Over at CityLab Henry Grabar writes about All-Aboard Florida in The Triumphant Return of Private U.S. Passenger Rail: Can new train service between Miami and Orlando be a model for the rest of the country?
I was interviewed:
It’s a big project by any standard, but it looms even larger in historical context. No private intercity passenger rail line has operated in the United States in 30 years — and it has been longer still since a new service was introduced. “You’d have to go back over 100 years to find a significant investment in private intercity rail in the U.S.,” says David Levinson, a transportation analyst at the University of Minnesota.
Comment: Of course this depends on significant. There were a few stations built within the past century, and some of the fastest trains are from the 1920s and 1930s, but trackage started its long decline in 1920 and ridership peaked around the same time (excepting World War II).
Later the article talks about economic development effects, since this seems to be a land development project as much as a railroad (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Unlike the activity around commuter rail, subways, and other daily-use transit, the financial spillover effect of a high-speed rail station is not clearly established. “The evidence that’s looked at the economic development effect of high-speed rail has shown that there’s not a whole lot of local effect,” says Levinson. “A comparison is to the airport: What frequent business traveler is going to live next to the airport?”
Also, it appears they are ready to sell bonds, so it looks like it will go forward. Note the bonds are likely to be offered at 12%, so this is considered a very high risk investment. Good luck to them. (I am not an investor in this project).