Earlier this year, Disney canceled their free Magical Express bus service that took guests between their Disney World hotels and the Orlando International Airport. While many guests were disappointed with the change, some turned to a different potential option that could transport guests between the airport and Disney World: a high-speed Brightline TRAIN.
Disney announced the possibility of a high-speed train route between the parks and the airport way back in 2019, and a deal was reached with Brightline in 2020. The original deal held that the route would be complete in 2022, but delays with construction and planning pushed that deadline back several times. Now, Disney has CANCELED their plans to work with Brightline on this project, which has left many people wondering WHY.
On June 27th, 2022, Disney announced that they were backing out of their deal with Brightline to build a Disney Springs stop along a train route from the Orlando International Airport to Tampa, FL. This update came as a surprise to many people, as the project has been in the works for over 2 years.
Why Did Disney Back Out of the Deal?
A Disney spokesperson told the Orlando Business Journal that Disney was going to step away from the project because the updated plans for the train’s route did not actually include a stop on Disney property. “As many people who are involved in this project are aware, the new route configuration does not support a Disney Springs station and as a result, we don’t anticipate being part of this project,” said Avery Maehrer.
Originally, the plans did include a stop on Disney World property. That stop would have been in the Disney Springs area, although the (then) anticipated location was not given. Some possible sites for the stop were in the southern part of Disney Springs or on some undeveloped land between Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and some Disney staff offices.
Over the last several months, however, Brightline and several interested parties (including Disney, Universal Orlando, regional planners, residents of Florida, and others) have been debating different potential routes for the train. They have now settled on a route that no longer includes a stop on Disney World property.
Why Did Brightline Change the Route?
There were a couple of possible routes in discussion when Brightline was deciding on a plan for this train. One was along State Road 417. This route would bypass a tourist corridor and take a direct route to Disney World.
Another proposed plan went down State Road 528 to International Drive. This plan was originally not the preferred route because it was much more expensive than the 417 option. However, in 2022 a potential solution was offered after several meetings: the “Sunshine Corridor Program.”
Under this program, there would be a corridor built for SunRail’s commuter trains that would lead from the airport to SunRail’s existing north-south tracks. The path would then go through the Orange County Convention Center and south International Drive.
Brightline would lease the rights to use that east-west SunRail corridor, and then would be responsible for building its own tracks from there to Tampa. By leasing the tracks, Brightline could save some money and also speed up the construction process.
After several meetings with lots of interested stakeholders, Brightline chose the Sunshine Corridor option. The Orlando Business Journal reported that the original 417 route “drew heavy criticism from multiple parties, including residents of the Hunter’s Creek community and I-Drive business stakeholders,” which likely factored into the decision.
In addition, Universal Orlando heavily advocated for the Sunshine Corridor route so that the train could transport guests to their upcoming theme park, Epic Universe. Universal offered to donate land and funds to this project if the Sunshine Corridor route was chosen.
With many advocates and a now-possible budget, the Sunshine Corridor Program was chosen. Unlike the 417 route, the Sunshine Corridor Program route does not run through Disney World property, so a station in Disney World was out of the question.
Could Guests Still Take the Train to Disney World?
Brightline has confirmed that they will still build a train stop near Disney Springs, although it will not actually be located on Disney World property. So guests will be able to get close to Disney World by using the Brightline train once construction is complete.
Keep in mind that the station won’t actually get passengers onto Disney World property, so guests will need to find their own transportation from the station to the parks and hotels. Free Disney transportation is currently only offered on Disney World property, although that could change in the future if Disney decided to provide transportation from the Brightline station to the parks and hotels.
Disney has not commented on whether they will consider a transportation service between the station and Disney World. So for now, guests would need to find their own way. Possible options include taxi services or ride shares (like Uber and Lyft).
While we wait for further updates and construction to wrap up on this route, remember that you currently have a few options for getting between the Orlando International Airport and Disney World. There are a couple of Magical Express replacement services — Mears Connect and Sunshine Flyer. Both are paid services, and they function similarly to how Magical Express worked. You’ll need to make reservations ahead of time, and then once you arrive at the airport you’ll board a bus with other guests and ride to your hotel.
Guests can also choose to rent a car, call for a taxi, or book a ride share through services like Uber or Lyft.
We’ll continue to watch for more updates on the train to Disney World, so stay tuned with DFB for all the latest news.
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How do you like to travel to Disney World? Let us know in the comments.