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Brightline looks to capitalize on more riders with soaring gas prices

Ridership approaches 2019 levels
Posted at 4:59 PM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 17:31:38-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Drivers are changing their behaviors, putting the car in park and hopping on board mass transit.

Companies like Brightline are already reporting an increase in ridership.

People like Stefan Dekock are hopping aboard Brightline instead of emptying their wallet to fill up the car with gas.

"Every day you wake up and people ask me, 'How's your day,' or 'What's up?' The gas prices are up," Dekock said.

 Stefan Dekock, took Brightline instead of driving, March 10, 2022
Stefan Dekock took Brightline from West Palm Beach to Miami on Thursday instead of driving.

He and his fiancée are heading to Miami for a week.

With gas prices soaring, they decided to take the train instead of renting a car.
"At the moment it's pretty much ridiculous. That's why I rather take the Brightline instead of going in a car traveling," Dekock said.

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"People are looking for alternative modes of moving around that don't involve filling their gas tank once a week," Brightline President Patrick Goddard said.

Goddard said Brightline offers a $199 monthly unlimited pass, and fuel frustration is now increasing ridership.

"Sales on those [passes] in the last two weeks are up 250% over last month," Goddard said.

Patrick Goddard, Brightline president
Patrick Goddard explains that Brightline ridership is approaching levels before the pandemic began.

Brightline said weekly sales of the special passes were around 50 to 60. But this week they have already sold more than 150.

He said Brightline ridership is getting back to 2019 levels.

"With those kinds of numbers, you're not going to see any substantial difference in the amount of traffic we see on say I-95," said Eric Dumbaugh, an urban and regional planning professor at Florida Atlantic University.

He said South Florida transit systems have struggled to attract riders since business offices and people are spread out.

However, with gas prices driving people on board trains, there is a benefit.

Eric Dumbaugh, urban and regional planning professor at Florida Atlantic University
Eric Dumbaugh discusses the struggles of attracting South Florida drivers to public transportation.

"For a certain segment of the population, particularly the people that can afford those ticket prices, there's a real transportation advantage in terms of time," Dumbaugh said.

Brightline admits this may only be a temporary economic benefit, but Goddard hopes this exposes more people to the service and they continue to ride even after gas prices eventually go down.

"What we're focused on is demonstrating to people this is not you're grandmother's train," Goddard said.

So, as gas prices hang high, Dekock and his fiancee will take advantage of WiFi and leather seats aboard Brightline trains to beat traffic and save money.

"It's pretty much easier to go on Brightline," Dekock said.