Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

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gokeefe
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Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by gokeefe »

This past Wednesday we all witnessed the unfolding of an extraordinary event, the announcement of the ending of five decades of diplomatic and military hostility between the United States of America and the Republic of Cuba.

The confluence of these events with Florida East Coast's decision to pursue private passenger rail service "for their own account" is truly quite remarkable and while I don't expect the Havana Special to be running all the way to Key West again any time soon (or ever for that matter) I do think this change could make a significant difference to railroad passenger ridership to Miami.

Fortuitously for Amtrak Miami Central Station, a new multi modal hub directly at Miami Airport, is now under construction with completion expected in 2015. I think we may see direct scheduled air service open for the general public to Havana reopened in 2015 and as such the opportunity for Amtrak in the near term may be quite significant.

Although I'm sure there are many factors regarding this question that make any attempt at analysis, "too early to predict" I think its worth explaining the situation to those who may not understand the significance of this change. In short it is something like this, in essence "overnight" as it were the United States has added an island nation of some 11,100,000+ people directly off its shores. For most economic intents and purposes this island ceased to exist 54 years ago with the imposition of the trade embargo and has not been seen since. Prior to the abrupt cessation of trade Cuba and the United States had levels of commerce, tourism, trade and shared interests that were comparable to the significance of entire Provinces of Canada economically speaking.

There will be some effect on railroad ridership, what or how much I certainly don't know. But given the immense amount of activity in Miami at present in regards merely to the railroads I think the thaw of Cuban American relations is among the single most momentous events in the 500 year history of Florida since the European discovery. Yes, it's that big of a deal. In more popular terms I would relate it to Disney and the development of Orlando. That is going to look like child's play compared to what revitalized trade, commerce and tourism will be with Cuba in the 21st century.
gokeefe

Gilbert B Norman
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by Gilbert B Norman »

Mr.O'Keefe, there is much discussion regarding rail travel in Cuba over at the Worldwide Railfan Forum. I'd link it up, but hard to do so when posting from a phone (yes everyone, I did join the 21st century last July when I went overseas).
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Fri Dec 19, 2014 8:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

Greg Moore
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by Greg Moore »

Gilbert B Norman wrote:Mr.O'Keefe, there is much discussion regarding rail travel in Cuba over at the Rail Travel Forum. I'd link it up, but hard to do so when posting from a phone (yes everyone, I did join the 21st century last July when I went overseas).
I'm impressed Mr. Norman, even I don't generally access Railroad.net from my phone!
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JimBoylan
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by JimBoylan »

Am immediate effect will be increased pressure to run a New York - Miami train via the Florida East Coast and call it, even if not officially, the "Havana Special".

CComMack
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by CComMack »

The major question for railroad travel will be whether or not there will be any resumption of ferry service between Miami and Havana. Without it, there seems to be no case for any change in rail travel patterns, since the only gateway will be the major commercial aviation hubs in the eastern half of the country: not just Miami, but Orlando, Atlanta, New York, Houston, DFW, Chicago. However, there is plenty of passenger capacity (currently exclusively dedicated to the cruise ship industry) at the Port of Miami, and the All Aboard Florida terminal is planned practically in walking distance of the Port. Miami Central Station at MIA Airport is a short rail transit hop from downtown. Those are close enough to set up connections to ongoing ferries. Modern cruiseferries can cover the 400 km between Miami and Havana in 10-12 hours without breaking a sweat; a pair of RoPax boats with a slightly faster design could cover a day sailing and a night sailing every day.

If Amtrak wants to get into the Havana game in partnership with a ferry company, the major things to consider are 1) re-extension of the Palmetto as the Silver Palm to Miami, and 2) increased demand on the Auto Train, with self-transfer between Sanford and Miami. Both would be with an eye to a short day in Miami, followed by an evening sailing to Havana, arriving the next morning.

gokeefe
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by gokeefe »

Fascinating to consider the Auto Train angle. The embargo has been in place so long that it predates even the original version.
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electricron
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by electricron »

I don't think there will be a large impact. Cruise ships rule the Florida to Bahamas trade, they will rule the Florida to Cuba trade too. It'll be interesting to see how fast the cruise lines make deals with the Cuban government, get new cruise piers built, and start sailing to Cuba.
Most existing cruise passengers fly to Florida, I expect they will continue to do the same for Cuba. If a ferry service starts up, I believe it would support mostly locale passengers from southern Florida to Cuba for family visits. Which could create more problems politically within Cuba than cruise passengers, where visitors leave within hours after arrival.

gokeefe
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by gokeefe »

electricron wrote:I don't think there will be a large impact. Cruise ships rule the Florida to Bahamas trade, they will rule the Florida to Cuba trade too. It'll be interesting to see how fast the cruise lines make deals with the Cuban government, get new cruise piers built, and start sailing to Cuba.
Most existing cruise passengers fly to Florida, I expect they will continue to do the same for Cuba. If a ferry service starts up, I believe it would support mostly locale passengers from southern Florida to Cuba for family visits. Which could create more problems politically within Cuba than cruise passengers, where visitors leave within hours after arrival.
I think in regards to cruising you're absolutely right. But what about Cubans who live in New York/Washington, D.C. and want to bring their car with them all the way to Cuba? Auto Train might be a nice option combined then with a ferry ride to Havana. This could be especially true if they are bringing an older car that they intend to gift to relatives in Cuba.
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Greg Moore
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by Greg Moore »

gokeefe wrote:
electricron wrote:I don't think there will be a large impact. Cruise ships rule the Florida to Bahamas trade, they will rule the Florida to Cuba trade too. It'll be interesting to see how fast the cruise lines make deals with the Cuban government, get new cruise piers built, and start sailing to Cuba.
Most existing cruise passengers fly to Florida, I expect they will continue to do the same for Cuba. If a ferry service starts up, I believe it would support mostly locale passengers from southern Florida to Cuba for family visits. Which could create more problems politically within Cuba than cruise passengers, where visitors leave within hours after arrival.
I think in regards to cruising you're absolutely right. But what about Cubans who live in New York/Washington, D.C. and want to bring their car with them all the way to Cuba? Auto Train might be a nice option combined then with a ferry ride to Havana. This could be especially true if they are bringing an older car that they intend to gift to relatives in Cuba.

I think you're WAY overjumping the gun here on any thinking.

Hell, members of Congress have already made it clear they're going to fight Obama anyway they can on this. t's going to be years before anyone's bringing their car to Cuba.
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gokeefe
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by gokeefe »

Greg Moore wrote:I think you're WAY overjumping the gun here on any thinking.

Hell, members of Congress have already made it clear they're going to fight Obama anyway they can on this. t's going to be years before anyone's bringing their car to Cuba.
I am being deliberately ambiguous about the political process in part out of respect for forum rules but also because of my own doubts about the ability of Congress to limit executive action in this particular scenario.

I think the conceptual discussion is a worthwhile exercise in of itself just to shake off 50 years rust. By asking these questions we can review previous patterns of movement and service, all of which predate Amtrak. We can also examine likely commercial ties which may have an effect on ridership as well.
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CComMack
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by CComMack »

I think extrapolation from the Bahamas is a mistake: the total population of the Bahamas is ~382K, of whom ~254K live on New Providence Island. As previously mentioned, Cuba is ~11M people. In the event of full liberalization of trade relations (not yet a given), even with only modest development in the Cuban economy (which would be more than it has achieved in decades), you would have freight and passenger traffic across the Florida Strait that would completely dwarf anything ever seen in the Bahamas; it's simply a completely different order of scale.

TomNelligan
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by TomNelligan »

When and if travel to Cuba is fully opened up, I would expect significant new traffic for airlines but minimal if any impact on Amtrak. By and large, only folks who are afraid or disinclined to fly will want to take a train to Miami and then have to transfer to a ferry when they could fly directly from US air gateways to Havana.

edbear
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by edbear »

I have a SAL public timetable in Spanish, about 1955 I guess. It was aimed at middle & upper class Cubans coming to the USA for business or pleasure. There are not very many of those Cubans left in Cuba today. The SAL timetable is a copy of the condensed English version.

motor
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by motor »

Greg Moore wrote:
Gilbert B Norman wrote:Mr.O'Keefe, there is much discussion regarding rail travel in Cuba over at the Rail Travel Forum. I'd link it up, but hard to do so when posting from a phone (yes everyone, I did join the 21st century last July when I went overseas).
I'm impressed Mr. Norman, even I don't generally access Railroad.net from my phone!
Are you talking about http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/search.p ... d=23317533" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;, Gilbert?

motor

gokeefe
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by gokeefe »

motor wrote:
Greg Moore wrote:
Gilbert B Norman wrote:Mr.O'Keefe, there is much discussion regarding rail travel in Cuba over at the Rail Travel Forum. I'd link it up, but hard to do so when posting from a phone (yes everyone, I did join the 21st century last July when I went overseas).
I'm impressed Mr. Norman, even I don't generally access Railroad.net from my phone!
Are you talking about http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/search.p ... d=23317533" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;, Gilbert?

motor
I just double checked the railroad.net Rail Travel & Trip Report Forum and couldn't find anything......thanks for following up on that motor.
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