Letter: Why All Aboard Florida will fail financially

Publish Date: 
Sunday, June 8, 2014 - 6:45am

Alice Johnson, Vero Beach. Source Article at TC Palm here.

Letter: Why All Aboard Florida will fail financially

I believe high-speed rail needs four things to be viable.

  1. Dense population along the route.
  2. Demand from business users, who can afford the high ticket cost.
  3. Fares competitive with airfares.
  4. Good public transportation in the cities served.

All Aboard Florida fails the population test, with only one-12th of the population along its route as compared to the successful Acela trains between Washington, D.C., and New York City. There will not be enough demand to break even on operations in our lifetimes.

As to the second consideration: The targeted affluent passengers fly. Today’s demand supports 14 flights daily from Miami and Fort Lauderdale to Orlando, or about 2,100 seats. Even if AAF captured every single air passenger, there would not be enough people to fill 16 trains with an estimated capacity of 13,000 seats.

To succeed, the train fare must compete with airfares. The airfare between Miami and Orlando is $135. How can AAF possibly break-even if train fares must be less? Even at $135, is a family of four going to pay $1,080 for a round trip to Disney World?

Finally, there is virtually no public transportation in the Florida cities, making it difficult for potential passengers to get to the train and/or their final destination, and more likely that they will choose to fly or drive.

In summary, AAF fails every test for viability, and virtually guarantees that it will default on $1.5 billion in government guaranteed loans. State and local money to build intermodal transit stations and quiet zones, which will cost more than $750 million will be wasted. Even worse is the probability of never-ending taxpayer subsidies to operate a bankrupt rail service.

Citizens Respond

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 3:30pm

The train also has to compete with the cost of a rental car. A full size car rental at the Orlando Airport is only $168.00 for seven days.

Don't forget that passenger rail service on FEC has failed TWICE...actually 3 TIMES if you include the debacle when Ed Ball ran FEC. That was when people actually rode the trains.Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

It appears that AAF doesn't have a solid passenger rail business plan but merely intends to jump aboard the federal government's intercity passenger rail gravy train in order to secure loans to construct rails, upgrade crossings, and provide infrastructure needed for its projected near-future increase in freight traffic heading north from the Ports of Miami and Everglades. If you go to the FECR/PortMiami website it talks about increasing freight as soon as the Panama Canal widening project and the PortMiami channel deepening project are completed next year. If you look at the map on their website it shows the freight trains going up the AAF tracks along the coast.

Clever strategy by FIG/FEC/FECI/FECR/AAF because there is a lot of FRA RRIF loan money, over $30B, available for passenger trains, but very little for freight trains.