Cerabino: New train of thought; Brightline enriches, endangers Trump

Lawyers representing foes of the Brightline Miami-to-Orlando passenger train played their Trump card this past week.

They argued that a loan from the Federal Railroad Administration to pay for the new train service would create untoward financial rewards for President Donald Trump while also creating unique security concerns for the president when he is staying at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach.

This twin-track approach is based on the location of a Brightline station in downtown West Palm Beach, some four miles away from the president’s private club.

At first blush, the idea that a new train station in West Palm Beach would be both a windfall and a security nightmare to the president might seem like a whole lot of nonsense.

But nonsense is my business. So allow me to fully explore these two possibilities.

How Brightline unfairly enriches the president

The lawyers are making the point that a federal loan to support a project that “creates an important benefit to a private business of the president’s” is an improper use of public money.

The argument here is that the new station will bring economic benefits to the properties around the station, and therefore the federal money will be helping the president in his private business.

And let’s not forget just how relevant this new train stop will be to the members of Mar-a-Lago.

You could argue these club members, who pay a $200,000 initiation fee, might even pay more once they have another public transportation option in the area. And that Trump’s private club will become more valuable once a train more luxurious than the existing Tri-Rail train has a stop in West Palm Beach.


FIRST LOOK: Inside WPB’s new Brightline train station


To bolster this argument, the lawyers simply would need to find Mar-a-Lago members who come and go from the club via public transportation.

If club members do that now, they might take the Tri-Rail train to the West Palm Beach station, then get off the train and walk to Banyan Boulevard and Tamarind Avenue, and then wait for the No. 1 southbound Palm Tran bus. It comes about every 20 minutes.

Then take the No. 1 southbound to the corner of Dixie Highway and Southern Boulevard, the closest you can get to Mar-a-Lago on public transportation.

From the corner of Dixie and Southern, it’s a simple 1.2 mile walk east along Southern Boulevard and across Bingham Island to Mar-a-Lago. Women with spiky heels need to be careful not to get them caught on the drawbridge.

In all, it’s a 1 hour and 5 minute trip, according to the Google machine, and that’s if you don’t have to wait at Tamarind and Banyan for the bus. (If you have to wait very long at Tamarind and Banyan, you may be making an unscheduled stop at Club Good Samaritan.)

But with the Brightline train, the Mar-a-Lago club members get off at Quadrille and Fern Streets, which is a couple of blocks closer to Mar-a-Lago than the Tri-Rail train stop.

From the Brightline station, it’s a trip on the southbound No. 1 bus to Dixie Highway and Southern Boulevard, and that same 1.2 mile walk to the club.

But by getting off at the Brightline station instead of the Tri-Rail station, you shave off a solid two minutes from the hour-plus commute to Mar-a-Lago.

With that, who knows? Club membership fees at Mar-a-Lago may jump to $300,000 — further enriching the president.

How Brightline poses a security threat to Mar-a-Lago

Brightline hasn’t released its ticket prices yet, but they are expected to be multiple times more expensive than Tri-Rail trains.

So who’s going to ride this more expensive train? OK, other than the previously mentioned Mar-a-Lago club members.

These trains are bound to be empty. And as you know, the watch words for preventing terror is the saying “If you see something, say something.”

There aren’t going to be enough non-jihadi passengers on Brightline to see anything. So it may turn into the Rail-Qaeda express, a perfect way for sleeper cells to get from Miami to West Palm Beach in less than an hour and with a minimal amount of opportunities to cause alarm.

Terrorists will probably be able to fill entire train cars with martyrs, shoulder-launched missiles and goats, without anybody even noticing.

Our only line of defense will be the passengers on the connecting Palm Tran No. 1 bus. And that’s not comforting, considering they are typically asleep, in conversation with imaginary people or consumed by their cell phones.

With any luck, there won’t be any room for the missiles on the bike racks in front of the bus.

And once off the bus, the terrorists would be able to blend into the protest march de jour on the walk to Mar-a-Lago.

So as you can see, a new train station in West Palm Beach will make President Trump richer and in more danger at the same time.

Same thing goes for that new WaWa convenience store on Belvedere Road.

But that’s another story.

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