All Aboard the New Train to Walt Disney World

November 23, 2020, 2:14 PM · Some time within the next few years, you will be able to take the train from the Orlando International Airport to the Walt Disney World Resort.

Walt Disney World today announced an agreement with railway operator Brightline to build a train station at Disney Springs that will link the resort with Brightline's stations at the airport, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. The deal is contingent upon government approval and no timeline was announced. Brightline's station at the Orlando airport is scheduled for completion in 2022, so any Disney Springs station would come some years after that.

"Our mission has always been to connect our guests to the people and places that matter, and Walt Disney World Resort is a tremendous example of this," Brightline President Patrick Goddard said. "Brightline will offer a car-free connection to the millions of visitors from around the state and the world who plan to make Walt Disney World Resort part of their vacation plans."

"We're excited to work with Brightline as they pursue the potential development of a train station at Walt Disney World Resort, a project that would support our local economy and offer a bold, forward-looking transportation solution for our community and guests," Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle said.

The train from the airport to Walt Disney World is part of Brightline's project to extend its route to the Tampa Bay area. The Brightline station at the Orlando airport is going into the new South Terminal. The station at Disney Springs would finally give the resort a form of the mass transportation hub that Walt Disney envisioned on the property when he announced his plan for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow that became the Walt Disney World Resort.

Visitors to Disney theme parks outside the United States are used to taking the train to those resorts, as Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Shanghai Disney all are served by local or regional rail lines. The Brightline expansion would leave the original Disneyland Resort in California as the only Disney theme park resort without direct rail service.

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Replies (12)

November 23, 2020 at 2:17 PM

I would love that. Surprised it took so long to happen.

November 23, 2020 at 2:26 PM

Ugh - More piecemeal transportation solutions that don't actually solve any problems. Orlando is a mess because of poor urban planning and lack of willpower and finances to support workable mass transit. My understanding is that Brightline is a high speed inter-city concept, NOT a commuter or light rail solution. Extending to WDW is just a ploy for Brightline to garner more financing for their over-budget, under-performing project that was supposed to connect major cities within Florida.

I'm not holding my breath for this actually coming to fruition any time during my lifetime.

November 23, 2020 at 11:37 PM

"I'm not holding my breath for this actually coming to fruition any time during my lifetime."
This actually is happening presently, the Brightline from Ft Lauderdale-Miami has been operating for some time, the line going to the Orlando airport is under construction, and the Orlando airport station is actually fully built. Connecting to the Convention Center/I-Drive and WDW is the next logical step. Then after that it will likely be going to Tampa and they are talking about Jacksonville as well.

This is great news and long overdue. The current project will make it far easier for travel between Orlando/Miami, and taking into consideration both cities have terrible traffic, and there is also a ridiculous toll on the turnpike as well (I have driven from Orlando to Miami once using the turnpike like 10 years ago and it was a $20 toll...I will never do that again). So unless you use rural routes like I do to avoid the toll the convenience of the train makes it worth it.

You are correct that Orlando has had a lack of political will to fix the public transit mess and this will not fix it specifically, but this is a big step in the right direction for making Florida an economic super region that they have been talking about for decades. It brings European style train transportation to one of the fastest growing parts of the USA and I think we can all appreciate that.

In regards to Orlando itself we badly need a dedicated funding source for regional transit and mayor Demings has been saying this for years but sadly the residents have been so anti-tax it still hasn't happened, and now that we finally have been getting close covid happened and now the government doesn't have any money and the cauffers have run dry. But as traffic has been getting so bad the past few years that I think voters are starting to warm up to the idea of funding transport.

November 23, 2020 at 10:17 PM

I recall there was talk of such a line almost a decade ago but fell apart for various issues, political and economic. Still, it wound be interesting and a cool addition even if I doubt we'll be seeing it before 2030.

November 24, 2020 at 6:18 AM

Can't they just extend the Skyliner to the airport, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, etc.?

November 24, 2020 at 6:49 AM

FloriDUH - build and expand with disregard, kick the can down the road when dealing with the impact on infrastructure. For a shining example of this, see the Champions Gate exit on I-4. Low taxes in exchange for a traffic nightmare in Orlando and Tampa.

November 24, 2020 at 7:25 AM

I am very curious where the station will be located on property.

November 24, 2020 at 8:41 AM

If you live in Florida and travel to other Floridian cities this is great news! High speed rail from orl to Tpa was axed by short sighted Terminator Scott and put us behind 10 years.

November 24, 2020 at 9:31 AM

@the_man - I realize Brightline already operates service in Florida, but the design and plan of their service is to facilitate inter-city transit. The station at MCO will help to further that plan as well as the eventual extension to Tampa. However, adding a stop at Disney Springs (and additional potential stops in between current and future destinations) will devalue the purpose of the high speed rail line as a whole. This is where government needs to step in and promote the efficient and sensible planning of multi-modal transit. People should not be boarding a high-speed inter-city rail system to go <20 miles that runs on an hourly (or longer) frequency, and continually adding stops to an inter-city line will make travel times between cities longer, and reducing the primary purpose for building high-speed rail. If WDW wants to develop their own system from MCO to Disney Springs (like many suburban airports do for the cities they service), fine, but they should not be piggy-backing on a semi-public project and undermining its functionality.

The United States has always struggled with rail travel since the Industrial Revolution because the critical decision was made in the early 20th Century to move cargo by rail and people by road, while Europe did the opposite in moving people by rail and cargo by road. In the US, this decision has resulted in a majority of rail infrastructure owned by freight/cargo companies, forcing passenger rail to ride on leased/shared tracks or very limited passenger-specific rail corridors (like the Northeast Corridor). It's great to see some states either reclaiming or building new passenger-exclusive rail corridors (like the planned line between San Francisco and LA in California and Brightline in Florida), but if these infrastructure projects are proposed and designed to be high-speed corridors, operators need to build and manage them that way instead of taking cash (i.e. bribes) to build more and more stations between terminuses that decrease the speed and efficiency of the corridor.

With this move, Brightline is undermining its own purpose to efficiently and quickly move people between major cities in Florida to service a singular tourist destination. Orlando is happy, because they're off the hook for building appropriate transit options in its city, but riders are the ones that are underserved by a slowed high-speed line and an infrequent option to WDW that should instead be served by BRT, light rail, or heavy rail (at the very least commuter rail). It's hard to argue that a fully funded mass transit system should not be built, but in this case, the type of transit being proposed does not fit the needs of Orlando/WDW, and hopefully smarter-growth planning will eventually prevail and correct what could be a serious mismanagement of resources.

November 24, 2020 at 11:33 AM

build and expand with disregard, kick the can down the road when dealing with the impact on infrastructure.

To be fair to Florida, hardly the only state to have that attitude. Trust me, I live in Illinois, we're used to that. And talk to folks in Boston on the "Big Dig" amid other messes in various places.

November 24, 2020 at 12:31 PM

Economics, feasibility, and urban planning aside I am excited to ride this if and when it gets built.

November 24, 2020 at 8:18 PM

Russel Meyer you make a good point, but this is WDW we are talking about, as they say in the Simpsons "our [customers] are highly entitles wusses." I think a lot of people from Miami/Ft Lauderdale/Tampa wouldn't take the train if they had to go to the airport and transfer and would instead opt to drive. Especially since the train goes to Disney Springs they are already going to have to get off and transfer to a bus to reach their final destination, adding another transfer would be a deal breaker for a lot of people.

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