Back to the Future of Rail in South Florida

Brightline is preparing to make history in rail travel with its new train service, arriving next summer on its route from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. But it’s a 19th century Oil Man to whom anyone taking a fast, convenient ride on the cool express trains, that we all owe a nod of thanks.

Henry M. Flagler was a wealthy man with a vision. A founding partner in Standard Oil (along with John D. Rockefeller and Samuel Andrews), he was involved in the most profitable corporation in the world back in 1878 when for personal reasons he left New York for a warmer winter in Jacksonville. It was in sleepy St. Augustine, the oldest city in the country, that he spotted a development opportunity.

Henry Flagler at the Train Station

Think of it as the equivalent of Bill Gates landing in the state and coming up with a new, locally based idea. Flagler launched a second career that changed the course of history in Florida.

In 1885, he began building the Hotel Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine, also setting his sights further south envisioning hotels across the state for visitors from the north. One issue was how to transport building supplies for the projects. He needed a railroad.

It’s crazy to think that mules powered the St. John’s Railway – Florida’s original train system – when it opened in 1859. Fortunately, times had changed by the time Flagler began buying existing railroads in the state, but he still had the challenge of converting the lines to a standard gauge.

By spring of 1889, the Flagler train system operated between Jacksonville and Daytona. But the millionaire’s ambitions didn’t end there. Flagler petitioned the state of Florida for permission to lay new tracks and by 1894 his trains were reaching what is today West Palm Beach.

By 1896, Flagler’s train system went all the way to Biscayne Bay. So acclaimed were his transportation and development achievements that a newly incorporated town on the bay wanted to name itself “Flagler.” After the man himself declined the honor, the place instead adopted the name Miami (yes, that Miami).

Flagler particularly liked Palm Beach where he built properties including The Breakers Hotel, turning the place into a trendy resort for the Gilded Age. For himself and his third wife, he built a 75-room Beaux Arts-style estate, Whitehall, today a National Historic Landmark open to visitors as the Flagler Museum (

The builder had another big dream up his sleeve, a project that some dismissed as “Flagler’s Foley” but which would become one of the greatest engineering and construction projects of the 20th century – and one of the greatest railroad engineering feats in history.

Flagler announced plans to build a track over 100 miles of open water, connecting the islands of the Florida Keys with the mainland, making it possible for trains to travel all the way from Jacksonville to Key West. Construction involved more than 4,000 workers and took more than seven years, but on January 22, 1912 Flagler himself took the train to Key West to officially celebrate the opening of the new railroad.

While the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad ended operations in 1931, the system of bridges led to the creation of today’s Overseas Highway – meaning a lasting impact on future generations. The Florida Keys celebrated the 100th anniversary of Flagler’s achievement in 2012.

It’s amazing to step back and think that in many ways the whole east coast of modern Florida, including Miami and West Palm Beach, not to mention Florida travel in general, owes its existence to Flagler and his railroad.

Flagler established the Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway, and even today Jacksonville-based FEC runs freight service along almost the same mainland route that Flagler developed, serving Jacksonville, St. Augustine, West Palm Beach and Miami. Passenger service on the FEC was discontinued in the late 1960s.

When it launches service next year, Brightline will do so as the only privately funded, operated and maintained express passenger train service in the U.S.

Beginning next summer, Brightline passengers will be able to travel by rail from West Palm Beach to Miami, with a convenient stop in Fort Lauderdale. In Phase Two, service will commence to Orlando, including on brand new track between Cocoa and Orlando.

Florida residents and visitors will be able to leave their cars at home and travel fast, conveniently and in an environmentally friendly manner on brightly colored, modern, one-of-a-kind Brightline trains built in California by Siemens. The trains will operate from new, conveniently located stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. These trains will whisk riders quickly and comfortably to their destinations: just thirty minutes from Miami to Fort Lauderdale; and just 60 minutes from Miami to West Palm Beach.

This reinvented, thoroughly modern way to travel by train in Florida will earn Brightline its own place in Florida and train travel history. But, it wouldn’t have happened without Henry Flagler.

Travel Tip: Henry Flagler History in Palm Beach

To explore more about the man and his dream, Brightline passengers may want to visit the Flagler Museum (, also known as Whitehall. The Gilded Age estate was built by Henry Flagler for his third wife and completed in 1902. Docent-led, audio and self-guided tours are available, the museum open Tuesday to Sunday (closed Mondays). Among exhibits is a private rail car built in 1886 for Henry Flagler’s personal use. The Flagler Museum also organizes seasonal tours of The Breakers Hotel (Saturdays only). It’s a quick rideshare (only about two miles) to the museum from the Brightline West Palm Beach train station.

Back to School, Back to Traffic

Students across Miami-Dade and Broward counties have returned to school this week, joining children from Palm Beach County who are already a week into the new school year; and that means increased traffic throughout the region. As if congestion on local roads and highways wasn’t bad enough, the annual back to school rite equals slow going with more cars, buses and bikes transporting students to and from schools and colleges.

Here are some tips for dealing with the congestion caused by the school bells starting to ring:

  • Plan to Leave Earlier/Later – Back to school traffic during peak times can add more than 30 minutes to a commute. Adjust departure times to leave earlier or later depending on school arrival and dismissal times, especially if there are school zones that on your route. In some cases, leaving later may be a better option.
  • Take a Different Route – Avoiding school zones, where speed limits are typically 20 miles per hour or less, can help to bypass traffic back-ups. Plan ahead and utilize popular mapping tools, such as Waze or Google Maps, to determine alternate routes that are free and clear of school zones. If you do find yourself in a school zone, make sure to slow down and stay alert. Obeying the speed limit and being mindful of pedestrians and school buses is paramount.
  • Stay Calm – After a summer of smooth sailing on the roads, increased traffic can raise stress levels. It’s
    important to stay calm, take a deep breath and come to the realization that you will get to your destination, it’s just going to take longer than it did when school was not in session.
  • Consider Other Transportation Options – Do your part to alleviate the congestion and consider carpooling or taking mass transit options such as Tri-Rail, express bus service or even biking to work (if you live close enough). Through the Florida Department of Transportation, South Florida Commuter Services helps promote ride sharing options for commuters in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie Counties. Check out their website to learn more about the vast array of commuter transit options that are available.

For the 2017-2018 school year, commuters will have a brand new option for beating the back to school traffic as Brightline, the express inter-city train service, will be available to whisk guests between the urban hubs of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Riders won’t have to worry about increased traffic as Brightline travel times will remain the same year-round: 30 minutes from Miami to Fort Lauderdale; and 30 minutes from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach. That’s the beauty of train travel – frequent departures, reliable and quick trip times and dependable arrival times. This new mode of transportation is going to revolutionize how South Floridians move about the tri-county area. Brightline will score high marks with those who want to ride in comfort and get to their destination quickly, while not having to stress about traffic. No matter what time of the year, taking Brightline will ensure that you get to your destination quickly and conveniently.

For more information on how Brightline will make traveling smarter and provide a new travel alternative in South Florida, visit our website or like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Train Travel vs Driving: Let’s Get Real

Which is better, to travel by train or car? What is the cheapest way to travel? Or the safest?

The numbers are in, the benefits compared, and the clear winner is travel by train. Here are the top ten reasons why trains win the train vs driving commute debate — and why you should hit the rails, not the roadways, for your next trip.

Traveling By Train

1. You can save the world when you take a train.

Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration — but not by much. High-speed rail uses a third less per-mile energy than driving a car. In fact, we could save 125 million barrels of oil a year if the United States had a national high-speed rail system in place.

When it comes down to CO2 emissions, trains are also the clear winner. On a global scale, cars make up about 71 percent of CO2 transmissions from transportation. Compare that to how much trains emit — a mere 1.8% — and you can see why taking a train is doing Earth a big favor.

2. You can save time when you travel by train.

With our highways becoming more jammed each year, we’re spending considerably more time stuck in traffic. And no one enjoys that. All this wasted time equates to a whole lot of wasted money, too. Americans lose a staggering $87 billion a year stuck in gridlock.

Even if you’re driving on clear roads and highways, you’re still wasting time. When you travel by train, you can cut your travel time in half or more. It’s the fastest way to travel!

3. You can optimize your time by opting for rail over road.

Not only does choosing rails over roads save you time, it also optimizes your time. When you’re sitting in a car, you’re doing just that: sitting. With trains, you actually get to use that time for something productive — or relaxing!

You can do some good-old-fashioned binge-watching of your favorite shows. You can catch up on your emails. You can even connect with friends and family, chatting away while the miles fly by.

4. You can save big bucks when you travel by train.

When you choose train over cars, you can save a significant chunk of cash: in both gas and work time. Take gas: The United States wastes more than 2.8 billion gallons of gas on car travel. Wasted work hours are even more alarming at 4.2 billion hours. That equates to one week of work per traveler. When it’s all said and done, trains offer one of the least expensive transportation options.

5. You enjoy a hassle-free experience when traveling by train.

When you travel by train, you never have to worry about parking hassles or finding a pit stop. If you’re traveling with Brightline, everything you need is right there on the train, from sparkling clean bathrooms to delicious snacks.

6. You can enjoy a more laid-back way of travel by choosing train.

Road rage is no longer an issue with train travel. And, boy, is it an issue. One out of every two drivers is on the receiving end of road rage. When you choose trains, you don’t need to worry about other drivers on the road. You can sit back and relax while someone else does the driving. Get to your destination in a better mood.

7. How you get there becomes a part of the fun when you choose trains.

Taking a train is quite charming. From your view to the hospitality, you’ll actually enjoy your time getting there. It becomes a part of your experience, not just a mode of transportation.

8. You enjoy more freedom on a train.

When you’re on the train, you’re not confined to your seat. You can get up and move around the train when you want. Stretch your legs or grab a refreshment. All this freedom is even sweeter when you have kids traveling with you. Instead of being stuck in their seat for hours on end, they’ll feel more like they’re hanging out in the living room.

9. You can enjoy a more sociable way to travel when you choose trains.

Lonely long drives are a thing of the past with train travel. Say hello to a new way of travel that lets you be social. Rather a peaceful, quiet trip? You can do that, too. The choice is all yours.

Brightline is going to make your train vs car decision even easier when service starts in 2017. With easy connectivity, outstanding amenities and leading technology, stations and trains will take you into the future — affordably and comfortably.

Train vs. Plane: 7 Reasons Why Train Travel Wins

We’ve decided to put an end to the debate of train travel vs. air travel. While there are plenty of benefits to taking a train vs. a plane, we whittled it down to the 7 most compelling. Plain and simple, these 7 reasons will make your next travel decision a whole lot easier. When you travel by train, you will:

Tracks For Train

1. Avoid the Hassle

Anyone who has traveled by plane knows how frustrating it can be — even for those flights that are actually on time. From the early arrival time and the long security lines to having to take off your shoes and ration out your liquids, traveling by air is a hassle.

With train travel, you only need to arrive 30 minutes before your departure and walk straight to the gate. This is a huge plus for travelers. In fact, 72 percent of the 300 North Americans and Europeans surveyed by SilverRail Technologies cited waiting in line as the single most annoying air travel hassle. No wonder trains are a popular choice!

2. Gain More Freedom

No matter how you slice and dice it, train travel affords you more freedom. Your family can say goodbye at your actual gate, you can book your seat last minute and not pay expensive last-minute fare, and the list goes on. The bottom line is you have more control over your travel experience when you choose trains.

3. Choose Comfort

Don’t you just love being cramped up in a tiny seat, sharing a tiny arm rest with a complete stranger, as your ears pop and babies scream? We didn’t think so.

When you travel by train, you can relax comfortably in a spacious seat, with more legroom than you could dream of on an airplane. You can also move freely between cars, not just when the seatbelt sign is off.

4. Enjoy Convenience

When it comes to convenience, trains take the cake. Stations are conveniently located in major urban areas, with easy access to local transportation methods. Say goodbye to taking a costly cab ride miles away from town and then trucking across a huge airport. When you step off the train, you’ll be just a short walk away from everything you could need.

5. Get Better Views

Sure, the clouds look beautiful. After a few minutes, however, they can lose their charm. Your view from the rails never gets boring — you get a front row seat to gorgeous landscapes.

6. Relax Without Annoying Interruptions

Once you get past the hassles of actually boarding the plane, you face more interruptions. Fasten your seat belt, stow away your tray table, turn off your Internet-connected devices and more. With train travel, you don’t have to be bothered at all. You have plenty of space to sit back and relax!

7. Make Travel a Fun Part of Your Trip

Getting to your destination should really be part of the adventure and fun. With train travel, it is. Train travel is a comfortable space where you can unwind and relax on your own terms. Binge-watch your favorite show, catch up on work, or relax with some good tunes and beautiful scenery.

If Your Decision Wasn’t Already Easy, Brightline Will Make It a No-Brainer

Given these facts about the many benefits of train travel over airplanes, it’s easy to see why so many savvy travelers are choosing rail over air. Brightline will be making the deal even sweeter when it starts service in mid-2017.

With modern cars that are filled with creature comforts — electrical outlets, plenty of legroom, sparkling clean bathrooms and stations that are hubs of convenience — Brightline is taking connectivity to a whole new level. Train travel is the better choice, so brighten up your travel experience with Brightline next year!


Five Fun Things to Do for New Year’s Eve and Day in Miami

The countdown till’ 2016 is on — and Miami is the perfect place to ring in the new year! Whether you’re looking to party with friends all night long, sip champagne with your beau or turn the evening into a family affair, there are plenty of Miami New Year’s Eve events that will help you celebrate.

And the fun doesn’t have to stop once the ball drops. You can keep the party going with Miami New Year’s Day events, too!

Ring in 2016 With Pitbull

Join Mr. 305 as he closes out 2015 in style in one of the biggest New Year’s Eve events in Miami! Pitbull will return to host the free annual New Year’s Eve Revolution party starting at 8 p.m. in Bayfront Park. Enjoy a dance party and fireworks in addition to a countdown to midnight with thousands of your closest friends and fellow Floridians.

Party With the Kiddos

One of the best New Year’s Eve parties in Miami year after year is the Biltmore’s annual Gala dinner dance. Adults can enjoy dinner, an open bar, hand-rolled cigars and music. New for 2015 is the Biltmore Buddies “Neverland Bash” for children ages 4 to 12. Your kiddos can have their own fun, while you dance and sip on drinks at the bar. The Neverland Bash also wraps up just in time for fireworks, so you can celebrate with your entire family on the terrace!

Celebrate on the High Seas

Party boats have become a popular part of Miami New Year’s Eve events in recent years. The luxury yachts feature all-inclusive menus, full open bars, music and dancing for individuals who are 21 and older. And at midnight, you can get a front-row seat to the downtown fireworks from the Biscayne Bay — the perfect way to start the new year by the water!

Get Your Glow On

Not to be outdone on December 31, The Clevelander Hotel is planning one of the hottest New Year’s Eve parties in Miami this year. DJs will be spinning under neon lights at the “Miami chic” Glow event. General admission starts at just $25, which leaves plenty of money left over for bottle service by the pool.

Celebrate and kick off 2016 in Miami! We hope it’s the start of a happy, healthy, and Bright new year!


photo credit: Bokeh Experiment 1-12-2014 via photopin (license)

Effortless Travel with Children

Fairchild tropical botanic garden, Miami, FL, USA

Florida is home to some of the best kid-friendly destinations in the country. From theme parks to outdoor adventures, there’s something to occupy every kid or kid at heart. As most parents know, planning a road trip to visit some of these places can be stressful. Kids typically get bored sitting in a car for long lengths of time which often leads to not-so-pleasant behavior.

For parents, road trips usually involve frustrating traffic, crazy drivers and constant breaks whether it’s for food, to use the bathroom or just to stretch and move around – it’s hard for anyone to be in a car for that long, especially a child. Even plane travel can be high-stress with children – kids getting antsy and temperamental, being rambunctious and loud, not to mention worrying about how their behavior affects other passengers.

Brightline eases these travel concerns and provides children with countless hours of entertainment. Kids can take in and enjoy the beautiful views of Florida, connect to our reliable Wi-Fi and watch their favorite show or movie, or play video games on their tablet or other mobile device.

Whether you’re visiting family in the area or checking out a new theme park, Brightline wants to make traveling with kids easier for all involved – parents and children. Each train will feature a retail car with yummy snacks and treats that kids will love, as well as a social car for families that may be a bit livelier. There will also be a quiet car which is great for nap time, or for those that would like a more peaceful and serene environment for their little ones. Young ones are inherently fascinated with trains and can enjoy the beautiful scenery it provides. With Brightline, a peaceful journey for all awaits.