It's all aboard for Brightline passengers this weekend.
The project has been at least six years in the making and Brightline high speed trains between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale is officially taking off for commuters this weekend.
The first train for commuters takes off from downtown West Palm Beach at 8 a.m. Saturday.
PRICES AND PROJECTS
Brightline is planning 10 daily round trips during the week and nine on the weekends to start.
We learned that any website glitches experienced this week have been fixed and tickets are available now through March. The mobile app has also launched, with more promotions planned in the coming months.
"This is a very new experience for south Floridians," said Brightline president and COO, Patrick Goddard. “It’s not just about getting from A to B. It’s about an experience."
We tagged along with city and county leaders on one of the very first Brightline rides from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale -- a total of just 35 minutes.
“It’s a smooth ride and a quick ride. And that’s really what a passenger is looking for," said Steven Abrams, Palm Beach County Commissioner. "It's just great to see it finally come to fruition, it's a very expensive and complicated project. Luckily the expense was bore by the private company and not by the tax payers."
Brightline is offering introductory rates to entice people to try it. Riders can book service starting on Saturday, Jan. 13. at 8 a.m. departing West Palm Beach and arriving in Fort Lauderdale at 8:40 a.m. Weekday trains depart West Palm Beach starting at 6 a.m. and will leave every hour. Introductory service will feature 10 daily round trips during the weekdays and nine on the weekends.
The one-way cost is $10 for "Smart Service" and $15 for “Select Service," which offers wider seats, complimentary beverages and snacks and free parking. Each seat contains power and USB outlets, a comfy headrest, reading lights, arm rests, and trays.
"Actually experiencing the ride and realizing how comfortable it is. This is a game changer," said Keith James, West Palm Beach city commissioner.
Seniors, active military and veterans will receive a 10 percent pricing discount, and kids 12 years old and under will receive a 50 percent pricing discount.
The last train Saturday night that departs West Palm Beach for Fort Lauderdale is at 9:30 p.m. The last train that leaves Fort Lauderdale for West Palm Beach on Saturday night is at 10:55 p.m. and arrives at 11:35 p.m.
While Brightline couldn't specify an exact time, Goddard told me the introductory rates will last for the next few months until construction is completed at the Miami terminal which will be called MiamiCentral.
“Eleven acre, 3 million square foot development with 800 apartments — offices, real estate," described Goddard.
Many viewers have asked whether Brightline will provide a bus system similar to Tri-Rail in the future but the company could not comment on it. The company would also not comment on reports that Brightline is eyeing rail corridors in Georgia and Texas.
As for the Orlando route, progress is being made in 2018.
"We're at the other end of the permitting process and I think we’ll be breaking ground there and getting started on that construction this quarter," said Goddard.
As for the delay in launching service, Goddard says safety had to come first.
“As we’ve developed this project what has been tantamount, what has been primary is keeping our passengers and our teammates safe," said Goddard.
Another delay involves the quiet zones along the route, where trains cannot sound their horns. Officials with the city of West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County stressed that the quiet need to be completed as soon as possible. WPTV reported last week that it could take another four to six months for quiet zones within the city limits to be finished
"We are unhappy that we still have to deal with the fact that the quiet zones are still not yet ready but when you do something this bold and this big, you can’t expect everything to go perfectly," said West Palm Beach city commissioner Paula Ryan during Friday's press conference.
City and county leaders say they will stay on top of the quiet zone project until its completion.
"We're going to keep the pressure on them and I think Brightline understands how important that is to the residents of our city," said commissioner James.
Brightline said the quiet zones are a top priority.
“We just met with the mayor of West Palm Beach yesterday and we’re working through a schedule to get back to work, to accelerate this schedule and have them implemented very, very soon," said Goddard. “We hear the concerns of the citizens of West Palm Beach along the line and we’re going to make that happen as soon as we can.”
Commissioner Abrams said right now, it's just a question of contractors speeding up the work on the crossings.
"What I want to remind everybody is a lot of the improvements have already been made. They need to just finish off some of the gates but the medians are in place. So I'm hoping if they accelerate it then we can get the quiet zone implemented and everyone will be happy," he said. "We're going to light a fire under Brightline. They want to have good ridership and a good reputation in the community."
Brightline will now have until March 26 to get all quiet zones ready and then 21 days to certify them. By April 17, all quiet zones are required to be enacted in Palm Beach County.
Brightline will work from north to south, starting at 15th Street. They're also required to report every 15 days.