Brightline, Florida’s pioneering high-speed rail system, has once again adjusted its ridership forecast for 2024, marking the second revision in just three months. Initially, after a 21% reduction in their estimates, the adjustment underscores a cautious outlook.

Back in January, the company was optimistic, projecting that about 5.5 million passengers would travel on the spanking new Miami to Orlando airport line, alongside the established commuter service connecting Miami and West Palm Beach, for the year 2024. This figure was a step down from the 7 million passengers they had anticipated back in September 2023. Following the launch of the Orlando airport service last September and subsequent six months of operation, Brightline has recalibrated its expectations, now setting the target at 4.9 million passengers for the next year.

Despite this adjustment, Brightline remains confident about the future, especially looking towards 2026. The company holds on to its forecast of 8 million passengers by then, banking on the full operational capacity of the Miami-Orlando service. This optimism persists even in the face of current ridership falling short of initial expectations.

“Since the opening of our Orlando service, we have seen strong adoption and rapid growth in our business, and our projections for the stabilized operation remain unchanged,” Ben Porritt, a Brightline spokesman, wrote in an email to Bloomberg.

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Ten new passenger coaches will be added later this year, and another ten will arrive in 2025, allowing the project to reach its full potential. New stations are also being launched for the railway’s intercity service. A new station in Stuart, Florida, was announced earlier this month. Stuart is approximately 40 miles north of West Palm Beach on Florida’s “Treasure Coast,” near Port St. Lucie and Vero Beach. Plans are in motion for a station in Brevard County as well, home to Cape Canaveral and the John F Kennedy Space Center.

While the drop in expected ridership may seem discouraging, actual ridership increased 51% from January 2023 to January 2024. 2.1 million people rode the Brightline in 2023, showing that the service is valuable despite higher projections than actual use. The idea behind the Miami-Orlando line is to provide an alternative for tourists traveling between the two cities by car or airplane. Most tourists choose to drive the 235 miles, while some opt to pay extra for the short flight. Brightline is able to make the trip in 3 hours and 30 minutes, and the price of a one-way coach ticket is just $49. 

Backed by Fortress Investment Group, Brightline is the first U.S. private passenger railroad built in over a century. The Florida railway is being used as a test case of sorts for Brightline’s plans in other parts of the country. CEO P. Michael Reininger called the line with service between Miami and Orlando airport a “blueprint for expanding rail in America.” 

The U.S. Department of Transportation agrees. In January, they approved $2.5 billion in tax-exempt bonding authority for another Brightline project, a 218-mile high-speed line connecting Southern California and Las Vegas. Known as Brightline West, the $12 million project is expected to run alongside Interstate 15. Brightline received a $3 billion grant for Brightline West as a result of President Biden’s infrastructure bill last December and hopes to break ground on the project sometime in 2024.