High Speed Rail passes Florida by while the rest of the world cashes in

Florida should have been the leader – beginning in the late 1980’s High Speed Rail was talked about as a potential driver for the state’s economy. Florida would once again be the national leader, the first to innovate much as the Askew/Graham years had pushed Florida to the forefront of progressive business-friendly reforms nationally.

Then Jeb Bush was elected and made it his mission to kill High Speed Rail even when voters of the state said otherwise by passing a constitutional amendment. Bush’s ideological zeal and his rumored interest in helping fellow-Texan Herb Kelleher’s Southwest Airlines whose intra-Florida flights were just becoming popular in the last 1990’s motivated his desire to kill High Speed Rail (HSR). Southwest’s intra-Texas and intra-California flights have now come under pressure from HSR projects in those states. But in Florida as we will discuss shortly, Southwest has pulled almost 90% of its in-state flights since 2012 and no built-in replacement besides the automobile and prop flights exists for Floridians (with the exception of JetBlue’s recent decision to link its Fort Lauderdale hub with Jacksonville, the New York-based carriers first internal Florida route).

While Bush’s personal agenda derailed HSR and thwarted the will of Florida’s voters, projects have gone forward in California and Texas. They have become the norm in the United Kingdom where all of England’s major cities will soon be linked by HSR.  In England, fast trains just below HSR speeds have even been built to link major airports (like London’s Heathrow Express which runs from Heathrow Airport to Paddington Station in Central London) to the center of major cities. China has used HSR to spurn raid development and Chinese firms have aggressively bid to reduce the costs of new High Speed Rail projects in other countries and US states. In the near future we could very well see HSR in developing countries like Mexico and India.  For all of these places HSR has been a boom to increased business, more tourism and a higher standard of living.

Yet at the very same time, Florida thanks to Republican Governors, parochially selfish Democratic elected officials in southeast Florida and a lack of forward and creative thinking has taken what could have been a trump card to attract business, high-wage jobs and an educated populace to the state and flushed it down the toilet. The efforts by Governor Bush and his somewhat unholy alliance with leading southeast Florida Democrats such as then State Senator Ron Klein (D- Delray Beach) and Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson disregarded the will of the voters and coughed up the advantage Florida would have developed over other states and competing foreign nations.  The valiant efforts of the likes of CC Dockery and his wife State Senator Paul Dockery (R-Lakeland) were largely in vain and Bush won with the help of his Democratic allies. The loser has been the state of Florida, its citizens and business-people.

As mentioned above an issue is the recent withdrawal of Southwest Airlines from several flight pairs in the state. The following flights within Florida have all been cut by Southwest in the last year:

  • Orlando-Panama City
  • Orlando- Fort Lauderdale
  • Orlando – Key West
  • Tampa -West Palm Beach
  • Tampa – Key West
  • Tampa- Jacksonville
  • Fort Lauderdale – Jacksonville (replaced by JetBlue)
  • Fort Myers – Orlando

The lone remaining internal Florida flight on Southwest is Fort Lauderdale-Tampa which has been trimmed from eight flights a day to just three. Similarly Spirit Airlines has cut Orlando-Fort Lauderdale and Tampa-Fort Lauderdale from four flights a day each to just one, which is timed to connect with Spirit’s large Latin American network from Fort Lauderdale. So in other words, the remaining daily nonstops on both routes are simply timed for connections to international destinations and do not run at the right times for business travelers.

The need for affordable Jet service (Silver Airlines which formerly was DBA United Express is great but they operate prop planes only) has only intensified as the state has grown and the politicians have killed HSR. With Governor Scott’s reelection, chances of the high speed train ever seeing the light of day in the near future are minimal at best.

Florida’s state of transportation and ability to move people quickly around the state is yet another reason why Charlie Crist’s defeat a month ago today was a tragedy for all the citizens and businesses of the state. Governor Rick Scott has dropped the ball on these issues, much as Jeb Bush did before him. Like Governor Bush, Scott has a clear ideological agenda and like Bush he did not grow up in this state so perhaps does not fully appreciate the challenges faced in terms of population growth and linking major growing metropolitan areas together.  Or maybe like Bush he often simply puts politics above what is best for the state. Whatever the case, both Bush and Scott have cost Florida’s economy and people dearly. This is yet another case of it.


  1. Concerned Democrat · ·

    Excellent Article!

    Could not have said it better myself!


  2. Republican’s have done more harm to the people of Florida than all the hurricanes in our history.All the crap they have done would have made a hell of a tv commercial in the past election.Oh that’s right, Crist was a Republican too. Maybe if we nominate Progressive Democrats in the future we could use it.


  3. floridian · ·

    Dems must take this state back. Period. End of story. The GOP is ruining everything.


  4. Tampa Bay Demo · ·

    Nailed it!


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