Virgin Trains USA finally says they're talking to Disney about a new WDW station: Virgin Trains USA, formerly known as Brightline, is in talks with Disney Co. about a rail station at Disney World. The possible stop is part of the proposed rail line between Orlando International Airport and Tampa. "We are continuing to explore the possibility of building a station on Walt Disney World Resort property, which we believe will help transform the region," said Virgin Trains senior vice president Ben Porritt. Nothing is formal, but both companies have agreed to explore a Disney train stop. Michael Cegelis, Virgin Trains USA's executive vice president for infrastructure, told transportation officials that the company's discussions with Disney are in a "rather advanced state now."
State Rep. Anna Eskamani picks up a Republican opponent for 2020: Real estate executive Jeremy Sisson has filed as a Republican challenger to Florida House District 47 Rep. Anna Eskamani in the 2020 race. He's the CEO of downtown Orlando real estate firm Evan James & Associates, and does philanthropic work with local nonprofit Guys With Ties. Eskamani flipped HD 47, which covers parts of Orlando, Winter Park and Belle Isle, from Republican to Democratic with her win in 2018. Before becoming Florida's first Iranian American house member, she was senior director of public affairs and communications at Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.
New study says the next wave of automation is coming for Orlando's workforce: Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, Kempler Industries, an Illinois-based machinery buyer and seller, listed Orlando as the nation's metro area second most susceptible to automation. The study says 30 percent of the area workforce is "considered at-risk." That chunk of the workforce is made up of hotel, motel and resort desk clerks; secretaries and administrative assistants; and textile bleaching and dyeing machine operators – all jobs the analysis forecasts will be on the robot chopping block.
Boaters in Florida broke the all-time record for killing manatees this year: According to preliminary data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, boat strikes have killed 129 manatees through Dec. 13 of this year, which is a new record. Despite having a couple more weeks to go in the year, Florida has already passed 2018's record of 125 manatee deaths by boat. In total, 545 manatees died in Florida waters so far this year. Natural causes were the leading source of death, claiming 230 manatees, but things like cold stress (53) and perinatal death (72) also contributed. Coastal Brevard County leads our area with 83 manatee deaths this year. Volusia County had 31 manatee deaths; Seminole had two, neither from human causes; and Orange County reported zero.
New study says Orlando is among the least expensive cities for ride-sharing in the country: The average cost of a ride in Orlando with either an Uber or Lyft driver is an identical $10.71, among the lowest in the U.S. The study, by software maker Atlassian to promote business software Jira Align, determined the average cost of Uber and Lyft rides in the 50 most populated U.S. cities. New York City had the most expensive fares, with an average trip cost of $18.73, followed by Seattle with $16.54 and San Francisco with $15.77. The study suggested these cities suffered from higher congestion, reducing the use of ride-hailing overall.
– This story appears in the Dec. 25, 2019, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.