Today, passengers can pay $19 for a one-way ride from Sebring to downtown Orlando, but Amtrak's station is at 1400 Sligh Blvd. That ride usually takes two hours, but the return trip occasionally extends to four hours.
If the final destination is Orlando International Airport, that's 12 miles southeast, so additional taxi or bus fare is involved.
Likewise, Walt Disney World Resort is in Lake Buena Vista, 12 miles from Amtrak's Kissimmee stop.
In two years though, All Aboard Florida and SunRail might solve some interconnectivity snafus.
Last week, All Aboard Florida announced it will build a Miami-to-Orlando passenger rail that could potentially connect Orlando's busy MCO airport with Miami.
"Perfect timing," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. "SunRail becomes operational next year." SunRail (formerly Central Florida Commuter Rail) is under construction. It will link Poinciana to DeLand through downtown Orlando. When Phase 1 is completed, SunRail will run for 31 miles with 17 stations along the CSX Transportation "A" Line. However, it will stop at four Amtrak stations in Winter Park, DeLand, Orlando and Kissimmee. It also will miss the Orlando airport by seven miles.
Orlando to Miami passengers can connect with MIA airport via the Orange Line elevated metrorail.
On Oct. 3, the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority approved an easement agreement with All Aboard Florida, a passenger component of the freight-only Florida East Coast Railway. The agreement allows All Aboard Florida to construct its rail infrastructure parallel to the State Road 528 corridor. Also known as the Bee Line or Beachline Expressway, a 53-mile-long toll road links Interstate 4 to I-95 in Titusville. It passes close to Cape Canaveral, SeaWorld and Universal.
However, Sunshine State passenger railroads don't play well together. All Aboard Florida won't stop along the Treasure or Space coasts — where Amtrack has placed most of its stations — when AAF passenger service speeds between Miami and Orlando in late 2015. In South Florida, Amtrak stops in Orlando, Sebring, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Hialeah, Deerfield Beach, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Winter Haven, Lakeland, Tampa, Kissimmee and Sanford.
On Tuesday, senators on the Commerce and Tourism Committee asked how they could help, but pushed for the potential expansion of a rail system that will require little state assistance.
"You had me at privately financed; I think you had most of the committee members when you said that," said Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach. "For some reason, my presentation, it must be a typo, but where do I get the updated version that has Jacksonville?"
Eventually, backers of the $1.5 billion private venture want to add Tampa, Daytona Beach and Jacksonville. However, Rusty Roberts, FEC vice president of corporate development, said the company is strictly focused on profit first, which means getting the 235-mile Miami to Orlando service rolling.
Roberts said the company hopes to become a statewide system, but cities such as Melbourne and Stuart that have expressed interest in being stops need to be patient.
FEC's passenger train is expected to travel up to 79 mph from Miami to West Palm Beach, 110 mph between West Palm Beach and the Cocoa "curve," and 125 mph while cruising along the Beachline to Orlando. That means it won't go through Highlands County.
Tampa has been pining for a spur to Orlando since Gov. Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal funding for a high-speed rail project in 2011.
"I think we had the conversations over the years about trains, we all recognize we want them, but then we had the controversy about the federal dollars," said Committee Chairwoman Nancy Detert, R-Venice.
FEC, which owns All Aboard Florida, expects the first passenger train to begin hourly service in December 2015 on rails that now offer freight service. The cost per ticket has not been set, although Roberts has previously been quoted as saying tickets could run $100 from end to end, with a trip from Miami to West Palm Beach about $20.