Florida Update: Residents Revolt Against Orlando Theme Park Guests

in Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

A monorail glides above a parking lot with a dramatic sunset in the background, highlighting a cathedral spire and lush trees in a serene urban landscape.

Credit: Christian Lambert, Unsplash

Some Florida residents are not particularly happy about the way Orlando’s theme park guests are being prioritized right now.

Located in Central Florida, Orlando has made its name as the theme park capital of the United States – if not the world. What started with just Walt Disney World Resort in 1971 has become a bonafide thrill empire encompassing the likes of Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, and more.

A couple stands on a building terrace at night, watching fireworks explode brightly above Magic Kingdom.
Credit: Disney

Related: Employee Stands up To Controversial Florida Theme Park, Lawsuit Officially Filed

While there’s plenty else to enjoy throughout the Sunshine State, tourism does form the bulk of its economy. According to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (who’s had more than his fair share of spats with the state’s largest single-site employer, AKA Disney), the state makes $333 million per day from out-of-state visitors.

This fact has proven problematic in recent months.

In September 2023, Brightline – Florida’s inter-city railway service – expanded its route to Orlando International Airport (MCO). Now, passengers can directly travel from Miami to the heart of Central Florida, with stops in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and Aventura along the way.

Credit: Brightline

Brightline has gone out of its way to ensure that this means visitors can more easily travel from Miami to Florida’s theme parks. The same month it expanded its route, it debuted a 24/7 shuttle service with Mears Transportation that can take passengers directly to Walt Disney World Resort, as well as over 25 Orlando hotels frequented by park guests.

The issue was that not everybody who wanted to travel to Orlando for this reason was able to secure train tickets. So, Brightline came up with a solution that’s proven extremely unpopular with South Florida residents.

This week, Brightline has officially discontinued its Train Passes. These had previously allowed the likes of commuters to regularly travel on the train for less. However, with these commuters ultimately not traveling as far as those who would go all the way to Orlando (or spending as much money), the pass has been axed to make way for more Orlando-bound passengers.

Brightline monorail system coming soon to Orlando and Southern Florida
Credit: Brightline

The $399 pass allowed pass holders to take 40 trips with a 10-ride pack for $350. Passengers will now need to pay regular fares, equating to $70 a day, and will need to rush to book one of the handful of tickets Brightline is making available for short-distance travelers.

According to The Palm Beach Post, South Florida residents are far from pleased at being shafted for the sake of the Orlando market.

“This is so wrong,” Ira Leiderman, who takes the train daily from Boca Raton to his office in Miami, told the local news outlet. “No one is going to pay $80 a day [including the $10 extra for parking] to commute. Brightline does not want us on its trains.”

Leiderman also added that this move will “place thousands of cars on I-95. I’m not sure our elected officials would have supported Brightline if they knew this was going to be the end result.”

A roller coaster next to a lake at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida
Credit: Universal

In March, Brightline ridership soared to 258,000 – most of whom were Orlando passengers. There were previously plans to construct a Brightline station at Walt Disney World itself, but this idea was dropped in 2022.

This isn’t the first time Florida residents have been angered by the state’s theme park industry. In March, the approval of Disney World’s 80-acre affordable housing plan in Horizon West sparked outrage from local residents.

One such resident, Alex Cabrera, spoke out during a public meeting and said, “All the communication we have gotten from Michaels [Organization] and Disney has all been one-sided. That’s not communication; that’s just telling us what they want to do to us.”

Have you ever used Brightline to visit Orlando’s theme parks? Let us know in the comments!

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