Published On: Thu, Sep 12th, 2019

Is the Proposed Brightline Train Station a Good Idea for Boca Raton?

While plenty of Boca Raton residents are thrilled with the proposal of a Brightline station, there have been some concerns regarding whether or not a private for-profit rail service would prove beneficial to the city. 

 In a letter sent on July 19 to Mayor Scott Singer, Brightline outlines the positive impacts of a station in the city. The company states that the station in Boca would, “…increase the quality of life, revitalize downtown, positively impact the environment, take cars off the road and provide a boost to Boca’s economy.”

 The service appeal of comfortable seating, eateries, spacious restrooms, and charging stations truly set Brightline apart from Tri-Rail and make the train feel like a first-class airplane.

“Forget driving or renting a car this is the way to go,” states one review on Trip advisor, “It’s so comfortable and easy and the only civilized way to travel in South Florida.”

The proposed site, adjacent to the Downtown Library and just a few blocks from Mizner Park, is a location in which Ben Porritt, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Brightline, believes the city will reap the benefits of a downtown station. 

“Boca Raton is a vibrant part of the South Florida region, rich in culture, education and healthcare. We want to be a part of its future,” says Porritt. “A station in Boca Raton would allow the city the ability to connect into a multi-billion dollar statewide transportation network that will offer connections to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and soon Orlando.”

Along with economic opportunities, a Brightline station in Boca Raton could also result in environmental benefits through the efficiency of train travel. 

“A Boca Raton station would bring all kinds of economic opportunities to the city and provide a mechanism for those who don’t live here to visit,” says City Council member, Monica Mayotte. “It opens up all kinds of areas some individuals may not have been able to previously travel to. Overall it’s a great way to travel through taking more cars off the road.”

Boca Raton resident Ryan Krown, seconded the benefits of avoiding traffic by mentioning, “The steep price of a Brightline ticket is worth avoiding the inconvenience of hectic Florida drivers on the I-95 highway.”

 Nevertheless, while a shiny new train with all kinds of bells and whistles may appeal to the masses, Boca Raton residents must also acknowledge the project’s negative impacts of cost, relocation of the community garden, and city re-zoning efforts. 

According to the July 19 letter, the city of Boca Raton would be required to donate the land necessary for the station, fund the construction of the parking garage and pedestrian bridge over Dixie Highway as well as, provide shuttle services and re-zoning requirements. Whereas, Brightline will provide the appropriate funds necessary for the construction of the physical train station and rail infrastructure improvements. 

Although specifics have yet to be discussed, it is clear to see that the city of Boca Raton will hold the majority of the station’s financial responsibilities. Skeptics wonder whether this project is truly financially feasible, with extreme cost estimates surfacing the internet.

According to Boca Mag, a parking garage estimate price is around $20,000 per space, therefore, a garage of 600 spaces could cost around $12 million and a shuttle for downtown could result in a $600,000 cost per year. 

Brightline is currently working closely with city staff to determine costs but city council discussions on the station have currently been halted until Brightline presents the city with a formal proposal. 

Any privately owned company could face the possibility of bankruptcy in lieu of economic downfall. This can be demonstrated through the current bankruptcy of the hundred-million-dollar company IPIC Entertainment, so what if Brightline faces the same fate? The city of Boca would then provide millions to fund Brightline’s requests just to face financial burden. 

Brightline has high hopes in Boca Raton’s ability to assist them in surpassing their 100,000 passengers a month rate should the station be built, but can this truly be possible with the city’s demographic?

Boca Raton resident Kandice Freedman, expresses her concerns on the success of the station due to the residents, “I feel Boca will not really benefit from a train station the way Deerfield and Boynton would because of the demographic. A small percentage of the population in Boca does not have their own transportation, majority would most likely stray away from using the trains.” 

Brightline prices average at a commuter cost of $350 to $450 a month, so would this even attract frequent riders?

The site plan provided by Virgin Trains rendering the Junior League of Boca Raton’s Community Garden into a parking lot for the new station must also be addressed. The Community Garden features 100 plots that can be leased by Boca residents on a yearly basis with ten percent of all the fruits and vegetables harvested donated to Boca Helping Hands.

What is now a beautiful garden, flourishing and impacting the community, will soon become an eye-sore of concrete. 

 However, the City will work on finding a solution for the Garden.

“The city is going to be working together to move the garden,” states Mayotte. “We have even proposed to expand it to other areas of the city so that more residents can enjoy it.”

There has also been a great deal of speculation concerning Brightline’s recommendation to build new residential lots around the proposed station, contributing to new zoning concerns. With a proposal to create more residential lots, Boca Raton would have to carry-out an extensive process to change the comprehensive plan in order to allow housing where zoning does not currently authorize it. 

“I know they wanted some residential lots but did not state specifics,” added Mayotte.”We already have a lot of residential downtown lots in that vicinity so I am not so sure we need more. We could use some small retail and convenience stores near the station, but I am apprehensive on residential lots because I am not so sure it is the right location.”

A new Brightline Train station in Boca Raton comes with a lot of benefits for the community, however, we must dig deeper to decide whether it is something the city could truly use or if they should be putting the money elsewhere.

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  1. I think it would be a very ice additional service to our community if it makes sense $$$$ wise for our community.

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