Tri-Rail and West Palm Beach


Few would doubt that mass transit is going to be key to the success of future cities. Right now, South Florida is well behind other major cities in the availability of effective mass transit, and extensive efforts are needed for South Florida to catch up with and surpass others in this key measure of future viability. Mass transit is even more important in South Florida than many other places, given the limited space available for more roads. Despite the current economic downturn, people will continue to want to live here due to the favorable climate, and automobile congestion will become overwhelming without a concerted focus on mass transit. The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority is currently struggling because it does not have a dedicated source of funding. Residents of South Florida should impress on their representatives in Florida and Washington D.C. that this is a critical issue that time, energy and money should be devoted to. The Obama administration is very supportive of transportation infrastructure, particularly mass-transit, and South Florida should be at the forefront of this movement.

Having said that, downtown West Palm Beach and Clematis Street in particular, have a location that is simply ideal for all of the existing (and future) mass-transit projects. We do have the Tri-Rail, and since their major West Palm Beach stop is at the end of Clematis Street, it is easy to hop on the train already and get to Miami and many points inbetween. I've tried out the Tri-Rail at least five times and never had any problems with it, it's great! I have even taken my bicycle on the train and used it to get to a destination that was not right at one of the Tri-Rail stops. However, one current improvement could be an increase in hours (since right now the hours are more conducive to day-time work commuting and are not very frequent or convenient on weekends or for evening trips).

The biggest other improvement that's needed is to relocate the Tri-Rail to the FEC rail line which runs through all of the major population centers of South Florida closer to the ocean, unlike the current CSX line which runs west of I-95, where the stops are not as convenient to most major destinations. Surprisingly, since the track is already there, this might not require a massive 20 year project. However, it would require the creation of stations along the FEC track and an agreement between the various towns and transportation authorities with the private company that owns the FEC tracks. This is a lot more difficult than it might sound. Nevertheless, various people are working on this idea at this point and with more support, it could become reality sooner than we might think. I have little doubt that in this case, if they built it, "the riders will come".

Downtown West Palm Beach and Clematis Street would be at the forefront of any such progress. Although the CSX lines and the FEC lines run quite far apart through most of South Florida (with CSX/the current Tri-Rail well to the west of the FEC), they essentially come together (within a few blocks of each other) only in West Palm Beach. While the CSX/Tri-Rail train line is at the end of the 700 block of Clematis Street, the FEC train line runs along Quadrille between the 400 and 500 blocks of Clematis Street. Thus, it's only a few blocks away. Consideration is currently being given to where to link the two lines for future ease of use for both passenger and cargo trains. Although it would not be desirable to link the two lines right in the middle of downtown West Palm due to the large amount of residential condominiums there, a location somewhere in the West Palm area should be possible. No matter where that connection is, a passenger train on either line will be incredibly convenient for anyone who lives or works near Clematis Street.