Publish Date: 
Monday, July 21, 2014 - 7:15am

By Eve Samples, July 21 TCPalm

My first question was the obvious one:

“Do you work for, or are you affiliated with, All Aboard Florida?”

Spin doctors for the Miami-to-Orlando passenger rail service had devoted a whole news release to Robert Poole’s bullish take on their project.

They had coordinated my interview with him, too.

I had to ask.

Plus, I had a hard time understanding how Poole, a transportation expert for a libertarian think tank, could be so keen on All Aboard Florida — even though it will rely on $1.5 billion in federal loans.

The motto of Poole’s employer, the Reason Foundation, is “free minds and free markets.”

That much government cash for a private rail project flies in the face of such thinking, doesn’t it?

Poole, the foundation’s director of transportation policy, said he had nothing to gain (though he knows two of the company’s players from transportation policy circles).

Then he explained why he believes All Aboard Florida is the country’s best chance at self-sustaining passenger rail service.

It boils down to three factors:

1. Real estate: All Aboard Florida intends to profit from property investments near the stations it will build in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

2. Distance: This is the too-long-to-drive, too-short-to-fly selling point All Aboard Florida likes to point out.

3. Route: All Aboard Florida’s parent company, Florida East Coast Industries, already controls the corridor for the existing FEC tracks.

“You put all of those advantages together, and this is really different than all the other attempts to do high-speed rail,” said Poole, who has advised presidential administrations from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush.