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All Aboard Florida dreams of 10,000 passengers per day

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of September 25, 2014)

While the impact study released by the Federal Rail Administration last week gave glowing reviews to the All Aboard Florida high-speed rail project, the net positive benefits cited in the report are based on AAF’s wildly optimistic assumption that nearly 10,000 people per day will buy a ticket to ride.

What’s a little noise, a little vibration, a little backed-up traffic at railroad crossings when there are billions in economic potential from millions of riders per year?

“According to a ridership and revenue forecast commissioned by Florida East Coast Industries and prepared by Louis Berger Group for the Project, the most conservative total annual ridership would amount to approximately 3.5 million in 2019 ... Total annual ridership is predicted to exceed 4 million by year 2030,” the report states.

To put that into perspective, the 3.5 million rider projection assumes 300 passengers would be waiting at the stations, eager to board each of the 32 daily trains, from early morning until late at night, seven days a week, every single week of the year.

Another way of looking at it is an average of 47,000 people visit Disney’s 43-year-old Magic Kingdom per day, totaling about 17 million per year. 

So, just a couple of years from its launch date, All Aboard Florida thinks it will be attracting one fifth the number of people who come from all over the world to see Mickey Mouse and ride Space Mountain?

AAF officials must be wishing on a star – taking to heart Jiminy Cricket’s lyrics, “If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme. When you wish upon a star, as dreamers do.”

Who are these 3.5 million people?

“All Aboard Florida’s ridership mirrors Florida’s economy, including a robust mix of domestic and international visitors,” the report states. “Almost 74 percent of our riders will be leisure travelers, whether that’s a couple taking a weekend trip, or a family of four visiting from an international destination, and 26 percent will be business travelers, who work or do business along the corridor.”

Supposedly, 2 million will jump on the train for a short trip, say from Ft. Lauderdale to West Palm Beach or from West Palm to Miami. The other 1.5 million will ride the whole route from Miami to Orlando, or vice versa.

The company estimates the train will take cars – lots of them – off the road.

“Riders for AAF are expected to be primarily diverted from automobile modes (69 percent of forecast ridership). The Project would have the beneficial impact of removing 335,628 auto vehicle trips per year from the regional roadway network in 2016 and 1.2 million vehicles in 2019.

“The Project would also have beneficial environmental effects, such as traffic diversion from I-95 and other highways, economic growth, air quality improvements and energy consumption improvements during operation,” the study states.

Now it’s the public’s turn to lodge its comments on the 522-page report in writing, or to attend a public meeting like the one coming up on Nov. 5.

The local public meeting about the All Aboard Florida draft EIS will be held from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5 at the Richardson Center on the Mueller Campus of Indian River State College, 6155 College Lane, Vero Beach. Take State Road 60 west to 58th Ave. Turn left on 58th Ave. past Home Depot and Ruby Tuesday.

Turn right at the entrance to the college, go past the Indian River Charter High School, and the Richardson Center sits just east of the Brackett Library.

Comments can be submitted before Dec. 3 by mail to Mr. John Winkle, Federal Railroad Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE Room W38-311, Washington, DC 20590 or by email to