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With a new administration in D.C., it's time to think outside of the box because passenger rail's survival just may depend on it

Monday, November 7, 2016

A twist to Gulf Coast service

Here's something no one's thought about: Extend the Gulf Coast Service to Miami.

That move alone would take it out of the PRIIA 750 mile requirement by making the route 1,033 miles long. A Tampa extension is doable but at 787 miles long, it's barely outside of the area where the four states would have to fund the route.

As I have said before, Amtrak would not operate this version of the route. Instead, it would be in the hands of an independent operator because it would be able to run the route at a lower cost and out of pride rather than the reluctance that has emanated from Massachusetts Avenue ever since PRIIA mandated the company to study restoring the missing link between New Orleans and Orlando. This would not preclude local routes from being operated by Amtrak in partnership with the Southern Rail Commission or regional service by Corridor Capital.

When it comes to Florida, I have the train stopping in two different locations in Jacksonville--the Marietta neighborhood in the west side of town and the Naval Air Station in the southwest portion--in order to avoid backup moves at Union Terminal. However, the Gulf Wind will be complemented by two Jacksonville-Pensacola roundtrips that will stop at the historic terminal as well as the Marietta stop. In Orlando, the trains will call the LYNX Central and Sand Lake locations home. For its eastern terminus, the Miami Airport will host the trains, which would really turn that station into an intercity hub for trains in addition to intrastate Florida service.

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