On a trip to South Florida, we were staying for the evening in Fort Lauderdale. The next afternoon we were meeting up with relatives for brunch in West Palm Beach before having dinner with friends that evening back in Fort Lauderdale. We could have driven the 45 minutes each way but our friends suggested we look into taking the train instead.
We were interested because the train serving this route is run by Brightline, excuse me, their new name is Virgin Trains U.S.A. It’s the same train that’ll eventually connect Miami with Orlando via high-speed rail. If this is possibly going to be the way to travel from central to south Florida, might as well give it a test run on the 45 minute trip between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, right?
Here’s the review of our round trip.
Before arriving at the train station, our friends advised we download the PayByPhone app we’d need to pay for parking at the garage. Parking costs $3 hourly, with an $8 max.
Once at the modern looking station we headed directly upstairs to the waiting area. There was a coffee shop serving small bites along with coffee and beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). There was also a gift shop selling various Florida themed gifts along with soon-to-be-collector’s-item Brightline branded merchandise.
Since we were headed to brunch, we just grabbed some coffee and within minutes our train was called for boarding.
On the outbound train, we booked Smart seats, the lowest category. All seats on the train are reserved so we headed to our seats.
Our friends joined us on the trip so we reserved four seats with a table.
All Brightline trains are equipped with power outlets (you can see them above, on the table, by the window) and there’s free high-speed WiFi. A trolley came through the cabin offering snacks for purchase, which we declined.
Talking with our friends, we commented that the train commute, scheduled for 30 minutes between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and another 40 minutes didn’t seem too much more than the drive time between the cities. He agreed that without traffic, there wasn’t much time savings but during the week the drive time can be much longer and the ability to get work done on the train and have a shorter commute is very appealing to those who live and work in the area.
In seemingly no time at all, we were approaching the station in West Palm Beach. We had no trouble getting an Uber to take us to meet our relatives at the restaurant where we had a nice meal and got to catch up on everything that had happened over the time since our last meeting.
At the end of the meal, they offered to drop us off at the train station. We arrived about 30 minutes before our train, afraid to be late. When we got there, our friends surprised us and bought a same-day upgrade to SELECT service, the Brightline version of First Class. These upgrades are available on the same day, one hour prior to departure depending on availability.
SELECT seats allow you access to the lounge in the station, stocked with snacks and beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). Even though we were back from brunch, we found space for a toast of sparkling wine before the trip back to Fort Lauderdale.
We boarded the SELECT car for our return trip and slid into our 21-inch wide leather seats.
The main difference, besides the width and comfort of the seat, was the power outlets between each seat in addition to the outlet on the table. These seats also include all beverages and snacks during the trip.
The ride back flew by and before we knew it we were back at the Fort Lauderdale station.
Considering it’s a three-hour minimum drive from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale, barring any traffic accidents, the ability to take a train for that trip instead of driving is unbelieveably appealing. We have a SunRail station less than 10 minutes from our house so if we could drive there and take a train all the way to south Florida, our travel options open up tremendously. Flights from Miami and Fort Lauderdale airport are no longer inconvenient. Going to Miami for the weekend will be an easy jaunt instead of a trek with long drives on both sides of it.
The train to Orlando supposedly three years away as Virgin Trains USA needs to build 170 miles of new track but if these are the type of trains we can expect, I’ll be looking forward to being on one of those trains. Eventually, Virgin wants to expand the train to Tampa. If so, Bern’s Steak House will be just a train ride away from our house, and that’s a dangerous thought.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary