Friday, August 31, 2012

Minor obstacles and interesting information for All Aboard Florida

All Aboard Florida is seeking no or low cost land leases from three government agencies and a Church of Latter Day Saints owned ranch in order to connect from Cocoa Beach to Orlando International Airport.

I doubt that this will be any sort of issue, though I suspect that the cost for the ranch land will be rather pricey. A couple of interesting tidbits from the article:

A stop for Cocoa also would be opposed by the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, one of the four property owners in talks with All Aboard Florida. The others are the state, the airport and the Mormon Church.
The expressway authority owns much of the BeachLine Expressway, where the right of way is the most logical place for the train to lay tracks. The state also owns parts of the road.
A depot in Cocoa could end up costing the expressway money because it could siphon toll-paying motorists off the road and onto the train, said agency director Max Crumit. That likely would be a deal breaker between the authority and the train, he said.
"It would be a huge competitor," Crumit said.
I'm actually somewhat surprised that it would be seen as a major competitor to the BeachLine Expressway. It's only about forty miles and with a somewhat inconvenient origin at the airport, I wouldn't expect to see much ridership between Cocoa Beach and Orlando.

More interesting is the airport station infrastructure.

Discussions with the airport have been going slower than anticipated. Both sides originally set out to reach an agreement within 60 days. That had to be extended another two months at an OIA board meeting two weeks ago.
Airport director Phil Brown blamed "lots of complicated issues, but nothing in particular" for the deal not coming together. Rinaldi said there was "no particular holdup — just a reflection of time needed."
OIA is being asked to help pay for a garage and depot for the train that would cost more than $210 million. About 80 percent of that would be for a 3,500-space garage. But who pays for what part of that bill has not been determined.
The airport also would be responsible for building a mile-long elevated monorail to serve the station at a cost of $181.4 million. Roads and other infrastructure costs of about $78 million would fall to OIA, too.
All Aboard Florida might not be taking direct subsidies from the government, but that's a quarter billion dollars in investment by a public agency simply for connections, not counting the additional costs that Orlando Airport might bear the burden of for the parking and station itself. Such connectivity costs are probably a major reason why we don't see private investment in passenger rail, with this notable exception, since they greatly increase the cost of low and higher speed rail systems and diminish the value of using existing infrastructure.

The monorail connection to the airport has one obvious benefit in that it would allow for an extremely simple codeshare agreement between national carriers and All Aboard Florida. Given the consolidation and cutback trend in the American airline industry, I think it fairly likely that, with higher speed rail connecting Florida, Orlando will become the hub airport and siphon a good deal of traffic away from the others. There is, however, the potential downside of having security theater thanks to the connection; hopefully the AAF leadership will avoid it entirely.


  1. just a comment or two on this. it appears the the orlando-orange county expressway authority (that runs the beachline toll road) is trying to protect their interests and play hardball. it might also be local politics appearing. i know here in tampa the local tollway authority is very territorial and defends its independence. however, i believe the state owns the ROW and as noted in the article, it will be leading the negotiations with AAF.
    as far as the airport goes, the new parking garage will not just be for AAF is my understanding. the airport has talked of building a new south terminal and needing more parking for future growth. so the AAF project might move up the timeline for construction of the monorail and garage, but it will be built eventually, with or without AAF there. i agree AAF should pay for part of it, but not 100% as it will eventually serve a greater purpose later.


  2. "Orlando will become the hub airport and siphon a good deal of traffic away from the others."

    I don't think so. This is not High Speed Rail, but higher speed rail. So the time factor is much larger to go from Orlando to Miami than it would be from Paris to Lyon. It is true that Paris works likes a hub airport; my travel agent says, "we just need to get you to Paris and you can catch a train anywhere from there." I doubt that anyone heading to Miami is going to fly into Orlando and then take the train.

    1. They very well may depending on how the airlines present service. It's not in their interests, after all, to have to have aircraft serving multiple locations in Florida from each airport (and vice versa). Depending on fares and whatnot, I could see it taking over a large portion of their service to other Floridian services, treating it as equivalent to a connecting flight.

    2. Not Miami, but possibly West Palm Beach.

  3. I think eventually you will see a stop in the Cocoa area. AAF will poo-poo this while negotiations are on going with the beach line folks but once the track is in place.....

    There are also two other Florida East Coast rail projects in the works that may come into play here. One is to bring barge traffic inland from Port Canaveral to Titusville and then load on to rail cars. The second is actually running rails out to Port Canaveral. There's plenty of speculation that AAF is a way to get FEC's foot in the door to also run freight inland.

    So imagine this: a direct passenger route from o-town to Port Canaveral (which is in the process of enlarging their passenger ship berths) using existing rail on a privately owned railway. Unless there is some sort of non-compete clause in the land deals for 99 years I think the expressway authority would be S.O.L. if AAF wanted to tap into this revenue stream once the rails are in place.

    There are THOUSANDS of people already getting shuttled to the port from o-town to start their cruises, mainly on buses. Now imagine the passenger rail link in place. AAF could get all of those bussed folks. Now consider cruise ships doing day trips to Disney/Sea World/Universal as a stop over on their cruises originating from points other than port canaveral. A cruise AND go to Disney? Hells yeah - Ka-ching, ching, ching goes AAF's wallet X thousands and thousands. Miami to Orlando ridership would be a joke compared to Port Canaveral to Orlando AND back.

    There are way too many reasons for there to be a Cocoa/port canaveral connection for it not to happen at some point. If I was AAF, I'd absolutely have my lawyers concocting my "ace-in-the-hole snatch the beach line traffic" plan in the works.


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