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Tri-Rail to launch limited-stop West Palm Beach-MiamiCentral service during peak hours July 1

Blue locomotive at commuter train station
A southbound Tri-Rail full stop is coming to Fort Lauderdale in January 2018. Bob Johnston

MIAMI — Commuter operator Tri-Rail will launch a weekday roundtrip trip between West Palm Beach and Brightline’s Miami Central starting July 1 that will avoid 11 stops made by all of its other trains.

The move, announced after a South Florida Regional Transportation Authority board meeting Friday, comes as Brightline abandons its $399, 40-ride monthly “SoFlo” pass, the pride of which conflicted with the fares paid by Miami-Orlando passengers (see “Brightline drops monthly.” passes…), The trains News Wire, May 13, 2024).

Tri-Rail operates with CSX and Amtrak on parallel tracks and generally several miles west of Brightline’s Florida East Coast Railway route. Its trains run from Mangonia Park Station, north of West Palm Beach, to Miami Airport, making all stops. On January 13, it launched connecting shuttles from Hialeah’s Metrorail Transfer Midstation to MiamiCentral (see “Tri-Rail Sets Launch Date for Long-Planned Service…”, News Wire, January 5, 2024).

The new round trip thus becomes both Tri-Rail’s first direct service and first express offering.

The West Palm Beach morning express leaves at 6:30 a.m., five minutes before a local hop-on hop-off that leaves Mangonia Park on the current schedule. The three intermediate stops are in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport and Metrorail Transfer, where it will assume the role of a shuttle to Miami Central. Arrival is scheduled for 8:05 a.m., which cuts the full-stop travel time by about half an hour.

The afternoon train will replace the 5:35 p.m. shuttle and arrive in West Palm on the heels of Metrorail Transfer’s full stop half an hour earlier. Tri-Rail’s standard six-zone pricing; discounts for seniors, people with disabilities and students; and monthly subscriptions and employer discount plans will apply. The Miami-West Palm one-way adult fare is $8.75. A monthly pass costs $155.

A check of next week’s Brightline fares shows peak hour prices between $39 and $44 ($29 for most other time departures) with a key 5:45 p.m. trip between Miami and West Palm blocked for sale (but a $94 Smart fare to Orlando is available). Hourly Brightline trains with intermediate stops in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Aventura are carded at 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Tri-Rail spokesperson Victor Garcia told News Wire, “The entire schedule will undergo changes, although only a few minutes in some cases, intended to improve our on-time performance based on detrimental encounters we encounter.” currently with rail shuttles. The schedule will be basically the same, with two express trains and two additional trains added at the end of the northbound and southbound journey.

He says the limited-stop train will run shuttle service, then stop at Hialeah Yard for maintenance. A 4-car set is being considered, “but we will monitor what is needed.

It remains to be seen what the net effect will be on the comparative revenues and ridership of Brightline and Tri-Rail, but the local press has expressed some angst from people who have changed their travel habits as a result of the Brightline pricing and service, like this opinion piece in the Palm Beach Post: Dear Brightline, I’m breaking up with you.