All Abroad Florida, the new high-speed passenger rail line linking South Florida and Orlando, will surprisingly do half its business among people traveling only between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, a study released Thursday reported.
The study by the New Jersey-based Louis Berger Group, an international business consulting company, also contains what it calls an “optimized’ fare structure, which includes round trips between Miami and Fort Lauderdale between $11 and $15, and Miami and Orlando from $85 to $130.
“We’ll be delivering a product that’s convenient and reliable, but also priced so that it’s very competitive with the primary transportation alternative today, which is to drive your car,” said Michael Reininger, All Aboard Florida’s president.
The comprehensive ridership and revenue study was commissioned by All Aboard Florida. Robert Poole, who studies transportation at the California-based Reason Foundation, said the report was “a legitimate study, not a piece of fluff or PR.”
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The study collected travel data from a wide variety of government agencies and conducted more than 8,000 interviews with potential passengers, some over the Internet and others at airline departure gates, Florida Turnpike rest stops and other places travelers congregate.
The report predicts that All Aboard Florida will be carrying about 5.3 million riders a year by 2020, roughly divided equally between South Florida local travel and long-distance travel between South Florida and Orlando.
Revenues, however, won’t be an even split. The report estimates All Aboard America will be taking in about $294 million a year in fares by 2020, with more than three-quarters coming from the long-haul routes.
“We are confident that that kind of revenue is a very viable business for us,” said Reininger, who noted that All Aboard Florida will also have income from the sale of advertising, food and beverage, among other sources.
Poole, who was allowed by All Aboard Florida to question the researchers who authored the report, admitted he was surprised by the finding that that so many passengers will use it for local South Florida travel.
“But it’s not like the study claims that everybody who travels between Dade and Broward is going to crowd into an All Aboard car,” he noted. “They’re saying they can capture just 1.2 percent of the market....What it shows is that there’s a lot more jobs and housing along their rail corridor on the eastern side than over to the west, where Tri-Rail operates.”
Though All Aboard Florida fares will be slightly higher than those of Tri Rail, its trains will travel much faster. “That’s because it has so many fewer stops,” said Poole. Tri-Rail has 18 stops between Miami and West Palm Beach, compared to three for All Aboard Florida.
All Aboard Florida plans to run 16 round-trip trains a day between Miami and Orlando, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, covering the 235-mile route in about three hours. It is expected to start running trains in 2017.
Construction has already begun on stations in the three South Florida cities, as well as the railroad tracks between them. But the full operation still faces some regulatory and financing hurdles, including a final federal environmental impact study and approval of a $1.75 billion bond issue.
The private activity bonds would not be government-backed, so taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook if All Aboard Florida failed. But because they’re tax-exempt, they must be approved by the Florida Development Finance Corp.
Indian River and Martin counties — through which All Aboard Florida would travel, though it wouldn’t have stations there — have filed lawsuits in federal court to block the bond issue.
All Aboard Florida officials say they expect the bond issue and the environmental impact study to be resolved by the end of June.