Train Wreck Times
More Deaths on Florida’s Railroads
We are sad to report there have been 3 deaths on Florida’s railroads since our last edition on July 14. Two were in St. Lucie County – one on the FEC system and one death caused by a sugar industry train. The third was in Hollywood involving Virgin Trains. Little is known on the cause of the Ft. Pierce deaths but many of us know the victim of the FEC fatality – Clay Humphries. Clay spoke from the heart at a SLC commissioners’ meeting a number of years ago about the negative impact on the county if they agreed to participate in the Seven – 50 regional planning project out of Miami. Clay managed the family farm and ranches and knew what would happen if the county gave up home rule to the project bureaucracy.
The victim in Hollywood was a young man who regularly walks his dog down the street near the tracks. Unfortunately, his dog got away from him and he was killed trying to save his dog from being hit by the train. Someone commented on our Facebook posting about the accident that the dog died, too. We can’t confirm this because there has been very little media coverage on the death. In fact, one news source said “commuter train” hits pedestrian. We found that interesting – not even the name of the system.
As we said on Facebook - This is NOT a suicide, NOT a drug user, NOT an alcoholic! This life could have been spared if there was proper fencing and barriers to deter pedestrians and pets! These three deaths bring the Florida Total of Railroad Fatalities to 83 in just 18 months!
Our frustrations run high when we see little coverage of these deaths. It’s as though Virgin Trains is off limits to truthful reporting except when it comes to the glowing fluff pieces and reports that construction has begun and it’s full steam ahead. It could get worse, Fortress Investment Group’s media company GateHouse Media is reportedly in talks with Gannett Publishing to merge the two companies. GateHouse currently owns the Miami Herald and Gannett owns USA Today and all of its local dailies including the TC Palm group.
More stops… Also in the news these past few weeks is the announcement Virgin Trains is in talks with a number of towns on their route to add additional stops. One such town is Boca Raton where a council meeting held on July 22nd included a presentation by VT management about their plans and comments from city residents. We were pleased to see that at least one media outlet, Boca Magazine, is not falling for the happy talk. https://www.bocamag.com/brightline-in-boca/?fbclid=IwAR2fz12vkiDHNJYVUg-1C9wkZpXmE9h0hU5e4hweiqcrUVjdIVdEoJWnfek
This is truly a game changer after we’ve heard for the last five years that All Aboard Florida had to compete with air and car travel by getting to the Orlando airport in just over 3 hours – what happened to that glorious business plan? It appears their grand scheme of ridership rates and profits for Phase 1 isn’t working out as planned. Second quarter financial reports from the company show they can’t sustain that much promoted “SPIKE” in ridership seen in the first quarter and they continue to lose money.
Ridership: 4th Quarter 2018 - 238,749 1st Quarter 2019 - 244,178 2nd Quarter 2019 - 237,142
Remember, flipping cheap or free real estate is not a long range plan, it’s a get-rich-quick scheme. Some are calling it the Carpetbagger Model. We couldn’t sit idly by while they trash their entire business model and we were pleased the Sunshine State News ran our guest column:
And Dylan Reingold, IRC Attorney, is mentioned in an article about their quarterly report: https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190722/virgin-trains-eyes-boca-other-stops-to-boost-riders-and-revenues
LNG Update: We continue to work with our Washington, DC contacts including Congressmen Posey and Mast’s staffs to stop the approval of the permit to put LNG on the rails anywhere in the country by a Fortress Investment Group company – Energy Transport Solutions, LLC. There must be geographic limits to the railroad systems that can haul this volatile hazardous material. Florida East Coast rail cannot make their route a “virtual LNG pipeline” to the benefit of two major international conglomerates – Softbank and Grupo Mexico! You can review the permit and comment here: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=PHMSA-2019-0100
Back in 2016, we warned the region about the perils of LNG on the rails and at the time we quoted FEC who said it for us… In 2012, FEC included the following statement in an SEC filing regarding hazardous materials. “Terrorist attacks, such as those that occurred… on the transportation systems in Madrid and London …may adversely affect our results of operations… Our rail lines and facilities could be direct targets …Such effects could be magnified where releases of hazardous materials are involved.” FEC Holdings, SEC 10-Q filing, September, 2012
As he did for the water issues in south Florida and the Army Corp of Engineers, we’ve asked the Governor to intercede on our behalf with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Please ask him yourself soon!
Governor Ron DeSantis Kevin Thibault, FL Transportation Secretary
We’re working on many fronts to Make Them Safe! You can help by following the issues and informing your friends and neighbors, too. We’re always surprised when we find people who haven’t even heard about the trains or their potential impact on our communities. Of course, the people in this news story have an excuse, there has been little mention of the new portion of the route from Cocoa to the Orlando airport. The reporter has no excuse for not knowing the number of trains that will be destroying their quiet neighborhood. However, these folks don’t have any grade crossings to worry about – just 125 mph trains! https://www.wesh.com/article/virgin-train-railway-to-miami-met-with-cool-reception-from-brevard-residents/28592239
Stay cool and remember what our friend KC always says…
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead
Florida Alliance for Safe Trains