NewsTreasure CoastRegion Martin CountyStuart


Why did Brightline choose Stuart for new station?

'It's definitely about the money,' Stuart resident Ken Tomkinson says
Posted at 6:21 PM, Feb 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-28 19:51:43-05

STUART, Fla. — The news of Stuart getting a Brightline station was met with excitement, anger and disappointment when WPTV confirmed the news Monday.

One question WPTV heard from many: Why Stuart?

Ever since Brightline launched service to Orlando, it has been a battle between Fort Pierce and Stuart, and as Fort Pierce's Request for Proposal points out, St. Lucie County's seat is the most geographically central to all of the Treasure Coast.

In addition, Fort Pierce's proposed station would have three entry points, whereas to get to Stuart's station, much of the traffic would have to funnel through the already congested Confusion Corner.

So why did Stuart win?

"It's definitely about the money," guessed Stuart resident Ken Tomkinson.

 Stuart resident Ken Tomkinson guesses why Brightline chose Stuart
Stuart resident Ken Tomkinson guesses why Brightline chose Stuart for station.

He may be on to something. To get from Miami to Orlando, Brightline ticket prices start at $79 for adults and $39 for kids one way.

Not everyone can afford that, and according to U.S. Census data,
Martin County's median income of $77,894 is higher than St. Lucie County's median income of $66,154.

"If they're going to get more ridership here (in Stuart) than up there, it only makes dollars and cents to [Brightline]," Realtor Michael Caputo said.

Caputo said home prices suggest the same thing. As Stuart's Request for Proposal points out, 8,500 homes within a five-mile radius of Stuart's station are priced at more than $400,000. In addition, 1,250 homes within five miles are assessed at more than $1 million.

Fort Pierce's proposal never mentioned home prices, but Caputo said on average they're much lower.

realtor Michael Caputo says Stuart station makes sense for Brightline 02282024
Realtor Michael Caputo says Stuart station makes sense monetarily for Brightline.

"[Brightline] is going to get more ridership here (in Stuart) because we have more people for it," Caputo said.

Stuart officials also pointed out the city's attraction to others. Tourism data in the proposal showed Martin County attracts 5.5 million visitors per year.

St. Lucie County clocked in 1.2 million visitors annually per a recent estimate in 2017.

"We know that a lot of people come up from [Miami-Dade] and Broward County, to come to downtown, use our beaches, enjoy a slower pace of life, so that was very appealing to them," Stuart Vice Mayor Campbell Rich said.

Stuart Vice Mayor Campbell Rich 02282024.png
Stuart Vice Mayor Campbell Rich explains how tourism probably plays a pivotal role in Brightline choosing Stuart as their location.

Rich said he believes for that reason, along with the city's proximity to Port St. Lucie, one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, Brightline chose Stuart, despite Fort Pierce submitting a competitive application.

"They're probably a little behind us on development, but they're doing a great job," Rich said.

This is all, of course, just speculation.

Brightline hasn't gone on the record with its station of choice, nor given WPTV a reason why.

Yet it seems all who spoke to WPTV agree money speaks for itself.