WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - You’ve been hearing the horns and seeing the trains, but on Saturday, people got to experience Brightline in practice.
“I was so excited when I woke up this morning, I was like a little kid," said Jim Kovalsky, president of the Florida East Coast Railway Society. "I went to bed last night thinking, 'I get to ride the train tomorrow.'”
Brightline held an invitation-only friends and family ride Saturday between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Kovalsky got an invite.
“It was an absolutely stunning ride. Really smooth. Really fast," Kovalsky said.
Kovalsky couldn’t share pictures from inside the train, but he describes a comfortable experience with leather seats and charging outlets.
“Nicer than anything you see in first class on an airplane," he said.
The speed of the train was also as anticipated. The ride between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale was 29 minutes.
“I was running the GPS on the way back and it was telling me our top speed was 79," he said. "Average speed was 75.”
Kovalsky thinks people will use Brightline for various reasons.
“I talked to someone on the train today who is already planning to purchase her annual pass to commute," he said.
It's also a selling point for tourists.
“I just see this moving more and more people and both for local residents and especially for tourists that are coming from other countries and expect to ride trains," he said.
Kovalsky thinks West Palm Beach is now on track for the transportation of the future.
“You’re going to see this replicated in other parts of the country," he said. "This is going to be the start of the new rail system for the United States and this is really what we need.”
On Friday, Brightline wouldn't give an official launch date for the public, but said introductory service from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale will start the week of January 8.
Brightline also hasn't specificied ticket prices or train schedules.