Brightline, the high-speed rail service that promises to connect Miami and Orlando, is making a $2.5 billion bet that passengers will pay to ride its shiny new trains.
How does Brightline President Michael Reininger hope to win such a large wager? By focusing on the tiniest details.
During a tour of Brightline’s under-construction locomotives and passenger cars Tuesday at a factory in Sacramento, Reininger pointed to a variety of little things that he hopes will attract passengers.
Each seat is equipped with several power plugs. To eliminate the yuck factor that air travelers know all too well, Brightline workers will clean bathrooms during the trip. A suspension system adapted from European trains will ensure a smooth ride.
Windows will be large to offer everyone views, and aisles will be nearly twice as wide as airplane aisles. When passengers buy their tickets, they will be able to book rides to and from the train stations.
“We really think the little things are the big things,” Reininger said Tuesday.
Brightline, formerly known as All Aboard Florida, plans to begin service between downtown Miami and downtown West Palm Beach in mid-2017. The rail line aims to add service to Orlando International Airport.
No private-sector passenger rail service has operated profitably in the United States for decades, but Reininger hopes to end the financially disastrous track record.
“There’s no playbook for what we’re doing,” Reininger said. “We have to find our way, mostly on our own.”
On Tuesday, Reininger unveiled Brightline’s locomotives and passenger cars to reporters. The trains are being built by Siemens AG, the German manufacturing giant.
Brightline’s trains, powered by 4,000-horsepower locomotives, will hit a top speed of 125 mph. The trip from West Palm Beach to Miami will take an hour. A train is expected to hold 240 passengers.
Reininger declined to say how much tickets might cost. He did say Brightline will offer business class and standard tickets.
Brightline is owned by Fortress Investment Group (NYSE: FIG), and its business model is based on landing a small share of the travelers who drive and fly between Miami and Orlando. Brightline plans shuttles that will take travelers, for instance, from its station in downtown Miami to Miami Beach.
“We don’t have to get everyone out of their car to be successful,” Reininger said. “We just have to get single-digit percentages out of their car.”