Thursday marked another milestone for Brightline, as the South Florida-based train company unveiled its brand-new station at Orlando International Airport (MCO). The local community and members of the media were on hand for the big reveal, bringing BrightLine one step closer to officially launching passenger service between Miami and Orlando.
The terminal was (literally) decades in the making, as indicated in opening remarks by Kevin Thibault, CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. He noted that the airport design criteria as of March 1977 included a fixed-track transport hub on the airport grounds.
More than 46 years later, that vision is now a reality.
Connected to Terminal C (which just opened in September 2022), the station is bright and airy and packed with amenities usually absent from commuter train outposts in the United States. Where the only requirement is to send your bags through an x-ray machine.
From there, the station opens onto a huge common area located directly above the two tracks currently installed, with a wide variety of amenities for all passengers.
Brightline offers two classes of service on its trains: Smart is the more affordable option, while Premium includes slightly larger seats and extra perks. Both are major steps above other train services in the country.
“This is not your grandma’s train,” said Patrick Goddard, president of Brightline. “This is not Amtrak… [it’s] Unlike anything you’ve experienced before. This will be transformative for people traveling in Florida.”
Premium passengers have access to a spacious lounge to the right of the main entrance to the station. It features a variety of seating and plenty of free energy, beverage and snack outlets.
Those with smart tickets can wait for the train in comfortable seats on the west side of the station or pull up a chair at Bright Lane’s signature Mary Mary bar, which features craft cocktails, beer, wine, and snacks.
Like other stops in South Florida, Orlando will feature a Grab-and-Go Mrkt, with several snacks and drinks for purchase.
There’s even a kids’ area for younger travelers to keep them occupied until it’s time to board.
Of course, the big question on everyone’s mind remains when (exactly) passenger service will launch between Orlando and Miami. No specific date has been announced. However, Goddard told TPG that the tickets will go on sale in May, and will remain on track for a summer launch — pending completion of the required testing and certification from the Federal Railroad Administration.
Related: First Look Inside Orlando’s $100 Million Brightline Train Maintenance Facility
Bright Line will initially run 16 round trip trains each day, with the first southbound train leaving MCO at 5 am and the first northbound train leaving Miami at 6:50 am on weekdays and 5:45 am on weekends. Hourly service will be a mix of non-stop trains (2 hours 59 minutes), as well as trains that stop in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Aventura, and Miami (3 hours 30 minutes).
Related: Brightline High-Speed Train Service Expands in South Florida
The excitement of what this will mean for the country was on full display during the unveiling event.
“You have 20 million people and growing in the state, you have 130 million visitors and about 35 million cars on those highways a year between central and south Florida,” Goddard said. “Being able to ride a train, be able to go door to door, sit in leather seats, stream a movie, have a cocktail, have a snack, and eat… [a great] The bathroom on the ship is transformative in terms of what people experience in the state.”
The bright streak is not finished yet. The company owns nearly 70 acres of land in Cocoa, Florida, just a short drive from Port Canaveral—making it a strong contender for future stops. It also has plans to expand to Tampa and is working with SunRail, the Central Florida commuter train operator, on connectivity options to downtown Orlando, the Convention Center, and beyond.
Related: New Florida High Speed Train Makes First Test Run for Orlando Airport
All of this means that getting around the sunshine state in years to come may involve fewer roads and more rails, an idea that long seemed unimaginable.
“Whether you’re a business traveler or a first-time visitor, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe they have a train of this quality in this country,'” Goddard added. “I think it’s a game-changer.”
If the Orlando station is any indication, Brightline is clearly well on its way to fulfilling that premise.
Additional reporting by Clint Henderson.
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