Happy Birthday, Brightline!
Hard to believe the nation's only private, intercity passenger railroad will reach its first year in operation on Jan. 13. What an amazing first year it's been -- 600,000 passengers, 8,000 trips between West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.
For Pam and I, it's been a game-changer.
Prior to Brightline, we approached every trip heading south on Die-95 with fear and loathing. Frantic, lane-changing drivers, the inevitable accidents, backups that can stretch for miles, not to mention encountering rain or storms on almost every trip.
Brightline changed all that, bigtime. Now we park in the adjacent garage at Brightline's West Palm station, check in and relax at the Select lounge before boarding a state-of-the-art coach, where we sip Prosecco, listen to music on our ear buds and watch the scenery go by. It's heaven.
Once in Miami, or Ft. Lauderdale, we summon a ride on Lyft -- Brightline's partner -- via the Lyft app and off we go to our final destination. Then it's back to Brightline's Miami Central for the trip back home. With the new, expanded train hours, there are lots of evening and late-night options.
Besides the convenience, we give major kudos to Brightline's personnel. From the security check-ins, to the lounge workers, to the attendants in the coach cars, we have found the Brightline people uniformly friendly and welcoming. They even gather by the tracks and wave you good-bye!
Hands down, Brightline is the best thing to happen to South Florida since those coconuts washed ashore on Palm Beach.
The best part? It's only going to get better in 2019.
Late last year, it was announced that Richard Branson's Virgin Group made a minority investment in Brightline, which would be rebranded as Virgin Trains. Virgin's trademark red and new signage will soon be making an appearance on trains and in stations. With the launch of Branson's new cruise line, Virgin Voyages, and a new terminal under construction at the Port of Miami, it makes perfect sense.
Also, Brightline's expansion to Orlando is well under way, and will begin operations later this year or in 2020. That's huge. But that's not all: Brightline also announced a new route from Southern California to Las Vegas is in the works. What a year it's been!
We've heard talk of possible future destinations that include Tampa, Jacksonville and maybe even the Florida Keys. Henry Flagler would be proud.
So, thank you Brightline, for making going to Miami fun again. Happy Birthday, and here's to many more!
Yes, I know it's spelled like "Jerry." No, I don't know why it's pronounced "Gary."