Florida's governor rejects rail plan to link state's major theme parks

February 16, 2011, 9:25 AM · Florida's governor, Rick Scott, has scuttled the proposed high-speed rail line that would have connected the Orlando airport with Central Florida's theme parks, from Orlando to Tampa.

Disneyland Paris rail station
The French rail station just outside Disneyland Paris

The newly elected Republican governor is sending back $2.4 billion in federal money to build the rail line, the latest in a string of rejections of federal rail money by Republican governors around the country. The governors of Wisconsin and New Jersey recently rejected federal money for rail projects in their states.

Florida would have been required to put up $280 million in matching money to help pay for the project, but several contractors bidding for the construction work had expressed interest in refunding part of their fees to cover that, if they got the lucrative contract.

The elimination of the project will cost Florida several thousand construction jobs, as well as eliminating what could have been a popular way to move thousands of tourists each day between the airport and the state's major theme parks. Some initial plans for the line would have had it running from the airport to a stop near Universal Orlando and the Orlando convention center, stopping again at Walt Disney World, and continuing on to Tampa, where the line would have ended near Busch Gardens. A midway stop along the I-4 corridor, which would have been within a short bus ride of Legoland Florida, was under discussion, as well.

In a Theme Park Insider vote of the week last year, 46% of visitors to Central Florida who responded replied that they would like to switch to the high-speed train, instead of using rental cars or hotel shuttles to get to their destinations.

While rail isn't part of America's current car culture, intercity rail is popular in Europe. And with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter enticing even more Europeans to consider the already popular Orlando area theme parks, a well-designed rail line could help seal the deal with more European visitors who'd rather not drive American roads, and encourage them to extend their visit to more of the parks along the rail route.

Despite Gov. Scott's rejection, the federal rail money will be spent. Like the rejected New Jersey and Wisconsin money, the cash for the Florida project will go now to California, which is proceeding with its high-speed rail line linking the San Francisco Bay Area with Southern California, a line which eventually will include a stop within walking distance of... Disneyland.

Replies (55)

February 16, 2011 at 9:47 AM · Shame, but since I live in Florida, this isn't a huge hit for me. I can see why the governor would prefer to pass up on the funds because, really, we don't NEED high speed rail here. If you're flying into Orlando, you're already right next to the stuff that really matters. The rail would've only really helped by bringing additional attendance to Busch Gardens and the future Legoland, if you ask me. Disney has no issues with attendance and Potterland has somewhat solved Universal's attendance issues.

Hypothetically, if we did have rail, I live about thirty minutes from Busch Gardens, if it really WAS high speed, I could have feasibly visited Orlando more often. Less gas and mileage on my car and I probably would've saved time. Or, at the very least, wouldn't have had to spend two to three hours driving on I-4. ;)

February 16, 2011 at 10:16 AM · My concern with the rail is would there be enough passengers to cover the cost of running the rail. Probably not. I live north of Orlando and it would not help me get to the parks or anywhere else.
February 16, 2011 at 10:44 AM · Who wants jobs anyway? Clean air, less traffic congestion…

Having options on renting cars or taking the train…

Thanks to the GOP leadership in FLA…

February 16, 2011 at 11:00 AM · I understand him not keeping the cash. But I do wish that they could have set something like that up to link Miami and Orlando.
February 16, 2011 at 11:17 AM · Remember, you build capital not just to serve existing customers, but to attract new ones.

It's a sad day for Florida when the state gives up on investing in its tourism infrastructure.

February 16, 2011 at 11:35 AM · Well that's a shame (I can think of some much stronger terms if this wasn't a family friendly site.)

I guess the GOP can't let Obama have credit for something. Hopefully the administration remembers this the next time they consider earmarking money for the state of Florida. Florida is uninterested in jobs, infrastructure, or tourism.

February 16, 2011 at 11:50 AM · That is a real shame--I live in Tampa and would certainly have used it to visit the theme parks.
February 16, 2011 at 11:50 AM · Well atleast I will have an option take the train to San Deigo from Disneyland.
February 16, 2011 at 12:15 PM · I'm sure SunRail will be the next project in Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott's sights.
February 16, 2011 at 12:41 PM · Well... That stinks(%$#!) I don't live in Florida but I was planning to ride the train towards Tampa when completed. Since we actually don't rent a car and go by bus to Tampa. A train would had been a welcomed addition, at least in our family travel plans.

I can't believed politics didn't have anything to do with it. I just can't! I agree 100% about it being a nice sell to the European tourists, or further more to people which don't really like driving that much. I know quite a few people which don't enjoy driving around, but I understand in the U.S. the old mighty car rules! The BIGGER the better too!

Sad day for Florida... (in my opinion)


February 16, 2011 at 12:48 PM · Ok, now I am really angry. Republicans hate trains. It's a fact. This project was going to start a new revolution of mass transit in America. Now it seems that California will be the one that will lead the way.

By the way, I did not vote for Rick Scott.

February 16, 2011 at 1:04 PM · Civil engineering infrastructure is almost always a good investment in a hurting economy.

Though I'm not a Republican, I think the one-sided reporting here was unnecessary.

February 16, 2011 at 1:10 PM · First, in total dismay! The State of Florida has been trying to lobby for high speed rail for decades. It was even placed in the constitution. Governor Jeb Bush took it down, so after several years in limbo, came the news that there would be a new high speed rail coming to Florida. Although there where some skeptical members of the Florida legislature, they took the opportunity so seriously, to even call for especial legislation to pass both the high speed rail and the Sun Rail project to link Central Florida with the theme parks and Tampa. But what I find ironic and politically speaking, where was the promise of more jobs in the Sunshine State that was made by Governor Scott?
February 16, 2011 at 4:19 PM · The high-speed rail line sounded like a really great idea, no wonder it was shot down. This country is mired in leaders who lack vision. Oh well, I guess Busch Gardens Tampa continues to stay off of the to do list when I visit Orlando.
February 16, 2011 at 1:40 PM · One sided reporting? It seems like a clear cut issue of republicans hating on Obama and our dear mother Earth. There is no rational reason to cut this project that would have created jobs, relieved some of the terrible traffic on i-4, and help keep our planet alive. I live in Orlando, and I know this rail would have been great for us. I can't wait until we can vote this criminal Governor out of office.

Nick in Orlando

February 16, 2011 at 1:48 PM · I'm fine with the rejection of this big porkbarrel project, because I live an hour away from the Orlando area's theme parks, so I'm fine taking I-4 every time I go out there to have fun in Orlando.
February 16, 2011 at 3:22 PM · I am sorely disappointed at this turn of developments, to put it mildly. I was looking forward to the opportunity to be able to take a ride via high-speed rail and not have to drive on I-4, which, by the way, was rated the third most dangerous highway in America (I-95 is #1). It seems like every other time I head out to Disney World I get stuck in god-awful traffic. I would like to arrive at the parks in a safe and non-stressed out condition.

Our country needs to take bold initiatives towards transportation alternatives so we can curtail our ravenous appetite for foreign oil. Why not get started BEFORE we reach critical mass population problems? Also, we have severe road rage issues in Central Florida.

Between this and the potential merit-pay structure for public schools (which will likely cause massive layoffs to fund), many people (including myself) will likely lose their jobs...in addition to receiving substantially reduced unemployment benefits).

Way to have a vision of growth for Florida, Rick Scott! I would love to hear what jobs are going to be created. Funny, he hasn't seemed to mention much of that except in the vaguest of terms. Maybe he's too busy burning some cash in a fireplace since doubling his office's budget after becoming governor. I thought he was supposed to be against big government?

It's days like these that I miss do-nothings like Charlie Christ.

February 16, 2011 at 4:29 PM · It is worth pointing out that those trains would not be real high speed rail, which is a good thing. That is just marketing talk. Real high speed rail is incredible expensive, only economical on very few connections. The system under debate is something we consider normal passenger rail here in Europe regular trains every hour that are punctual and go above 30 miles per hour. That should workout very well. The metropolitan areas are quite big and the land is flat (=cheap construction, enough demand). The only but huge downside is the horrible previous city planing or lack thereoff. If everything were not so extrme spread arround, with no center or dense areas, even real high speed rail could work.
February 16, 2011 at 5:35 PM · When done right, low speed rail revenue will typically _not_ cover operational costs and as i said above, the plan wasnt really high speed rail. Rail has huge positive externalities and very low variable costs for marginal passengers which puts the social optimum price far below the profit maximicing price.

A very simple example:
A train can carry 1000 passengers. There are 500 people willing to pay 100$ for the train ticket and 500 willing to 40$. The social optimum price for the ticket is 40$, full train, the profit maximicing is 100$, train half empty.

Most of both groups would have gone by car if there were no train line which would have lead to higher road construction and maintenance costs, more noise, more death, more chroincal illness. Some would have not made the trip without rail: Those add profits for the theme parks which have rather low variable customers just like trains.

February 16, 2011 at 5:42 PM · Simply terrible..........

For all of you who have never been to DLP, it is connected by rail to downtown Paris and it is POPULAR beyond belief. It is an asset to DLP and very convient

How can the Gov think this is a bad idea? It creates jobs, clears up I-4 for the locals, and allows Disney and Universal to get more guests which equals more money for them and the state. I hope that the theme parks lobby for this!

I really really can imagine how this could be a bad thing for FL.

February 16, 2011 at 7:03 PM · Given current traffic on I-4 during rush hours anything that travels faster than, oh, 25 mph between I-Drive and Disney could be considered "high speed." :^)
February 16, 2011 at 10:04 PM · The real shame is that the money is going to be spent regardless. Once again, we spend money we don't have. Will we never learn?
February 16, 2011 at 10:13 PM · "Given current traffic on I-4 during rush hours anything that travels faster than, oh, 25 mph between I-Drive and Disney could be considered "high speed." :^)"

Robert, you took the words right out of my mouth. A train line would both honor Walt's love of trains, and hopefully help keep tourists off the roads, reducing congestion.

I mean, really, would you rather be on a DME bus, or a train that doesn't get stuck in traffic?

February 17, 2011 at 1:06 AM · This is a prime example of what's gone wrong in the US. This project cost Florida almost nothing and would have greatly enhanced the ability of tourists to get around to the parks, lowered pollution and lessened the traffic on the roads. It's called having a vision for a better future, and the GOP has completely lost that in the hope of cheap political shots and points. It's simply pathetic.
February 17, 2011 at 2:49 AM · With any venture of this type you have to weigh up the pros and cons.

You have all discussed the many real benefits of the rail link and the only real opposition to it appears to be the financial implication. That, of course, and the line itself cutting a swathe across the landscape which could, if not done sympathetically, raise objections.

The financial argument against building the line is probably a little shortsighted as most models for this sort of project demonstrate that they do eventually turn a profit. Certainly as a visitor to Florida I know that, from a selfish p.o.v , it would encourage me to ditch the car on the days that I visit the parks. It would also possibly allow for visiting more parks, more often, in one day depending on the timetables.
Hopefully it wouldn't impact too much on the car rental businesses so no loss there either.
Environmentally, socially, and economically it seems to make good sense but politics are politics and that appears to be the biggest obstruction from what I've read here.

February 17, 2011 at 2:57 AM ·

February 17, 2011 at 2:58 AM · multiple posts as I got "failed" messages . Sorry.

February 17, 2011 at 3:06 AM · At risk of sounding like an ignorant limey from across the pond this seems to an outside observer to reflect a deeper malaise in US politics right now. It appears to have gotten to the stage where you've moved beyond the ability to have rational political debate. Republicans now hate, (and I use the term carefully), Democrats, and vice versa, and so any and all governmental decisions, local or national, seem to reflect that hatred. It shoiuldn't matter to me as a UK citizen but the USA is such a massive player on the world stage that believe me we are all worried about the direction you appear, (and again I stress the word 'appear'), to be heading...
Forgive me for poking my nose in from a distance but the visceral dislike and hatred that colours much of your political debate now just doesn't look healthy and in this case it seems to have cost Florida a great opportunity and thousands of jobs.
To those who posted saying they wouldn't use it anyway - it wasn't aimed at you. Europeans and Brits, (the largest attenders at the theme parks in Florida I believe), would have embraced the trains and used them. Believe me, if I could have avoided driving on the I4 I would have taken the alternative. And we love trains over here...
February 17, 2011 at 7:20 AM · Im live with in the area that wa on the line. I also work in orlando as well and belive me I-4 is a mess. Between gouests form all over the world and retires, students from other countries, and the list goes on. We need a hiogh speed rail mass tranist system. While I love my cver and the ablitly to get were I need to be. High speed rail, Light rail, and better mass transit would help out a lot. Esample I lived in the Washington, D.C. area beofre moving to central fl. ANd I used the bus metro all the time I lived in Alexandria and used to take the bus to the Metro to Bethsida every day for work. On the raer times Id use my care the commuite was about 2hrs. one way. ANd by mass trainist it took a whole 25 mins. Does the orlando area need it you bet!. ANd the new governor bii hoos the whole ide4a. Another example of a rich man whos not in touch with whats needed. You go California having the insght to see down the ropad at the big picture.
February 17, 2011 at 8:18 AM · Robert's line about I-4 traffic is the quote of this discussion in my opinion. My uncle lives in a suburb of Orlando and he would agree!

Personally for me, the rail would have made me go to to Universal more often.

Another thought......unless you are Richie Rich, individuals under 25 can not rent cars so how do you really expect them to get around Orlando folks! Spring Break is very popular at the parks!

I also can't help but notice that the rail seems a bit like Walt Disney's hope for the future of transportation. I mean, they are basically building a bigger and more affordable monorail.

The Disney Monorail: The Crowning Jewel of Socialism! I am sure a commie like Walt Disney would have be proud ;)

February 17, 2011 at 9:31 AM · Lots of folks in the comments section here have trashed the Florida governor for rejecting this public works boon-doggle. The simple fact being ignored by most posters is the U.S. is broke. At some point in the near future, it's very possible that China stops lending to the U.S. When this happens, our financial system - like a house of cards - will collapse.


Because we've spent way more money than we've taken in. It's a bit like the U.S. government has a giant credit card and charged, charged, charged in the vain hope that somehow this would lead to prosperity. It never does. Learn the lessons of history. At the end of the first World War, Germany's economy was in tatters. In the hopes of rebuilding it, the treasury printed money -- much as the U.S. Federal Reserve is doing now. This led to hyperinflation and more hard times.

Does history repeat itself? Only if we let it do so by not being informed citizens.

February 17, 2011 at 11:56 AM · Dear Anonymous,

The U.S. government is not broke. Far from it, the government remains able to borrow money at ridiculously low rates. And it could balance its annual budget in an instant if its leaders had the political will to raise taxes below their current levels, which are the lowest in 60 years.

When the private economy is suffering is precisely the time when the government should step in, to provide the demand for construction work that the private sector currently cannot.

This project would have cost the State of Florida nothing. And, over time, it would have returned billions of dollars to the federal treasury, in income taxes paid by employed workers (who'd no longer need unemployment insurance payments or food stamps - saving the government money elsewhere in the budget), and taxes on the economy activity generated by the presence of these trains.

This project would have helped make Central Florida a more attractive vacation destination for international visitors. It would have helped increase attendance and spending at Florida's theme parks while taking rental cars off the roads in the Orlando area, easing the area's crushing traffic problems. And it would have created thousands of jobs in Florida at a time when the state desperately needs them.

Killing the project takes all that away. For what? A net savings of zero to the state of Florida, plus the loss of all those potential new jobs and economic activity. Gov. Scott chose to sacrifice all that simply to deny President Obama any credit for economic development in Florida. That's just stupid, selfish management.

Allow me to suggest that the folks who recognize all this are the far more informed citizens than you are, Anonymous.

February 17, 2011 at 2:10 PM · I have to wonder if 10, 15, 20 years from now whether this decision might be questioned. I'm not necessarily saying that I think HSR is the be-all solution, but I do think it's one that should be considered, not just for Orlando to Tampa, but for our whole country. There are only so many roadways that can be built to handle the growing number of cars. Then on top of roadways, you have pollution and the costs to maintain those roadways. Then, there is the cost of fuel and the impact on the environment to continue producing fuel for all those cars.

So, in fifteen years when there are another 20-25 million visitors (80-100 million est. total) coming to the area trying to get to the parks, and another 100,000 citizens trying to get to work, will they be prepared to handle it? Somehow I doubt it.

February 17, 2011 at 2:21 PM · For all who think that this is one sided, this is THEME PARK Insider. We love theme parks here and that rail would have been something really good for the FL theme parks, simple at that. There might be pros and cons to the proposal, but, from the Theme Park side, there really is only positives. It is also a bit shocking that FL would reject something that would greatly help tourism.

The only theme park group that would be fine with or without is Disney. They pick up their guests at the airport and brings them to their hotel. This also makes sure that the guest (ahem) goes ONLY to Disney. If I were Universal or Busch, I would be throwing a fit.

And why not build it anyway? It gives jobs locally, helps the local businesses by giving them more customers, and builds SOMETHING to look at and be proud of in the future.

February 17, 2011 at 6:32 PM · Dont see how such a rail project could add to the foreign debt. A train line would have lead to less oil imports, less car imports and more tourism exports. Some foreign trains are unlikely to offset those gains.
February 17, 2011 at 7:42 PM · Robert,

I wish you were the governor of Florida! Why don't you move here and run for office? You would have my vote.

February 17, 2011 at 8:51 PM · Article in USA Today. This project could put Florida (the taxpayers) on the hook for another $3 billion and once completed, there's a good chance ridership won't pay for the operating cost, meaning the state would have to pump even more money into the line each year.
If the project failed, the state would have to return the money to the federal government. If you spend more money than you take in, your business will fail.
This project would be far too costly to taxpayers and the risk far outweighs the benefits.
Ever hear of Amtrak?

For the record, I would have loved to see this project move forward, would have used for sure!

February 17, 2011 at 11:03 PM · I am not political by nature, nor do I claim to be much of an economist, but raising taxes to pay for an overspending government sounds like yet another form of a bailout. And borrowing more money when we are already trillions in debt seems to be like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. If it won't work for a guy like me who is just trying to eke out an existence in an unstable economy, why will it work for the government? Call me a simpleton, but "that don't make no sense, Everett!"

From what I have read, Florida's state budget is already approaching a deficit of nearly $4 billion, and some experts predict that this high-speed rail project would end up costing Florida taxpayers an additional $3 billion (as Brian already stated), and never be financially self-sustaining.

It is also noteworthy that there are other non-rail highway projects that the state of Florida could undertake with that $2.4 billion (which would supply the jobs everyone so dearly covets), but transportation secretary Ray LaHood says "No way".

The point is there are two sides to every story, and if the benefits were as clear cut as some have proposed then the Governor would not have made the choice he made as it would be political suicide. Call me naive, but we just have to hope that the Governor did what he (and those advising him) felt was best for the state.

Me, I just want someone to talk about high-speed rail for Kansas City so I don't have to ride on an uncomfortable, packed bus every morning!

February 17, 2011 at 11:14 PM · All the talk about how bad I-4 is, this project would have done absolutely nothing to help. If we want something with much lower costs and more immediate payback, local rail would go a lot farther if run more effectively than the government currently demonstrates it is able.

High Speed Rail service that runs a few times a day, makes me spend another half an hour to get local transportation or rent a car anyway, and costs $20 for a one way trip, 15 bucks to park at the TPA airport... will result in me spending more to take more time to get from Tampa to Orlando on business. My car costs at government per diem rates is %40/each way. A family of 3-4 would spend far more and have far more hassle to get there than just driving for a day at Disney. I also give up flexibility. And what decision do you want me to make?

Before even considering high speed rail, we have to get local rail that is efficient, safe, cheap, and makes sense. But local rail generally only makes sense to and from heavily populated destinations such as downtown and the parks. But most business and therefore most traffic isn't coming from or destined to these locations. As to costs, even Disney hasn't put in local rail to replace their bus service and they spend a lot for their bus service.

We can consider as local tourist rail and that does make sense. I believe it could cover operating costs and help traffic significantly in peak seasons.

High speed rail at a cost of $2.6B paid over 20 years at 3% interest is a little under %14.5M/month to cover capital cost. Federal or state money, we are borrowing it. Allocating $10/one way ticket towards initial construction costs would require about 4800 one way rail tickets a day or about 5-8 sold out runs each direction a day. And this is before operating costs, maintenance, the inevitable scope creep, and high risk of at least 20% cost overruns.

Somebody argue for me why this makes any sense for the state or the country to spend money here with little to no chance to recover the $2.6B capital + $0.9B interest. Please.

If it does make financial sense, get a private company to build it and the government can provide some subsidies. With these costs and ROI, no business will touch it in Florida.


February 18, 2011 at 2:14 AM · Anthony wrote :
For all who think that this is one sided, this is THEME PARK Insider. We love theme parks here and that rail would have been something really good for the FL theme parks, simple at that.

Well said Anthony. Totally agree with you.

February 18, 2011 at 7:23 AM · Let me ask a question that hasn't been asked yet. Were any of the parks against the rail system? Maybe the biggest most influential one with the most to lose? Think they wouldn't do it? It wouldn't be the first time they derailed such a project through "influence". Just a thought.

There are three approaches to think about when addressing this subject...the ideological, the theoretical and the practical. Given the fact that we live in political ideological times, and also that Republicans like to use rail projects as punching bags, it's obvious that this subject can turn into a massive political ideological debate (see 75% of the previous comments), and fail to address the real issues associated with it.

The issue with rail systems for me isn't the irrational fear of government control or that the projects tend to be favored by liberals. The issue becomes trust...trust in the government, trust in their competency, and trust in them spending OUR money responsibly. Theoretically, a light rail system in Orlando would be a good thing. Traffic is horrible, road maintenance costs are probably high, and a good number of people would use it during peak season, making things a little easier. It would bring jobs and theoretically, revenue....provided enough people used it, which would need to be a whole lot. If the project could mostly pay for itself, didn't waste money, and it was of high quality, then I would support it...but that's the 64,000 dollar question.

That said, we're not talking about a private company taking a risk and investing in the project accordingly. We're talking about the government. The highest spending, fairly incompetent, most wasteful business entity in history wants my money to tackle a project. They pick the people who research and build it (probably in a corrupt manner), they finance the project through taxpayer money, and they have absolutely zero idea of what it means to stick to a budget. If all of that is true (and one has to be blind to deny it is), then why am I to believe that they won't screw it up, or not even use the money for that project at all. Giving the government money to spend on a potential money pit isn't something I prefer to do. Why? Because politicians are playing with house money and not their own, and the outcome of this project has zero effect on them or their pocketbook. If they run out of money, they simply print more and make things worse. Think of it as giving money to a gambling addict and expecting them to act in a responsible manner with it. I won't even start on the long list of examples. While the idea of a rail system in Orlando is a pretty good one, I don't think the government can be trusted with my money for it, until they prove that they know how spend within their means, and how to run a project without subpar results or totally screwing the pooch on it.

Aside from that and aside from political ideology, you know that there has to be more to this story than the governor simply rejecting the plan. There are people, companies, money, and politics all behind the curtain on this one. The question isn't why he rejected it. The questions are these. Whose money talked the loudest, what entity in the room really wields the biggest stick in the argument, and if this project is such a good idea, then why hasn't it been done already? That's not to say it's not a good idea, but a little research and some critical thinking might generate some real answers. Perhaps we the people should spend more time searching for truth rather than fighting about political ideology. Doing so has gotten us nowhere.

February 18, 2011 at 9:18 AM · "The highest spending, fairly incompetent, most wasteful business entity in history wants my money to tackle a project."

I think Mr. Potter just took first place for, as Anthony put it, "quote of this discussion". =)

February 18, 2011 at 12:53 PM · Well, it's a nice idea but the country is broke. We can't afford to be doing stuff like this. And "free" federal money always comes with strings attached, and things that must be paid for by the state after the feds have left. The interest on our national debt is now almost as much as our annual GDP. When you are maxed out on your credit cards, you have to stop spending or disaster will result. It's the same with the government. In a few years, 93 cents of every federal dollar will be consumed by Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and interest on the national debt.

Maybe if we could get the debt monster under control this would be a good idea. I'm afraid that will never happen and we are mortgaging our children's futures. It's not about hating trains, the environment, etc. WE ARE BROKE, PEOPLE, what do we not understand about that? I'm afraid our government and a lot of people are still in denial.

I would also suggest that if a high speed train between theme parks is such a good idea, maybe the parent co. of BGT, Disney, and Universal ought to get together and build one with their own money.

February 18, 2011 at 2:30 PM · Martha,

If we are broke, then why did the government extend the tax cuts for the rich? You can't have it both ways.

February 18, 2011 at 4:32 PM · They extended my tax cuts too - thank God! $1,000 bucks per kid tax CREDIT is a huge deal in my house (that's how Bush bought my vote years ago).

But the real reason they extended the Bush tax cuts was 'cause Obama's presidency was in a tale spin (he's still trying to count all the Republican seats in the House) and if he had "raised" taxes there might have been an uprising. Plus, continuing the tax cuts shows Obama is pursuing a more centrist course - much like Clinton did during his Presidency. Something that will help him hold on to more of the all important Independent voters in the next election.

Hey, it's all about keeping your job - the American public be damned!

February 18, 2011 at 5:07 PM · Got to stop that spending somehow. We were all going to pay some day; the 2.4 billion wasn't free.

If there is a market for high speed rail, someone would build it. We have plenty of entrepeneurs in this country, who would invest in money-making opportunities.

But to expect some poor working joe in Minnesota, or more accurately, his children and grandchildren, to pay for rich tourists to ride subsidized high-speed rail to parks his kids will never get to go to? Sorry.

We can stop spending that money. If we all stop thinking federal money is free, if we stop taking the bribes, we can stop.

If everybody rejected the money for stupid spending we can't afford, they COULDN'T spend it. We could re-purpose it to the almost half of the spending that currently isn't paid for.

February 18, 2011 at 5:28 PM · Robert, the only reason taxes are "low" is that so many people are out of work, and so many more lost their good-paying jobs and took lower-paying jobs, and there was a temporary "stimulus" that cut some people's taxes a lot lower, while spending money we didn't have, mostly for people who tend to vote for the president's party.

We are not "broke"; we are spending money we don't have, and we owe a boatload of money.

You couldn't raise taxes enough to balance the budget. You could raise tax rates, but it would simply put more people in a position where they made less, and paid less in taxes.

And even if we weren't spending money we don't have, there's no rational reason for people in West Virginia to pay taxes for Florida's high-speed rail; if it's so good for Florida, Florida should pay for it. That's true for most states -- I mean, some states are dirt poor, and deserve a little help, but Florida isn't one of them.

I wonder if you could correlate those who support this idea and those who don't, with those who can regularly afford to vacation at Disney resorts, and those who are "stuck" with attending Cedar Point or Six Flags.

Although it would be sad to make those poor six flags attendees pay taxes so rich people can ride a subsidized high-speed rail to their Disney Resort Vacation.

February 18, 2011 at 6:52 PM · As someone from the UK, who visits Florida regularly, I find it disappointing the proposal has been scrapped.

Disneyland Paris benefits hugely from being linked up to a high speed rail line. I can hop on a train in London and be at my resort hotel within a few hours and without that connection its likely I wouldn't make the trip.

Having a similar service in Florida, for me, would make all the difference. Especially in the current economic climate when being budget-conscious makes me think twice about holidays which require car rentals.

February 19, 2011 at 2:02 AM · Whose money talked the loudest, what entity in the room really wields the biggest stick in the argument, and if this project is such a good idea, then why hasn't it been done already?

Great points, Derek. Disney wields the biggest stick for tourism, no questions asked, and they would seemingly benefit the most from this rail system... or maybe not.

Disney knows that people will find a way to their parks, whether via rental car, shuttle bus, train, or cab. Public transportation isn't necessarily going to make any more money for them. In fact, it might actually cost them. Remember when Disney implemented Magical Express, the free shuttle from the airport to your Disney hotel? Why offer a free service like that? For one, it gives travelers an incentive to get a hotel at Disney and stay in Disney. Conversely, a public train does not. A public train gives travelers that were considering a Disney hotel the option to stay outside Disney without getting a rental car. Further, it gives them the option to visit other area parks.

Sounds like a good reason to wave that beatin' stick about.

February 19, 2011 at 5:57 AM · I don't see how a train would change anything related to the number of folks taking a Disney vacation. Visitors have always had a variety of travel options when staying off-property... and most hotels and resorts offer shuttle service to and from Disney parks and resorts. Even Universal will arrange for a shuttle to pick you up at your Disney resort and take you to Universal and vice versa.

It is not like rail service was going to be a FREE option, it was just going to be a slightly faster way to get from, let's say, Orlando to Tampa. Maybe Busch Gardens would see a few more visitors, but even that seems unlikely as the average Disney family doesn't generally extend out to visiting parks where so many attractions have 46" to 54" height requirements.

If anything this rail system would probably have made it easier to get to Disney parks as they would likely all be linked directly to the system whereas other parks would require you to ride to a hub, then shuttle, taxi, or hike to your destination.

Furthermore, the Disney Company is very much involved (at least on the surface) in the "greening" of the planet. So this rail system's potential ability to cut down traffic, fumes, and pollution, would seemingly be something to which Disney would love to attach their name and backing. Unless, maybe, ultimately, even Disney thought the idea was going to be more costly than some would have us believe?

So, while I do agree Disney has the clout to influence these types of things, I just don't see a downside for them unless the state was going to raise corporate taxes to cover the overrun and ongoing costs.

February 19, 2011 at 11:42 AM · The cost of building or riding the rail isn't the issue. The last thing that Disney wants is for people to leave their property. Putting a high speed rail that connects them directly to their competition does absolutely nothing for them but expose their customers to other parks and the city of Orlando, because it suddenly becomes a lot easier for that family in the middle of the Magic Kingdom that's staying at a Disney hotel to go check out the new Harry Potter attractions at Universal. They aren't interested in connecting with other parks that draw half as many visitors as they do. They know that 30 million people already come to visit them, and they don't need a rail to draw them. They stand to lose, not gain..customers and money.

I'm just saying....They are number one in the market, they need all of that attendance to sustain themselves, and they have the power and influence through the sheer amount of taxes they pay, the amount of people they employ, and the amount of revenue they bring to the city and state...to influence or force just about any decision made by local and state governments. They've done it before. If you think they aren't capable of such things...read this book

February 19, 2011 at 6:05 PM · I get your point, Derek, I really do. I just don't believe that people are simply skipping out on other Orlando area parks because the state does not have "fast" rail. There is plenty of access between Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, and even Busch Gardens. Rail would provide one MORE method of travel, but it's not like Disney has guards posted at every resort exit preventing visitors from leaving (oops, I hope I didn't just give someone at Disney an "idea"). People stay on Disney property because they offer a very complete vacation package, and that package is not going to change any time soon.

And even when people do venture off Disney grounds it's not like they suddenly have some sort of theme park epiphany like, "OMG what have I been missing all these years?!? After visiting Hogwarts I'm never going to a Disney park again!" That change of heart doesn't happen. Granted, folks may grow in the appreciation of the product Universal is putting before the masses (and they should, my goodness Universal has been doing some great work for years now), but Disney still puts it all together better than anyone else out there.

With or without "fast" rail, Disney will continue to be the main attraction in Florida in the foreseeable future - at least until 12-12-12 when the world ends.

February 20, 2011 at 3:05 PM · It's all speculation anyway. When all of the Disney magic is stripped away, it's still a business...plain and simple, and it operates accordingly. Many would probably still choose to stay at Disney, but a rail system connecting all of the parks makes it a whole lot easier and more convenient for visitors to plan a different kind of vacation. This rail system would greatly encourage the park hopper, and Disney isn't interested in fueling such a temptation because they stand to lose the most.

With a rail system, I more people planning other parks in their visits. The constraints of traffic, parking fees, and even hotel selection are out the window for people. Sure they will go to Disney, but many wouldn't be exclusive to them anymore, and that's how Disney makes their hay...through hotels and keeping their guest on the property. If even a small amount of the 30 million people who visit Disney choose to leave for one or two days, it has a big impact. A rail system is a game changer. Green initiatives, marketing campaigns, and corporate speak goes right out the window when the bottom line is affected enough.

February 20, 2011 at 3:46 PM · And so, we once again agree to disagree. And we'd made so much progress, you and I! ;)
February 20, 2011 at 10:07 PM · Ironically, Walt loved trains. I wonder how he would have felt about the project, particularly considering his love of technology and disinterest in profit.

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