Travel Newsstand: Jan. 25-Feb. 8, 2018
Read all about it! Death rides the (new) rails in Florida ... but things are brighter elsewhere. Except, of course, in New York, where the railroads are collapsing. Meanwhile, a well-groomed Marriott Family public image is undermined by a nasty lawsuit. Trump Hotels are paying for Trump being president. Googie architecture lives in Los Angeles! And more.

Death Rides the Rails in Florida ...
Things are looking extraordinarily dark at the Brightline, the privately funded train that supposedly will revolutionize travel in Florida. Launched two weeks ago with oodles of national hype and the requisite inaugural ride for VIPs, the Brightline has brought more death than joy. The day before Brightline opened to the public on its first route, between Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, the VIP-laden train hit and killed a 31-year-old woman. A second person was killed this week and a third was injured. These tragedies are atop two deaths last year as the train was preparing to start operations. The primary problem apparently is illegal track crossings and Brightline officials are rushing to add more safety precautions and warnings along the train's right of way.

...But Things Are Brighter Elsewhere in the World ...
If Florida's bitter start of the Brightline is depressing, the rail news is much better elsewhere in the world. Germany's super-fast Munich-to-Berlin line got off to a very rocky start last month, but things seem to be settling down. Traffic on the line is rising fast and the train's initial problems seem to be solved. That's while trains throughout Europe and Asia rival airlines for speed and, of course, far outpace them on comfort. Meanwhile, in China, the government-driven mass transit push continues to astound observers in the West. During a year-end rush, Guangzhou opened three new metro lines and expanded a fourth. The city of Wuhan added two new subway lines and an extension. And Guiyang opened its first metro, a 10-station system stretching eight miles.

... Except in Train-Hobbled New York
Still, it's hard to ignore the parlous condition of rail travel in New York, which relies on subways, commuter trains and Amtrak more than any metropolitan area in the nation. As Bloomberg News reports, it's not just that Pennsylvania Station (left)--the dark, dingy, decrepit hub for the Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak's Acela and Northeast Regional trains--is a mess. Crumbling and antiquated tunnels that feed Penn are on the verge of literal and metaphysical collapse, too. And New York City's once-vaunted subways are little better. After more than a year of hell, political posturing and finger-pointing, the New York subways need perhaps $100 billion for a top-to-bottom rebuild. The 665-mile, 24/7/365 system is the "archaic, filthy, profligate symbol of everything wrong with our broken cities," says The New York Times.

The Hotel Hot Sheet
The Marriott family has spent several generations grooming their public image as an upright and religiously devout group of model Americans. Not so, says J.W. Marriott III, whose lawsuit against the family has ripped open old wounds and exposed them to public glare. Washingtonian magazine has the dirty deets. ... Citizens of good will might disagree over President Donald Trump's claim that he will Make America Great Again. But what's not great is the state of his hotels. With the notable exception of the Washington hotel across from the White House, where the elite meet to impress Trump and ostentatiously fatten his coffers, nightly room rates at Trump Hotels have plunged 25-35 percent since he took office. ... We may not give much thought to a single hotel that closes. But if you live or work in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the end of the Holiday Inn was a traumatic event. The 224-room tower opened as a Hilton in 1982 and had many names and owners. It needed an overhaul and the current owner couldn't raise the funds, so the property went dark just before the new year.

Tight Connections ...
      Santa Monica style A Los Angeles area institution is making a triumphant return. The Penguin Diner in Santa Monica, for decades hidden behind the drywall of a generic dental office, is being revived. Built in 1959 and a classic example of so-called Googie architecture, the structure will reopen as part of the local Mel's Drive-in chain.
      Atlanta agonistes Atlanta/Hartsfield has a growing homeless population and some airport employees and police are not happy about the development.
      San Marino solitude San Marino is the least-visited nation in Europe, according to the World Tourism Organization. Nevertheless, the 23.6-square-mile country, totally surrounded by and dependent upon Italy, is a nice place to visit, says a major travel magazine. -- Joe Brancatelli

This column is Copyright 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. is Copyright 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.