Florida needs a seriously expanded train network, and All Aboard Florida may have answered the call with their recent proposal to begin free market service in the Sunshine State. Yet, editors across the state seem hell bent on conjuring up bogus boogeymen from underneath our beds to stop these trains in their proverbial (and literal) tracks.
Does anyone think Florida can do without better train service connecting our metropolitan areas? Who(m) is to provide that service? At who’s expense and benefit? The free market has the answers to these questions of services needed and services provided. That’s what the AAF proposal does, with surprisingly little down side to anyone.
Consider this personal anecdote: For years I yearned to live in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It is walkable and fun, with every modern convenience right at your fingertips. But the potentially longer work commute to West Palm Beach would make my mornings and evenings a living hell. So alas, I choose to reside right next to Interstate 95 in Oakland Park instead.
When I go to visit family and friends across the state, the trip inevitably begin with a full tank of increasingly expensive gas and me in my car. How awesome would it be to instead walk to a shiny new station blocks from my house and board a quick, efficient train? I could nap, check the news, or catch up on work during those several hours I now spend watching pavement go by. Time lost would be time gained. Hassle would become convenience. I would even exercise more, biking or walking to and from the train stations.
Face it people, Florida needs these trains.
All Aboard Florida will bring some 32 trains a day between South Florida and Orlando, surely with future service to Tampa, Jacksonville and other popular destinations. All of this would be done with (mostly) private money on private tracks, run by a private business. What is there to lose? Even if the system turns out to be a complete disaster which no one wants to ride, taxpayers are largely off the hook. Compare this proposal, if you will, to the original high speed rail plan which could have saddled Floridians with a massive debt — to say nothing of its uselessness.
Most of the opposition to AAF is, mind-bogglingly, about bridges and fish. Seriously? The Federal Railroad Administration finds that AAF would cause ostensibly “No Significant Impact”, except occasional train noise where there are tracks. But facts are rarely enough to keep whiners from whining.
First, a history lesson. There would literally be no such thing as the South Florida metro area if it weren’t for Henry Flagler and his train tracks. The trains came first. Complaining about their existence is like buying a house next to an airport and whining when airplanes fly overhead. Also, we’re not talking about long, slow freight trains which block traffic for several minutes at a time. We are talking about short, swift passenger trains which will sail through whole towns in minutes. Inconvenience to motorists would be minimal.
Boaters and sportsmen bellow that drawbridges near Stuart and downtown Fort Lauderdale will be closed more often, restricting water traffic. Yes, indeed, that appears to be the price of doing business. But that minor cost doesn’t mean Floridians have to kill the entire project. If these irksome bridges need to be replaced with non-drawbridges, then we should talk with the Florida East Coast Railway and Florida DOT about getting that done. Fair enough. But meanwhile, we need trains… lots more trains, with lots more enterprise, carrying lots more passengers to lots more places.
It cannot be said enough. Florida needs more trains.
The news coverage of AAF, however, has been less than stellar — at least in the newspapers I read. It is truly incoherent that so-called “reporters” and editorial writers at Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post give so much print space to the extreme minority who complain about train noise after moving next to — drum roll, please — train tracks! Or for that matter, the woe-is-me attitude of boaters whose 45 minutes of unrestricted passage per hour may be restricted to 40. Oh, the humanity!
Let’s get real.
The All Aboard Florida project isn’t perfect. There will be winners and losers. But there will be far more winners on balance and the losers don’t lose much. It will be good for our economy, it will be good for tourism, it will even be good for everyday commuters who travel between cities. It will be good for taxpayers, businesses, and even motorists who won’t have to share the roadway with 32 daily train loads of people.
All Aboard Florida is the kind of gift that doesn’t come everyday and we would be complete idiots to whine, moan and Stonewall until we kill the project. Let’s instead welcome this practically free opportunity with open arms and, if you will, all get on board.