by Kirsten Nelson
What happens when leaders from the hotel world decide to start a new train service? Well, they hire the best architects to design an entirely new, branded hospitality concept that happens to move people from city to city. Beginning with the train cars themselves, and following through to each element of the commuting experience, a consistent, stylish, memorable comfort is established.
Hopefully this is the future of travel. Because Brightline, the privately owned and operated train service from All Aboard Florida, is all about an energizing look and feel that makes travelers feel first-class, even when they’re heading to work. With a route that currently connects Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, and eventually extending to Orlando, Brightline provides a technologically-enhanced commuting atmosphere to passengers who bask in Wi-Fi, surrounded by the glow of multitudinous video displays.
Brightline’s branding and visual identity was created by the LAB at Rockwell Group. The firm drew inspiration from the tropical, sun-drenched aspects of Florida and its welcoming culture to deliver a design package saturated in vibrant colors, comfortable passenger accommodations and clear communication. Visual displays guide passengers through the airy train station concepts created by Rockwell Group architects and realized by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM).
The newest of these stations to open as a part of a larger mixed-use downtown development that incorporates commercial, corporate and residential offerings, the MiamiCentral station demonstrates a keen ability to keep passengers informed and entertained while they wait for a train. Some 325 LCD and LED displays fill the space with motion content, moving upward with escalators, along multi-storied fascia, expanding across walls in passenger lounges, and dotting railway concourses and platforms.
That’s a lot of displays and content, and optimizing the mix of travel and concessions information, sponsor messages and atmospheric content is an ongoing task handled by ANC. Having worked with Brightline on plans for use of the abundant video displays incorporated into the station’s architecture for nearly a year before opening day, ANC Client Services now manages, schedules and coordinates all digital content running throughout MiamiCentral, while ANC’s Creative Services team also helps to create sponsor and branded content for the displays.
Some of that video content provides necessary wayfinding information as well. Because SOM flipped the usual subterranean train station design to create a space that actually floats above the street, with train tracks on an upper level, helpful signage sends passengers upstairs to put their bags through security before they settle into the lounge. It wouldn’t be a very hospitable experience if travelers missed a train because they were waiting in the wrong area.
From the start, the plan was to have the building actively communicate with passengers as they moved past the screens, explained Colleen Brace, Senior Vice President of Sales and Venue Services for ANC. “They wanted an engaging experience that begins the moment a passenger walks into the station,” she said. “When they enter, they see signs with information on when trains arrive and depart. Then they’re guided up to the lounge and baggage security check. There’s also the lobby, where we provide content for the cafe menu board. And that’s where you really get the full experience, with the large video wall as well as the banner displays on the fascia strip.”
Ever present on the displays are also those very important travel details, which inform passengers when and where to board their train. To ensure that the timing is accurate, ANC integrated the train operator’s real-time software feed with its LiveSync software to display up-to-the-minute arrival estimates.
Design-phase conversations about the frequency and timing of departure alerts were in-depth, Brace said. A lot of thought went into every aspect of the look and feel throughout the station, in accordance with the precise standards of hospitality experts driving the project.
Now that the station is open, MiamiCentral development continues, with office towers, residential and commercial spaces attracting new investment into an urban area that was once the site of a 1920s era train station. Estimates are that Brightline will bring more than $6 billion in investments for the Florida economy by 2022, according to The Washington Economics Group.
The new train service is changing the way residents and businesses connect and assemble, and it’s helping with that crazy south Florida traffic, too. Rockwell’s study for the project claims that the new infrastructure eliminates more than three million car trips from the area’s roadways each year.
With stations and trains as posh as the best hotels, let’s hope more cities look to Brightline’s standard for train travel as another option in the future of transportation.