Florida's Government Built A Train - And It Didn't Go Well

Tyler Durden's picture

Via Tho Bishop of The Mises Institute,

The state of Florida is well known for many things: beautiful beaches, outrageous headlines, and being the setting for the wacky antics of the Golden Girls. In Florida’s fascinating history, perhaps no figure stands taller than the great Walt Disney, who transformed unwanted swampland into Disney World, forever changing central Florida from swamp and farmland into one of the premier vacation destinations in the world. Disney’s example is an incredible demonstration of what a man can accomplish with vision, work-ethic, and a strong entrepreneurial spirit.

Unfortunately too many politicians have all sorts of great visions, but think government power is a fine substitute for the other personal qualities Disney possessed. Just like mosquitos, sinkholes, and under-performing sports franchises, Florida has too many such politicians for its own good.

A great example is SunRail, a train so bad that it actually loses money issuing tickets.

How so?

The story begins decades ago, when the idea of a train connecting Orlando to cities like Tampa and Miami was dreamt by government officials throughout the state. Be it bureaucrats in Tallahassee or politicians at a federal, state, or local level, countless state workers wished upon a star for their own version of a Disney World monorail to play with.

In 2000, Florida politicians were able to convince enough voters that someone else would pay for the train, securing a Constitutional amendment requiring the construction of a high-speed rail line connecting Florida’s largest cities. As more details emerged on the projects costs however, voters repealed the amendment in 2004.

The dream didn’t have to sit dormant for long though as county officials in Orange, Volusia, Osceola, and Seminole counties joined forces with then-Governor Charlie Crist to move forward with a less ambitious project, a simple commuter train connecting the largest towns that make up metro Orlando.

The project gained further traction thanks to the Obama administration’s stimulus package, which included $750 million dollars for new rail projects. While Crist’s successor, Rick Scott, vetoed a new legislative initiative aimed at taking stimulus dollars for high-speed rail, he signed off on SunRail.

SunRail began construction in 2012 and became open to the public in 2014. Unfortunately the train’s performance has been as predictable as the ending to an episode of Phineas and Ferb.  

After the train’s first year, the SunRail was $27 million in the red, taking in just $7.2 million. Of course it’s not unusual for long-term projects to lose money in year one. Unfortunately for SunRail even its “new train smell” novelty factor wasn’t enough to bring in the passengers the government expected, with a daily ridership of less than 3,700 (600 shy of projected estimates).

Things didn’t get better in 2016, as ridership continued to drop in the face of low gas prices. Meanwhile the project has been plagued by technical issues, and loss of federal funding for some of its expansion plans.

To make matters worse, a recent study has found that the cost of SunRail to issue and collect tickets is greater than the revenue from ticket sales. As the Orlando Sentinel notes:

In the last half of last year, ticket revenue was $914,572, while ticket costs were $932,690. Since SunRail began in 2014, ticket revenue of about $5.4 million was $147,872 less than ticket expenses.

This now has some politicians, including Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer, wondering if they should just stop charging for the train altogether.

As F.A. Hayek famously said:

The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.

In the decades leading up the construction of SunRail, instead of trying to figure out where to build a train or how fast it should go, they should have asked why there wasn’t private interest in such a project. After all, the market has given Orlando such incredible creations as a real life Hogwarts, a bible-themed amusement park, and a bar made out of ice. Clearly the private market has proven to provide central Florida with all sorts of ambitious projects, yet a train system wasn’t one of them. So government officials decided they were smarter than the market. 

Thanks to the grand vision of politicians, and the financial incentives created by the Federal government, Floridians have now spent hundreds of millions on a train that loses money charging customers to ride it. In the future, as government incentives expire, SunRail will face the issue of either raising ticket prices, likely further decreasing its already underwhelming demand, which will likely decrease the ad revenue the project was projected to be dependent on. The other response, perhaps more likely, is to simply pass the costs on to the millions of Floridians who have rejected the project by refusing to ride it.

Perhaps there’s a reason Walt Disney, who himself loved trains, decided to build an amusement park in Orlando rather than commuter rail.

And perhaps we should have a little more sympathy next time Florida Man does something crazy, given what their government has done to him.


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roadhazard's picture

You can't beat Henry Flagler.

vato poco's picture

samo samo. google "Vegas monorail" someday.

Bay Area Guy's picture

The Vegas monorail would be a damn site better if they had the common sense to, I don't know, have a station at the fucking airport maybe? But that would probably upset the taxi mafia. So they built a monorail that connects some of the casinos, but only on one side of the Strip. Brilliant. I assume some people ride it for the novelty.

However, on the opposite side of the Strip, there's a couple of free trams that connect Monte Carlo with Bellagio, with stops at the Aria Complex. You can walk from Bellagio across to Caesars and on to Mirage, where another free tram connect Mirage and TI.

FreedomGuy's picture

The union taxi lobby kept the rail off the strip. Vegas is the perfect place for it as you would get off a plane and take a quick ride to your hotel where you would base out of. Most trips would be a short hop on and off. This is the problem of "factions" in government. Leftists have the religious idea that only good,people who make totally neutral decisions get into office. The precise opposite is closer to the truth.

Wait till the same factions own your healthcare.

xythras's picture
xythras (not verified) FreedomGuy Mar 4, 2017 9:17 PM

GOV should use all that untapped labor force held in immigration centers/prisons. We pay for their 3meals/day, fuck them, put them to work. HARD LABOR as Russia and China do with their prisoners.

Judges Slowing Down Deportations: Immigration Courts, Record Number of Cases, Many Problems


john doeberg's picture

There's no train like The Trump Train 

BarkingCat's picture

stop spamming with your shitty blog, especially when you're off topic.

Mr. Universe's picture

At least Florida got a train. Out here in California all we got so far is a cost overun and a delay of 7 years for completion of the first segment, now scheduled for 2024. At the rate they are going I will not live to see it's completion, thank goodness.

prime american's picture
prime american (not verified) Mr. Universe Mar 5, 2017 4:01 AM

I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do... http://bit.ly/2jdTzrM

Tiwin's picture

We also have no state income tax!
And alligators have a bad rap, they are cuute.

On the other hand , mosquitoes suck big time.Almost as bad as Crips Bloods and La Raza

I Feel a little Qeasy's picture

Almost felloff my chair when I read, 'Wait till the same factions own your healthcare.'


Idaho potato head's picture

Instead of 'drain the swamp' it should be 'drain the treasury, then drain the common bank accounts.


Yes, you can. Henry Flagler is a piker at best.

Seattle is building a fucking transit train that from start to finish will take over 30 years to build out.

Total cost the train lobby got voters to approve in property tax and car tab increases ?


And, how many people in an urban core of over 5 million people will this miracle of graft, corruption, and theft serve ?

65,000 - 75,000 RIDERS PER DAY, TOPS. 

" WE BOOT FUCKED SOME FOLKS. " - our transit authority's motto. 

JRobby's picture

When  was proposed, there was a market for the bonds.

Now years and trillions in "new debt"  later, there isn't. 

It was concieved by greedy fucks and Disney to get vacationers from Miami to Disney World very quickly regardless of how many communities were ruined along the route and how many people and cars were run over by the train at high speeds.

The scheduled freight trains already back traffic up on a daily basis.

Also, the $$$ Disney was hoping to capture from the once growing middle class in South America and other Miami visitors has now dried up. Brazilian Corruption, world wide depression, etc.

It was a stupid idea from day 1.


True Blue's picture

I suspect a certain amount of land speculation was involved as well -which would explain the 'interest' displayed by the county governments in between the two terminal ends.

IntTheLight's picture

I hate Disney! Fired Americans and replaced with imported Indians. Thanks Iger!

Offthebeach's picture

Lets say bond payments, operating, maintance comes to a billion a year.  At 65k passangers a day. 365, you need $42 per rider per day.

jimbos world's picture

Flagler lost his ass.  Timing really is everything.

Yog Soggoth's picture

Yeah, I guess your right, by the timeframe, but that still doesn't change the fact that he laid the foundations only to be replaced and beaten by the orange barons and Walt Disney who turned out to be just another well funded pedophile/nazi/satanist from Hollywood. Tourists and Yankees still wonder why we hate them.

olenumbersix's picture

Was a group here called "Axe the tax" that stopped the rail 2 or 3 times until its leader was "caponed" off to prison for stopping the ptb from building their fucking train. The local hospital that sits on the tracks just off Princeton street pays for its employee's to ride the hunk of shit otherwise it would be empty. Back in the 1980's a company wanted to come here and build a mono rail which would have cost the tax payers nothing, and run over head instead of blocking east and west bound traffic. Private interprise pushed out by big fed dollars. Guess I get to pay the short fall when the fed money runs out.

flaminratzazz's picture

A simple fix, add more cars.. people only want to ride on long trains.

NurseRatched's picture

How about dressing it up like Thomas the Tank Engine and letting Disney run it?

Son of Loki's picture

Sounds like that bus system in Austin the city council pushed thru ... loses millions every years.

You can bet that rail system from Houston to Dallas that some tried to force across texas would have been the Biggest Boondoggle yet. Plus, they forced hundreds of landowners to give up part of their property for the rail line. Luckily, that thing is on hold or has been squashed. texas DID NOT want it, only a handful of polticians.


Buster Cherry's picture

Great minds in Houston decided it would be a great idea to tear up streets and ruin businesses by putting MetroRail on the same grade as automotive traffic. There are always accidents with the trains.

Intelligence_Insulter's picture

Nobody wants to ride a bus/train with niggers.

flaminratzazz's picture

so much for my idea about more cars.. It never registered that niggers were allowed.. no wonder it is losing money.

Son of Loki's picture

...or get mugged at the trian/bus stop. These public systems 95% of the time only spread the ghetto into the safe suburbs.


Up to 5 attackers beat 61-year-old man to death in San Francisco


Three arrested in beating death at Cleveland bus stop


Man fatally beaten at Queens bus stop


SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Police arrested a man they say beat another man to death at the San Antonio Amtrak station in front of a crowd on Thursday, CBS affiliate KENS reports.


... and so on and so forth ... ... all by Soweeto's sons.

Offthebeach's picture

I took a 6 AM Amtrack out of Providence, Rhode Island one cold winter morning.  Terminal was like black homeless zombie land.  $70 and 3 hours to get to beautiful Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Train was like soviet union.  Dirty, beatup and smelled like a 40 yrar old gym locker.

roddy6667's picture

I moved out of CT 4 years ago. We always called Bridgeport "Breezhpoh". It's one of the most crime-ridden, violent cities on the East Coast.

Offthebeach's picture

Before noon you have the streets to yourself.  Natives don't leave the crib earlier than that, and are, for a while, stunned by sunlight.

flaminratzazz's picture

No.. dude.. even niggers hate niggers, look @ Chicago..

Turnagain's picture

That may or may not be the truth. However, it is the truth that nobody wants to ride public transport with niggers.

Yog Soggoth's picture

Easy Earle, he didn't say black people or black folk. He said NIGGERS, that is the difference. The original word was Latin and was simply black, and merely descriptive. Now it means one of ill breeding, low class, mentally deficient, or just plain ghetto types. Not neccessarily used for skin color anymore. I use the term for pasty whites all the way to the other end of the rainbow.

P-51 Stiletto's picture

No, no, no... The white ones are Wiggers!

roddy6667's picture

When I moved to China I discovered public transportation. Clean, cheap, efficient. The passengers are just ordinary people. In America a bus is "a bad neighborhood on wheels". That means low income, criminal blacks.

That's a big factor with public transportation in America. You don't hear this issue come up much in a discussion about bus or train travel, but everybody has it in their mind.

peippe's picture

once had some in the back of a taxi I drove.

one tried to light my seatback on fire.....

Good thing GM used non-flammable upholstery!

Fun times.....

HRH Feant's picture
HRH Feant (not verified) Mar 4, 2017 5:53 PM

A train that loses money. Unless you are a politician!

You can't make this shit up. In a few years they will rip up the train tracks and turn this into a bike trail.

booboo's picture

Sun Fail runs on existing CSX freight tracks, the same rails that Amtrak uses. Other than that yes, Orlando politicians need desperatly to make believe they are a big boy town, they are not. Buddy Dyer is a dipshit and has his muzzle so far up Ambulance chaser and Hillary supporter John Morgans ass he can't see straight. Now think about that for a minute, the only hard cost were the shitty parking lots (stations) the engine and the cars and it is still a money pit. Only Government could pull off such a monumental fuck up.


True Blue's picture

Buddy Dyer. Too bad he doesn't do the world a favor and 'Buddy Dwyer' himself. (WARNING: If you didn't already guess -that link is ol' Buddy's last press conference.) Too bad a lot more of them don't actually...

neidermeyer's picture

Absolutely ,, and Altamonte was CHEAP ,, they got the land for free , a closed post office at 436... 

PoasterToaster's picture
PoasterToaster (not verified) Mar 4, 2017 5:54 PM

How are the Florida roads?

Doom Porn Star's picture

More dirt/clay than blacktop last I rode around the panhandle.

People still bought flip-flops for their daughters to meet the requirement that shoes be worn by children attending public school on the panhandle in 1982 when I was last thereabouts...     I knew a fine young girl who was barefoot if not on campus.   Her family lived in what looked like a converted chicken coop; a cheap slat wood floor and a tin roof.   The road to their house was miles of dusty orange clay that kicked up a cloud as you drove...

Poverty that Sally Struthers would have been at home weeping in right here in the USA...

shovelhead's picture

That ain't poverty.

That's Panhandle Casual Ambiance.

Zipidee Doo-dah.

krampus.'s picture

That my friend was on of the bests comebacks I have heard. Being from east LA (lower Alabama) I can totally agree with your statement. You made me laugh this morning. 

jimbos world's picture

"The Panhandle" also known as 'Extremely South' Georgia.  (Jaksonville excluded of course. That is an anomally unto itself.) If you are in the cetral time zone and still in the Panandle then you are sompeplace that seems like Alabama but isn't technically.  

This State is (by far) more disfunctional politically than every Central American country I have lived in.  There, they (government workers) smile at you when they are fucking you over.  They know you are getting fucked and at least try to make you feel better.  Here, they really think that they are the glue that is holding it all together.  "We can't issue the permit for that after you paid us 9 times, re-submitted everything 5 times and waited 5 years.  You are not a developer.  Only 'developers' get fast track, no rules, fuck the comp plan and the voters.  Trust us.  This is progress."  

In the mean time I'm pretty sure more folks are not pulling permits for a new fence than are.  Where I live the city council recently 'deputized' all city employess to report possible code violations.  It's for the children!

Yog Soggoth's picture

Still better than being a city kid though. All the money in the world can't keep the kids from being worthless pieces of crap when raised in a cesspool.

GeezerGeek's picture

Long. From Pensacola to West Palm Beach is around 800 miles, and it can be done on a single road, US 98. (No, it's not part of the interstate system.)

I spent three years in Ft. Walton Beach courtesy of the USAF. A friend at the base was from West Palm, and said he only needed two roads to get home. He lived just off of 98 in WPB.

One great thing about Florida roads is they don't get potholes from the winters. On the other hand, they sometimes get sinkholes. Having grown up in NJ, I much prefer Florida's roads. Now if we could just keep all those lousy drivers from up north out of the state...

Hurricane Baby's picture

Only an idiot would take 98 all the way from the Panhandle to WPB.  

The correct answer if you want to arrive before you die of old age: I-10 east to I-75 south to FL Turnpike south to WPB.

Yog Soggoth's picture

Good way to miss Florida, get stuck in a traffic jam, and get in a wreck. People that live in the State take 98/20 to brooksville, cut across 75 to dade city, avoid lake city, hit Bartow, avon park, avoid Sebring and then it is a straight shot to the destination. Best food for the trip is in the Tallahassee region.