Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

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

Post by Gilbert B Norman »

gokeefe wrote: I just double checked the railroad.net Rail Travel & Trip Report Forum and couldn't find anything......thanks for following up on that motor.
The material is now at Worldwide Forum:

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... =149&t=909" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

motor
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by motor »

Gilbert B Norman wrote:
gokeefe wrote: I just double checked the railroad.net Rail Travel & Trip Report Forum and couldn't find anything......thanks for following up on that motor.
The material is now at Worldwide Forum:

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... =149&t=909" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Thanks, Gilbert. And gokeefe, you're welcome.

motor

n2cbo
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by n2cbo »

Greg Moore wrote:
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.
Knowing Obama, he will probably propose building a bridge to Cuba from Key West... Heck, it will only cost a few trillion dollars... 8^) :wink:

To Moderator:
Sorry, I just HAD to say it...

Woody
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by Woody »

I'll ignore the impact of Cuban and Cuban-American passengers on rail or air.

The impact from cruise passenger counts could be enormous. (Those die-hard
opponents in Congress may hear from politically powerful cruise ship owners
before this debate is settled.)

Currently cruises leaving South Florida are of two types. One is short trips to
the Bahamas. The other is long trips to the West Indies ports, or the Mexican
resorts of Cancun and Cozumel. The longer itineraries involve at least one
full day at sea each way, which many customers find a boring waste of time.

With open borders, cruise ships will not have to sail past Cuba before reaching
exotic harbors. The new itineraries will include a day in Havana and probably
another day in Santiago, near the southeastern end of the island. (The superb
harbor at Guantanamo most likely will remain off limits. LOL.) Of course,
a cruise company could probably build another harbor, like the sanitized
island stop just offshore from Haiti.

The new itineraries could offer stops in two new ports instead of wasting
the full days on board. A 10-day (or longer) Caribbean cruise to Puerto Rico
and beyond could replace more distant stops with Havana and/or Santiago
de Cuba, substituting the two full days at sea with land-tour options, and
even saving a bit on fuel from trips with shorter total mileage.

Assuming that many passengers already use Amtrak to get to the docks at
Ft Lauderdale, Miami, and Tampa, what's good for cruises should be good
for Amtrak.

gokeefe
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by gokeefe »

All the more reason to see expansion of sleeping car service from NYP to MIA.

In regards to air service I'm not entirely sure that it will be universal at first. I think we are likely to see service first from KMIA and KJFK. Given that the new Amtrak station will be directly at KMIA I think that would position Amtrak's Florida service well for some incremental ridership gains.
gokeefe

n2cbo
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by n2cbo »

Woody wrote: (The superb harbor at Guantanamo most likely will remain off limits. LOL.)
Actually, when I worked for AT&T many years ago, I had the privilege of working a few days over there. I can just imagine how beautiful the rest of the island is judging how it was there. I only wish that the Cuban people could actually get a REAL democratically elected government that would allow freedom there.

I used to host a nationally syndicated radio talk show back in the 1990's called SPECTRUM "The World's Communications and Technology Magazine Program". It was a call in show in which we discussed all kinds of technology, and communications issues. On one show I was interviewing one of the ministers of communications on the show via telephone, and he had to use clip leads to tap into his neighbor's phone line because his went dead during the middle of the call. The Castro Government at that time had let the telecom infrastructure deteriorate so bad that even the minister of communications didn't have a reliable telephone.

On the other hand, I am an antique car buff, and would love to be able to go and see some of those 1950s American Cars still running...

I thought it rather funny that at the NorthEast Gate of the base on the Cuban side there is a sign saying "REPUBLICA DE CUBA Territorio Libre De America"
Translated to English - "Republic of Cuba, The Free Territory of America"...

gokeefe
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Location: Winthrop, Maine

Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by gokeefe »

n2cbo wrote:I thought it rather funny that at the NorthEast Gate of the base on the Cuban side there is a sign saying "REPUBLICA DE CUBA Territorio Libre De America"
Translated to English - "Republic of Cuba, The Free Territory of America"...
"(A) Country Freed of/from America".

Returning to the discussion at hand..........

Obviously as we have said all along it's "too soon to tell" but I remain optimistic that the certain increase in commerce and travel between the United States and Cuba will result in ridership gains for Amtrak. I think of Miami as a "stub end" terminal right now that is about to regain its rightful place at the center of the nexus between Latin America and North America. Cuba, its commerce, people and the transportation associated with that has been missing from Miami for a very long time. So long in fact that modern patterns of transportation and 21st century transportation policy have absolutely no data at all to understand the potential baseline for impact.
gokeefe

jcpatten
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by jcpatten »

I guess I don't see it.

If someone can afford to fly from Cuba to Miami, chances are they can afford to fly further to their destination. Amtrak's Florida trains don't go all that many places in Florida. You have to get into North Carolina to get anywhere else on the Amtrak system. If they are taking a boat, then they are probably too poor to take Amtrak!

gokeefe
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by gokeefe »

jcpatten wrote:I guess I don't see it.

If someone can afford to fly from Cuba to Miami, chances are they can afford to fly further to their destination. Amtrak's Florida trains don't go all that many places in Florida. You have to get into North Carolina to get anywhere else on the Amtrak system. If they are taking a boat, then they are probably too poor to take Amtrak!
My logic on potential ridership is that many Cubans would likely have relatives living elsewhere in Florida. Travel by rail could very well be cheaper than expensive regional connecting flights which might not even be on the same airline/codeshare. Baggage is also an issue since passengers would have to claim their baggage, move it through customs and then recheck it for the domestic flight. That would almost certainly mean at least one set of bag fees for a domestic flight and possibly again. For family relatives entering for a multi week stay (which would seem more likely than not) baggage probably would be a consideration and Amtrak in fact has something of a strength in this respect with their Florida service trains all offering checked baggage service (soon to be directly from the airport).

I would agree generally that for travel from Miami to points beyond Florida travel by air quickly starts to make better sense but the potential for significant additional ridership on the Florida trains would appear significant to say the least.

I'm sure it will bear repeating for many years to come but this change will be the catalyst for nothing less than a wholesale realignment of the South Florida economy. There are hundreds of thousands of Cuban families living in Florida and a long line of businesses including large multi national corporations who will want to participate in the reopening of trade relations. All of these factors are going to set the stage for potentially explosive economic growth in Florida and Cuba for decades to come.
gokeefe

Cowford
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by Cowford »

A common refrain on this site is: "The US should be more like Europe in its approach to passenger trains." The Economist has an interesting article on-line (Dec 16) entitled "Sleeper Trains: The Death of Berths".

Sleeper trains from NYC? Transit time NYC-MIA ~30 hrs, plus ~2-hr in-transit transfer, plus 11 hrs on a ferry MIA-HAV (it's 240 NM). With a roomette (train only), this would cost no less than $700/RT (PP, double occupancy). A NYC-HAV flight would take ~4 hrs and cost about $400/RT. Demand for a service that would take nearly two days and cost upwards of twice the airfare? In a word, preposterous.

As for the Cuban diaspora in FL, the vast majority lives within Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. If anything, they'd take Tri-Rail to the airport. (Actually, knowing Miami as I do, they'll drive!)

CComMack
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by CComMack »

I have to mostly agree with Mr. Cowford. Anticipating a significant amount of Northeast US-Cuba rail-sail traffic is absurd. 99%+ of the market is going to be owned by 737s and A320s, either direct or connecting through KMIA and KATL. However, I think the rail-sail journey to Havana will eventually be possible to cobble together, but only out of components that will be primarily for the benefit of entirely different markets.

The key will be (in a familiar refrain for American railroading) the demands of freight traffic across the Florida Straits. The overall volume will be highly dependent on political decisions, both bilateral and internally to Cuba, but it seems highly probable that there will be some, and the question becomes how it will be served. Even the most successful ferry routes in Europe, whether they run across the Channel, the Irish Sea, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, or any of the arms of the Mediterranean, are primarily oriented around truck traffic. Walk-up passenger service, while a nicely profitable sideline, does not pay for the boat. On the other hand, once you have to build a Ro/Ro ferry for trucks, there's no reason not to build a slightly bigger boat for passenger car drivers and walk-up passengers, because doing otherwise is throwing money away. (If you've ever wondered why Eurotunnel trains have never captured much more than half of the cross-Channel market, this park of the economics of ferries is why.)

The question becomes, will there be enough time-sensitive goods trading back and forth to warrant RoPax ferry service, or will US/Cuba trade be happening solely by containers, stacked high on on slow container ships? Unlike Ro/Ro ferries, there's no significant economic incentive to add passenger facilities to a container ship. Part of the answer will have to come in the form of another question: will Cuba's ongoing investments into its own internal transportation be primarily oriented towards its roadway network, or its railroads? If Ferrocarriles de Cuba can improve the reliability of its own service, that might tip the balance in favor of all-container intermodal. If the improvements go to the autopistas, then you will see more truck and car traffic drawn across the Straits.

To bring this back to Amtrak, the more I consider this, the more I think that the primary impact to Amtrak will be to the Auto Train, not to the Silver Service. Although the overwhelming majority of Auto Train traffic will always be for Central Florida, and most of the balance for South Florida, I can definitely anticipate a period where many Americans going to Cuba who want to have a car, will have to (or prefer to) bring their own. The Auto Train is still the time-effective and (usually) cost-effective way to do that from the Mid-Atlantic and New England. I'm on-record (in the Auto Train threads) as thinking the way forward for that service involves more capacity derived from the present terminals, which will necessarily involve a second daily round-trip. Any increase in demand, in my view, will only accentuate that case.

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

Post by Gilbert B Norman »

The "Game Plan" that the Florida ports seem to have is one where ocean going vessels of the 200KGRT varietal will enter and transload their cargo to smaller vessels that can call at various Caribbean ports which in a normalized trading environment would include Cuba.

But let us not forget that trading with Cuba will be with a partner that has no particular access to "hard" currency. It will be like kids trading marbles or sports trading cards. Developing sources for hard currency will be paramount; if one thinks tourism and "Yanqui Dollars", the lobby for US tourist destinations will be heard in the halls of Congress (think Florida and Sen. Rubio). Same of course for sugar interests (again think Florida).

I still hold concerns expressed at several Forums around here that the East Coast ports are ready to throw a Post PANAMAX party; what if nobody came?

Passenger trains; I'm really surprised this topic was originated.

gokeefe
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by gokeefe »

Gilbert B Norman wrote:Passenger trains; I'm really surprised this topic was originated.
The most significant reason in my mind was the sheer length of the embargo and the changes in U.S. passenger rail during that period. When we last had normalized relations Seaboard Air Line and the Atlantic Coast Line were still independently operating railroads. What would become the Seaboard Coast Line (SCL) was still years away and the Florida East Coast Railway was still running a full passenger service.

Cuba and its associated trade and commerce were a very significant part of the Florida economy right up to the embargo and subsequent expropriation of property by the Castro regime. My thought in bringing up the discussion was and remains an exploration of the potential impact to Amtrak's passenger service which for all intents and purposes has treated South Florida as a "dead end" for many years now.

I think the improvement in relations is likely to bring major changes to travel patterns in South Florida that are extremely difficult to understand or predict due to the lack of recent data for that area during a period in which trade with Cuba was active.

If I added 11 million people to upstate New York overnight would we wonder about the effect on ridership? Yes. Obviously we aren't adding 11 million Americans with American levels of per capita income but we are adding 11 million people with 2 million relatives living in the United States with American levels of per capita income (or close to it). Many of these people are concentrated in South Florida. While I agree that the case for travel from the Northeast feels weak I don't know what to make of the potential in South Florida. I also agree that there will be an impact on the Auto Train which is hard to understand or easily quantify.

It's a challenge and to the extent that we can try to analyze this question I think we might come closer to some real thought about all of this than most anywhere else.
gokeefe

deathtopumpkins
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by deathtopumpkins »

If I added 11 million people to upstate New York overnight would we wonder about the effect on ridership? Yes.
But upstate New York is not separated from the rest of the country by 200 miles of open water like Cuba is (well, 90 from Key West, but the railroad hasn't gone there in 80 years anyway). If Cuba were actually attached to Florida, with rail already running there, this would probably result in a noticeable uptick in traffic, but it's not, and any increase in travel is going to go to the airlines and maybe cruise ships.
Call me Connor or DTP

Railfan & Roadgeek from the North Shore of Mass.

GWoodle
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Re: Effect on Ridership of the Cuban American Thaw

Post by GWoodle »

Somehow the rest of the Gulf ports so far have been ignored. There should be other ships from Mobile to New Orleans & Texas that would benefit from a route to Havana or the rest of Cuba. There may be 1 cruse line operating from New Orleans?

At this point it is difficult to get east from the Midwest or south to get to Florida unless you drive or fly. No opportunity for Amtrak to gain anything.
Glenn Woodle

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