades. The fact that none of the cities between the Twin Cities and Lake Superior have populations of more than 10,000 people solidifies this argument and throws out the oft-mentioned idea that this project could evolve into a commuter line for Minneapolis’ northern suburbs.

With the Twin Cities’ Central and Southwest Corridor light rail lines in planning, and with the latter line still in need of additional funds — especially if it is to follow a more advantageous route — it would be outrageous to invest so much money in the NLX project. Minneapolis already has a test case for commuter rail with the Northstar line, which opened two weeks ago. It should should spend several years analyzing whether that project can be made into a valuable investment before it spends big on another underperforming corridor.

If NLX proponents suggest that their project would produce significant development in Minneapolis once rail operations commence, the stimulating nature of their proposal seems limited, especially compared to light rail. After all, while a passenger rail line covering a 155 mile distance replaces some air and some long-distance car travel, it can’t do much to transform the daily travel habits of most of its users. On the other hand, a local light rail line allows users to abandon their car use entirely, clearing the ground for transit-oriented development in a much more serious way.

Minnesota, like most states, lacks resources during this recessionary period. Handing over funds to the NLX would be squandering.

Image above: Northern Lights Express route map, from Northern Lights Express

Commuter Rail Florida Intercity Rail Miami

Florida East Coast Railway Studied for Potential Intercity and Commuter Services

Florida East Coast Railway Map» State applies for stimulus funds to connect Jacksonville and Miami; a Miami-West Palm Beach local service also possible.

In addition to submitting an application for $2.5 billion in funds to speed trains between Tampa and Orlando, Florida asked the federal government earlier this month for some $268 million to restore Amtrak service to the state’s east coast. If the Department of Transportation chooses to reward money to the state, trains could be running between Jacksonville and Miami twice a day on renewed tracks in a few years. A new commuter rail system between Miami and West Palm Beach could follow soon after.

Today, Amtrak serves Miami with two daily trains, the Silver Meteor and Silver Star, both of which originate in New York City. The Meteor runs between Jacksonville and Miami on a relatively direct route through Orlando and West Palm Beach, taking 9h32 to complete the Florida segment. The Star meanders, heading to Tampa after Orlando before retracing its steps back to the east coast, increasing journey times between Miami and Jacksonville to 11h10, if the trains are on time. Both routes terminate at the Miami station, which is far northwest of downtown.

In the car, by contrast, the 350-mile trip takes five and a half hours.

The Florida East Coast Railway, however, may hold the keys to better Florida service. Built in 1885, the line is privately owned and used for shipping, having last served passengers in 1968 when it was shut down due to insufficient ridership. It connects to five intermodal terminals and hosts dozens of daily freight trains. Between West Palm Beach and Miami, the line is roughly one mile east of the existing Amtrak route, making it closer to the densely populated coastline. In addition, it passes directly through the downtowns of West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, and Boca Raton. Further north, trains link Palm Bay, Daytona Beach, and St. Augustine, none of which currently offer Amtrak.

Minor upgrades of the line would provide new service to 12 stations along the coast, serving 8.3 million Floridians living in 11 counties; initial estimates show the route would attract 250,000 annual riders. The Miami to Jacksonville run would be reduced to only six hours. The section between Miami and West Palm Beach would offer new commuter rail service to complement the existing Tri-Rail operations running further to the west in a parallel alignment.

A more comprehensive refitting of the line, which would require double and triple tracking, would cost $5 billion and include forty to sixty stops. That project, however, is nothing more than a pipe dream since Florida’s main priority at the moment is Florida High-Speed Rail, whose second phase would connect Miami to Orlando in a new right-of-way following either I-95 or the Florida turnpike. It might be worthwhile to consider integrating that project with the east coast plan by using the existing Florida East Coast Railway for high-speed services between Miami and Cocoa, where some trains would continue north to Jacksonville and others could run west to Orlando. Freight operations might be shifted to the less-convenient-for-passengers Amtrak route.

Florida’s attempts to get funding from the federal government may stall out, however, if the state doesn’t take seriously recent threats by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. Mr. LaHood has made clear that he expects the state to contribute to rail project funding if it wants Washington to reciprocate. Though his comments have generally been directed at the SunRail project, which was awarded a New Starts funding guarantee earlier this year but lacks state support, they could also be interpreted in the case of Tri-Rail, which has had fiscal problems of its own. The commuter rail system lacks a stable revenue source and has as a result been forced to raise fares, partially resulting in a quick decrease in ridership at the system’s 18 stations. A new transfer charge to switch to local buses hasn’t helped much, either.

The state may convene a special legislative session in December to consider allocating funds to SunRail and Tri-Rail, but legislators have been reluctant to poor money into such public transit operations. We’ll see whether the appeal of high-speed rail funds from Washington is enough to convince them otherwise.

At the local level, investments in a new commuter rail service between Miami and West Palm Beach would likely raise the ire of Tri-Rail supporters, who would be (for good reason) afraid that the new line would take away many of Tri-Rail’s existing riders. The east coast route is more convenient for more people than is Tri-Rail. Will the services co-exist? Will the affected counties be able to afford operations on both lines?

Despite the attractiveness of new rail service, then, it is unrealistic to envision Florida investing in East Coast service unless the federal government steps in.

Image above: Florida East Coast Railway map, from FEC Railway