Amtrak is no All Aboard Florida, but it's rolling (2023)

As All Aboard Florida tries to get everyone onboard its proposal to run higher-speed passenger trains between Orlando and South Florida, my wife and I boarded the closest thing last week, Amtrak’s Silver Meteor train, for a getaway from Orlando to South Beach.

All Aboard Florida wants to run 16 passenger trains a day on round trips between the Orlando International Airport and stops in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, starting late next year. The company says its Brightline trains could go 79 to 125 mph on the route, which would head east from the Orlando airport into Brevard County, then cruise south along the coast for a 220-mile trip, and make it in just three hours.

The Amtrak Silver Meteor route travels down the center of the state then veers east toward the coast in Palm Beach County, all at speeds far less than 79 mph. We bought tickets starting from Winter Park, for a scheduled seven-hour trip to Miami.

Even at seven hours, the train was an easy choice for us, leaving us wondering whether All Aboard would be able to deliver better at a comparable price, as it proposes. Driving to Miami is draining. Flying to Miami strikes me as overkill, and airplanes are not comfortable enough nor airport experiences simple enough anymore to rate as worth the added cost of flying a short trip.

Trains, as All Aboard would want everyone to know, offer neither problem.

Amtrak is no All Aboard Florida, but it's rolling (1)

My wife and I arrived at the Winter Park Amtrak station at 11:35 a.m. and found a free Amtrak passenger parking space, 30 feet from the station door. By 11:42 we and our suitcase were checked in, so we had almost 45 minutes to kill. It was a gorgeous Florida day, so we wandered Winter Park’s Park Avenue shopping district.

(Video) I made an All Aboard Amtrak cus why not

Relatively few Orlandoans ever consider taking Amtrak to South Florida.

Amtrak reported that 377,550 riders got on or off its two trains on this route, the Silver Meteor or the Silver Star, in Orlando or South Florida last year. That included riders who got on the trains anywhere between Orlando and New York, where these trains originate.

Estimates for Brightline’s annual passengers start at about 1.5 million.

All Aboard Florida does not publicly discuss detailed ridership projections or firm ticket fares. The company promised that its ticket costs would be “highly competitive with other transportation options.”

Amtrak is no All Aboard Florida, but it's rolling (2)

The company’s plan has some well-organized, and well-funded opponents. One of them, Citizens Against Rail Expansion Florida, commissioned its own analysis and got results highly critical of All Aboard’s proposal.

John N. Friedman, an associate professor of economics at Brown University, concluded All Aboard Florida would have to charge $34 each way to persuade enough people to leave cars and airplanes, and at that price the company could lose more than $100 million a year, and not be able to service its bond debts.

To be economically viable, Friedman projected All Aboard Florida would have to charge $273 per one-way train ticket between Orlando and Miami.

(Video) C'mon N' Ride It (The Train)

All Aboard entirely dismissed Friedman’s numbers as uninformed, developed without any knowledge of the company’s research, yet deferred to an analysis of them by Robert Poole, director of Transportation Policy at the Reason Foundation, a free-market think tank.

“It strikes me that Friedman has analyzed the planned service as if it were Amtrak — if run as a government enterprise,” Poole wrote. “What has impressed me from day one about AAF is that it appears to be designed around an actual business model, not something cobbled together by politicians.”

Amtrak’s Winter Park-to-Miami round-trip fares start at $96. Because we went during the holidays, we paid a little more, $110 apiece.

Our 12:26 p.m. train was late, a chronic problem with Amtrak. It arrived at 12:41, and rolled away at 12:51.

Amtrak reported that its two Silver Service trains had about a 51 percent on-time performance for the first 11 months of 2015.

We boarded and moved down broad aisles to our reserved seats. They were high, wide and comfortable recliners, with ample leg room, foot rests and electrical outlets for our devices.

All Aboard promises continuous high-speed Internet. On the Silver Meteor, I found an Amtrak Wi-Fi signal but couldn’t connect. The conductor announced that Amtrak intends to “soon” add Wi-Fi to the train. It was the last week of 2015; I thought: Apparently nothing happens fast on Amtrak.

All Aboard also promises “delicious,” and “sensible” food and beverages. The Silver Meteor had a dining car too, so I checked it out. If you love 7-Eleven food, you’d love Amtrak food, though there are no roller dogs. For $9.25, I ordered a soda, chips and a prepackaged Hebrew National hot dog, which the cook microwaved.

Still, the gently-joggling ride was relaxing. Connie binge-watched a Netflix series on her phone. I read a book and dozed. I looked out the window occasionally at the agricultural or natural scenery of Florida’s interior. Any time I wanted, I got up and walked around. This is the kind of advantage over driving that All Aboard espouses.

But All Aboard’s detractors wonder whether the Brightline trains will ever roll.

(Video) The Stupid Orange In All Aboard The Amtrak Train

All Aboard is developed by Florida East Coast Industries, which is owned by the equity fund Fortress Investment Group LLC.

It has plenty of powerful supporters, including Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Reps. John Mica, Corrine Brown and Alan Grayson. All Aboard’s vice president for government relations, Rusty Roberts, was Mica’s former longtime chief of staff. One-time FECI executive Adam Hollingsworth staffed for both Brown and Scott.

Critics and doubters start with many of the people and politicians living in the ride-by Treasure Coast counties of Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin, including Grayson’s Democratic primary opponent in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter.

“Most of the arguments AAF has made about this rail project don’t withstand transparency,” said Citizens Against Rail Expansion FL attorney Stephen Ryan. “The safety of the corridor is our main concern. If you are running 32 high-speed trains at 110 mph … interspersed with an increasing number of freight trains on multiple tracks, that will change the safety of the community.”

In August All Aboard Florida persuaded the Florida Development Finance Corp. to sell $1.75 billion in tax-exempt Private Activity Bonds. In his analysis, Friedman concluded that the lost taxes from those bonds, plus myriad infrastructure improvements could equal more than $50 million in ancillary taxpayer support.

Those bonds, plus another $405 million the company sold in 2014, would give All Aboard money to build the South Florida stations; lay tracks from Orlando International Airport, where it intends to lease part of the airport’s railroad station, to All Aboard’s existing Florida East Coast Railroad in Brevard County; upgrade the rest of the tracks; buy the trains; and then try to do what no other American company has succeeded at in generations: run a private, passenger-service railroad.

So far they have not been able to sell the tax-exempt bonds. Bloomberg Business reported in November that the markets just aren’t that excited about large junk bond deals currently, and that All Aboard’s unrated tax-exempt bonds were likely to be rated junk bonds.

“The private markets are speaking loud and clear that they are not able to sell the bonds. It’s a very high-risk project. The market sees that,” said K.C. Ingram Traylor, founder of NOT All Aboard Florida. “They’re adding a third rail system into a market that already has Tri-Rail, it already has Amtrak, (which) are losing money.”

Amtrak’s Silver Meteor is no high-speed train. It’s rated for a maximum speed of 79 mph, but I estimated we ranged from 10 to 55 mph most of the way. The train slowed frequently. Just north of Sebring, it stopped altogether in the middle of a lemon grove. Eventually, a northbound train blew past and we got underway again.

Amtrak reported its Silver Service trains’ delays were most commonly caused by such “train interference,” 41.1 percent; followed by track and signal issues, 25.1 percent; and passenger issues, 14.7 percent.

(Video) E.L.O (Electric Light Orchestra) All Over The World

As we approached Sebring I checked my watch: 3:51 p.m. If we were on the Brightline, we’d be pulling into the Miami station just about then, assuming that train doesn’t have its own delay issues.

Unlike the Silver Meteor’s route through the center of the state, Brightline’s would be on higher-profile East Coast route, which the company promises to fully upgrade. Amtrak’s route mostly is a single track, while All Aboard’s would be double-tracked most of the way.

Still, Brightline would share its corridor and tracks with other trains, though they all would be dispatched through the same operations center, presumably minimizing interference. The East Coast route has hundreds of grade crossings of roads, and three aging drawbridges over water. An incident at any of them could mean delay, possibly of hours.

Once we got into the South Florida metropolis, our Silver Meteor had several more unexpected delays between West Palm Beach and Miami.

At seven hours on the train, somewhere in a rusty industrial area of Broward County, I was getting antsy. Others were getting goofy. The young, frisky Japanese couple across from us squirmed all over their seats, trying various poses together for silly selfies, as if they were in a large photo booth with reclining seats.

“They’ve been on the train way too long,” Connie observed.

We finally arrived at the Miami station around 8:30 p.m., about an hour late. A teenage boy from Winter Park, who said he rides the Silver Meteor regularly to shuffle between his mother and father, shrugged, saying he had experienced much later arrivals.

All Aboard says that its ridership would be split roughly in thirds: leisure riders from Orlando and South Florida seeking getaways; vacationers from out of state or out of the country seeking to combine Orlando magic and South Florida glitz; and business riders. The tourists might not like the well-worn Miami train station, which is located in hardscrabble northwest Miami, and the business riders might not like the unreliable timing.

As a leisure rider waiting at the Miami Amtrak station taxi stand, I was reminded that our choice to take this train was about getting to Miami easily, not by any particular time. The couple behind us in the queue had ridden down from South Carolina. Their plan was to check into a Miami hotel, get up the next morning, rent a car and go to the Keys. An hour late made no difference to them.

Same for us. South Beach, after all, is open late.

(Video) Riding Aboard Amtrak's Auto Train

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Is Amtrak going to Florida? ›

Three Amtrak routes travel to Florida: Auto Train (which only stops in Sanford, Florida and in Lorton, Virginia), Silver Star and Silver Meteor.

What cities does Amtrak go to in Florida? ›

Amtrak Stations in Florida
  • DeLand, FL (DLD)
  • Delray Beach, FL (DLB)
  • Deerfield Beach, FL (DFB)
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL (FTL)
  • Hollywood, FL (HOL)
  • Jacksonville, FL (JAX)
  • Kissimmee, FL (KIS)
  • Lakeland, FL – To/from Points South (LKL) (Silver Star only)

Why is the Silver Meteor not running? ›

From January 24 to October 14, 2022, the Silver Meteor was suspended due to the Omicron variant surge of the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on staffing and equipment availability. During this period, the Silver Meteor's sister train, the Silver Star, continued to operate.

Is the Amtrak Silver Meteor running? ›


SILVER METEOR (Miami Amtrak Station) is operational during everyday.

Which 4 States does Amtrak not serve? ›

Amtrak's headquarters is located one block west of Union Station in Washington, D.C.
LocaleContiguous United States (except South Dakota and Wyoming) British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec in Canada
Dates of operationMay 1, 1971–present
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Can you ride a train to Orlando Florida? ›

Which train companies travel to Orlando? Amtrak is the only train company serving Orlando.

How much does it cost to go to Florida on Amtrak? ›

Tickets are available for purchase between March 2 – March 12 for travel to Sanford, Fla., in Coach for as low as $9 or in a private room for as low as $109 each way, plus the cost of your vehicle.
Skip I-95 with Ultra-Low Auto Train Fares to Florida.
Limited Time Fares*One travelerTwo travelers^
2 more rows
2 Mar 2021

How many stops does Amtrak have in Florida? ›

There are 19 Amtrak Stations in Florida and they serve 3 different routes. When boarding Amtrak in Florida you can ride on the Auto Train, Silver Meteor, or the Silver Star. The Auto Train only makes one stop in Florida, in Sanford, FL.

Can you bring food on Amtrak? ›

You may bring your own food and beverages onboard for consumption at your seat or private Sleeping Car accommodations. However, you can only consume food and beverages purchased in Dining and Lounge Cars in those cars. Personal food and beverages are allowed in the upper level of Superliner Sightseer Lounges.

How fast does the Amtrak Silver Meteor go? ›

Amtrak's Silver Meteor is no high-speed train. It's rated for a maximum speed of 79 mph, but I estimated we ranged from 10 to 55 mph most of the way.

What days does the Silver Meteor run? ›

What days does the Silver Meteor run. The Silver Meteor runs every day from New York to Miami and Miami to New York. You can ride the Silver Meteor on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 3:15pm from New York and 8:10am from Miami.

What is the route of the Silver Meteor? ›

Amtrak's Silver Meteor route travels between New York City and Miami in about 28 hours, stopping at many vacation destinations and cities including Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC, Savannah, Jacksonville and Orlando.

What was the deadliest accident in Amtrak history? ›

Amtrak's worst wreck in terms of deaths was the Sept. 22, 1993, derailment outside Mobile, Alabama, when the Sunset Limited plunged off a bridge and caught fire in the pre-dawn hours. Forty-seven passengers and crew were killed and 103 injured in what became known as the Big Bayou Canot rail accident.

What caused the deadliest crash in Amtrak history? ›

An Amtrak train headed to Miami derails near Mobile, Alabama, killing 47 people on September 22, 1993. The accident, the deadliest in Amtrak's history, was caused by a negligent towboat operator and foggy conditions.

Does Amtrak still run the Sunset Limited? ›

Overall, the Sunset Limited makes 36 daily trips going to 22 cities. Amtrak Sunset Limited is one of the country's oldest rail services, tracing its history back to 1894. Operated by Amtrak since 1971, when the company came into being, it carries around 60,000 passengers each year across its 1,995-mile route.

Can illegals ride Amtrak? ›

This means that anyone traveling on Amtrak or Greyhound, for example, face the prospect of a uniformed and/or non-uniformed law enforcement officer asking them for their “papers”. If they cannot prove that they are here legally in the United States, a person faces detention until proven legal.

What two states have no Amtrak? ›

Wyoming and South Dakota are the only two states in the contiguous U.S. that don't have Amtrak service. The passenger railroad system has been looked at by Sioux Falls officials before. But it's been about seven years since Sam Trebilcock looked at the service for Sioux Falls.

Is Amtrak cheaper than flying? ›

Train travel is often cheaper than flying, in part because you can generally take more with you before paying extra baggage fees. It can also be more convenient and relaxing than driving, especially if you'd be driving in an unfamiliar place or driving for many hours nonstop to get to your destination.

How much is a bedroom on the Auto Train to Florida? ›

This is the only such service in the U.S. and eliminates nearly 900 miles of driving between the Northeast and Florida.
Private Rooms on Auto Train on Sale for as Low As $129.
Limited Time Fares*One travelerTwo travelers^
*Plus the cost of your vehicle ^Double occupancy required for Roomettes and Bedrooms
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7 Dec 2021

Is there a train that goes all the way to Florida? ›

The Auto Train transports you and your car (or van, motorcycle, SUV, small boat, jet-ski or other recreational vehicle) nonstop from the Washington, DC area to Florida, just outside of Orlando.

How long does it take to go to Florida on Amtrak? ›

This is an overnight train in both directions and has tickets available in coach or sleeper cars. You'll have wifi service as you make the 17 hour journey that covers 855 miles.

Is roundtrip cheaper Amtrak? ›

Also: Round-trip fares are cheaper, too, on Amtrak, but the margin is much smaller.

How much luggage can you take on Amtrak? ›

You + Two Bags = No Extra Charge

Unlike many transportation options, traveling with Amtrak is twice as nice with our generous baggage policy. When you travel with us, you can carry-on two free pieces of luggage. Each item should not exceed 50 lbs. (23 kg) and needs to be 28 x 22 x 14 inches in size.

How much does it cost to ride a train to Miami Florida? ›

Good to know
Cheapest daySaturday
Most expensive dayTuesday
Average price (round-trip)$54
Average price (one-way)$26

What is the longest Amtrak train ride? ›

On board the California Zephyr and enjoy one of the longest train journey in the world! This Amtrak train, specifically designed as a scenic train, connects downtown Chicago to the San Francisco Bay Area over a distance of 3900 km. You want to get an eyeful?

What's the fastest train in Florida? ›

Brightline will test trains at maximum speeds of 110 miles-per-hour the week of October 17, 2022. People in Martin and St.

How fast do Amtrak trains go? ›

Most Amtrak trains travel between 110 mph to 145 mph in the corridor, depending on the track and proximity to stations.

Do you have to go through security for Amtrak? ›

Following federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines, we regularly conduct random ticket verification checks onboard trains to ensure that passengers are properly ticketed. Please be prepared to show valid photo identification to a member of the onboard crew upon request.

Can you fill a water bottle on Amtrak? ›

Don't forget to bring a refillable water bottle with you to refill on the train. Do not refill your bottle in the bathroom. There are water stations in the train, use them to fill your bottle.

Can you walk around on Amtrak train? ›

You're allowed to walk about the train as often as you'd like. Just make sure to watch where you're walking onboard the train between cars. The safety plates often shift and pinch when the train is in motion.

Are Amtrak trains warm in the winter? ›

The train cars are heated but a jacket is recommended, but being winter you should have a coat with you anyway. In December, either route will very likely have snow so if you're trying to avoid seeing and traveling in snow, you're out of luck.

How fast was the Amtrak train going when it crashed? ›

A federal official said the eight-car train was going about 90 mph when it struck the truck at a public crossing southwest of the rural town of Mendon at 12:42 p.m. There were 207 passengers and crew members on board.

Can you sleep in coach on Amtrak? ›

It IS possible to sleep in a coach seat. Our wide reclining chairs with tons of legroom and adjustable footrests will have you sleeping like a … well … you know. This gives you that warm and cozy feeling even as you're traveling across America!

Does the Silver Meteor still have a dining car? ›

The Amtrak Silver Star is one of two overnight Amtrak trains that run between New York City and Miami. With the removal of the dining car, a substantially lower fare for sleeping compartments on the Silver Star was possible.

What kind of train is Amtrak Silver Meteor? ›

The Silver Meteor is a passenger train operated by Amtrak between New York City and Miami, Fla., with select stops in North Carolina.

Can you take a dog on Amtrak? ›

Dogs and cats up to 20 pounds (combined weight of pet and carrier) are welcome on trips up to seven hours on most routes (some restrictions apply*). Our check-in process is simple, making traveling with your four-legged friend easy and enjoyable. * Only dogs and cats are allowed to travel as pets.

How long is Amtrak from NYC to Miami? ›

Trip Summary

There are 2 daily trains from New York to Miami. Traveling by train from New York to Miami usually takes around 29 hours and 34 minutes, but the fastest Amtrak Silver Service train can make the trip in 27 hours and 44 minutes.

Where is the Auto Train in Florida? ›

The Auto Train is only accessible from its two stations in Lorton, Virginia (approximately 30 minutes from Washington, D.C.) and Sanford, Florida (approximately 30 minutes from Orlando) and departs...

Which is the safest carriage on a train? ›

When choosing a seat on a train, try to get one in the center-most car, or one of the central cars. This will put you as far as possible from the most common points of issue for collisions or derailment, namely the front and end of the train.

Can you survive underneath a train? ›

So the answer is yes – it is possible to survive lying under the oncoming train, but it is very unlikely that you could survive that without a major injury. It is a good idea to stay away from railroad tracks.

How common is it for a train to derail? ›

While fatalities from train derailments are rare, derailments themselves are actually quite common. From 1990, the first year the BTS began tracking derailments and injuries on a yearly basis, to 2021, there have been 54,539 accidents in which a train derailed. That's an average of 1,704 derailments per year.

Which president was killed on a train? ›

Assassination of James A. Garfield
President Garfield with James G. Blaine after being shot by Charles J. Guiteau
LocationBaltimore and Potomac Railroad Station, Washington, D.C., U.S.
Coordinates38°53′31″N 77°01′13″W
DateJuly 2, 1881, 141 years ago 9:30 am (Local mean time)
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How often do trains tip over? ›

That's an average of 1,704 derailments per year. Those numbers might seem pretty staggering, but derailments vary in severity and only a portion result in injuries. During that same time frame, 5,547 people were injured when a train derailed, or about 174 per year.

Is it better to sit on the upper or lower level on Amtrak? ›

The best place to sit in Amtrak Coach Class is on the upper level. It's all about the view on the upper level. This is the biggest advantage of sitting in the upper level. You can also move from car to car more freely as there is access from each car on the upper level.

Can you sleep on Amtrak overnight? ›

For a truly unique experience when traveling in First Class, Amtrak offers private rooms on many routes across the country. A private room is the perfect option for customers seeking privacy and space on a short trip and added comfort and amenities when traveling overnight.

What happens if you sleep past your stop on Amtrak? ›

It's referred to as a "carry by" and they put you on the next train headed back the other way.

How much does it cost to take an Amtrak train to Florida? ›

WASHINGTON – Amtrak is launching a limited-time fare sale for travelers to skip I-95 and travel nonstop from the Northeast to Florida onboard the Amtrak Auto Train.
Skip I-95 with Ultra-Low Auto Train Fares to Florida.
Limited Time Fares*One travelerTwo travelers^
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2 Mar 2021

How much does it cost to put car on train to Florida? ›

The average total cost to ship a car on Amtrak's auto train from Lorton, Virginia to Sanford, Florida is $497. Prices vary based on your passenger ticket class and optional priority offloading.
Cost of train shipment.
Vehicle costTicket costAverage total cost
4 Feb 2022

Is it cheaper to fly or take Amtrak? ›

Train travel is often cheaper than flying, in part because you can generally take more with you before paying extra baggage fees. It can also be more convenient and relaxing than driving, especially if you'd be driving in an unfamiliar place or driving for many hours nonstop to get to your destination.

Can you walk between cars on Amtrak? ›

You're allowed to walk about the train as often as you'd like. Just make sure to watch where you're walking onboard the train between cars. The safety plates often shift and pinch when the train is in motion.

Where does the Auto Train let you off in Florida? ›

The train travels non-stop from Lorton, Virginia in the Washington DC area to the city of Sanford, in Central Florida just outside of Orlando, a major tourist destination since that is where Disney World is located.

Is a sleeper car worth it on Amtrak? ›

Are Amtrak Sleeper Cars Worth It. Amtrak sleeper cars are a great way to see the country in a private accommodation. Getting a sleeper car is worth it as you'll be getting free meals and bags included. When you add up the cost savings of a hotel in addition to the other benefits, the Amtrak sleeper car is a good value.

What is the most scenic Amtrak route? ›

AMTRAK'S COAST STARLIGHT. Amtrak's Coast Starlight is considered one of the most scenic routes in the Amtrak system, offering the very best views of the Pacific Coast, from the cliffs of Pacific Coast Highway to the peaks of the Cascade Mountains.

Is it cheaper to use a car or train? ›

New research reveals peak-time rail travel is up to 13 times more expensive than equivalent journeys in a car. Travelling by car can be 13 times cheaper than taking the train at peak times, according to a fresh investigation of rail fare prices and petrol costs.

What is the cheapest way to get around Florida? ›

Florida bus services could be your best bet. Bus companies like Greyhound and Megabus offer multiple daily trips to popular routes around Florida including Miami, Orlando, and West Palm Beach. Fares are affordable, with some buses offering free entertainment on board.

Is it cheaper to train or drive? ›

When comparing fuel alone, driving is cheaper than peak train tickets 100% of the time and against off-peak train travel tickets 87.5% of the time.

How soon before my Amtrak should I arrive? ›

Plan to arrive at the station at least 30 minutes before your train is scheduled to depart (Auto Train passengers should arrive at the station at least two hours prior to departure).

Why do Amtrak trips take so long? ›

Because Amtrak operates mostly on tracks owned by other railroads, its on-time performance is dependent on freight railroads, which are required to give passenger trains preference over other rail traffic. Freight trains caused nearly 900,000 minutes of passenger delays last year, according to Amtrak.


1. James Brown - Night Train
(James Brown)
2. The Gap Band - Party Train
(The Gap Band)
3. Trick Daddy feat. Lil Jon & Twista - Let's Go (Official Video) [Explicit]
(UPROXX Video)
4. Little Einsteins Theme Song
(S K Y E)
5. 32+ Hours in a NEW Amtrak Viewliner II Bedroom
(Jeb Brooks)
6. Alan Jackson - Freight Train (Official Audio)
(Alan Jackson)
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