Comments

  1. TravisM says

    I just bought two round trip tickets the other day, from Everett to Leavenworth as a surprise for my wife (who never checks this blog) and it was only $60 for two RT tickets!

    Now our only gamble will be watching the train status on morning we leave for any delays.

  2. tonya says

    Cool, but the times really aren’t condusive to a quick weekend away. Leave Seattle at 4:40, return at 6 am…

    • aw says

      Clearly, we need more frequent trips on the route. A second Empire Builder trip would be nice, but a state supported train would be helpful too.

  3. Nathan from Astoria says

    What we really need is a train that leaves Seattle at like 10am and gets to Spokane around 5pm or so, let it sit overnight there and run back at about 10am and get to Seattle about 5pm…

    Come on Amtrak, BNSF and State of Washington, it CAN be done. All you need is 2 trainsets…the crew base is there. Run it as another Cascades-branded train, but one that actually runs over the Cascades. I would say that there is a ton of untapped ridership in Spokane to go to Seattle, but nobody wants to go because they don’t want to get on a train at 2:30 in the morning.

    • publicadministrator says

      I’d second that plea for a Seattle/Spokane train service with reasonably timed departures and arrivals. What I never understood is why Amtrak doesn’t schedule and market train travel as an alternative to driving for weekend travel.

      There are many of us willing to leave the car at home for a weekend trip to Vancouver, Portland or Spokane. But to get a suitable number of passengers to make that leap Amtrak needs to meet 2 out of 3 conditions: reasonable departure times; reliable on time performance; and ticket cost commensurate with the liberation from driving duty balanced with perceived loss of independence and convenience. So far only the recent addtional train to Vancouver comes close to filling that bill.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        The Seattle/Spokane run is of course but a small part of the Seattle/Chicago Empire Builder route. Along its length there are other constraints, so it’s not like it would necessarily be optimized for Seattle/Spokane trips.

        In this specific case, I could be wrong, but I believe the desire is for the trip through the Montana Rockies to be during daylight hours, for reasons that should be obvious.

      • publicadministrator says

        I understand the Seattle/Spokane is a segment of a larger run. My curiosity is whether Amtrak should schedule and market its service as an alternative to driving to weekend destinations between those hubs where considerable interstate vehicular travel already exists.

        Isn’t there considerable ridership and profit to be gained from scheduling around weekend trips between Seattle/Spokane. Besides week day depatures could be scheduled for daytime viewing of the mountains.

        Passengers boarding the Empire Builder in Seattle for Seattle are enduring a marathon journey that very few airline passengers would ever consider. Add in the cumulative delay for freight traffic in that shared corridor and those who do go Amtrak vow never to do so again. I know I did after a 22 hour trip from Seattle to Oakland was 5 hours late.

      • Jim Cusick says

        “Passengers boarding the Empire Builder in Seattle for Seattle are enduring a marathon journey that very few airline passengers would ever consider.”

        You’re comparing apples to oranges, since one takes airline flights for their ability to cover long distances quickly, although I would consider being shoe-horned into an airline seat for more than 3 hours a ‘marathon journey’

        “Add in the cumulative delay for freight traffic in that shared corridor and those who do go Amtrak vow never to do so again. I know I did after a 22 hour trip from Seattle to Oakland was 5 hours late.”

        You should compare train travel to driving the same route, well at least the same point to point destinations.

        Granted the train takes a bit longer than driving in many cases (your Seattle – Oakland trip is approximately a 14 hour drive (I added meal and bathroom breaks)), but nothing bad happens if you drift off to sleep, read, text message (assuming nearby cell towers), etc. during the journey.

        Jim

  4. Frequent Voter (i.e. not Mallahan) says

    Sorry but these prices seem a little stiff for such a short trip, with infrequent service and bad scheduling. My wife and I drove over and back in our Prius, and I’m sure our marginal trip cost was only a fraction of that trainfare.

      • justin says

        Josh I’m not getting your point, so you are saying $80 is a good deal compared to $14 in gas? They already have to pay for the capital costs of the car, so it’s really just gas and 240 miles closer to a repair.

      • Matt the Engineer says

        What Josh is saying is that your view of costs is wrong. Say you paid $25k for your car and it will last 200k miles. You’ve just used up $30 in the capital cost of your car. And let’s say there’s a $500 repair every 30k miles. That’s another $4. Another $2 for tires. So far that’s $50, not assuming such trips add to your insurance (mine is roughly mileage-based). Add in the potential of an injury or death and related costs from a collision…

      • justin says

        I know what you are getting at I just don’t agree. first you can make the numbers anything you want. my car costs 12k used, my depreciation curve is much less then your example. your curve assumes a zero dollar amount for the car after 200k. my tires last 50k miles, a 240 mile trip is not a big cost. my insurance is not mileage based. anyways my point is that saving those 240 miles from my car costs much less than taking the train. Add in taking 3 people up and the numbers just get terrible for the train.

        i love transit but unless I could give up our family’s one car it just does not pencil out. Also once you get there we always go hiking… need a car for that.

      • Jim Cusick says

        Justin,

        Try this website: http://www.aaasouth.com/auto_cost_calculator.asp

        I plugged in numbers that fit for my 84 4×4 S10. I only mention that it’s a 4×4, because those vehicles tend to not fall off the books completely like other generic cars I’ve owned. (i.e. NO trade-in value)

        I put in numbers that fit my spending (and savings on labor costs) with this vehicle.

        I can get the per-mile cost down to about 20 cents per mile. That is competitive with the cost of a R/T Amtrak ticket for one person.
        You are correct, when you carry more people in your vehicle, the cost of driving vs. the cost of train tickets becomes a wash. Generally, four people per car is about where it’s better to drive, unless you’re the one always driving, I suppose. (using .50 mile)

        However, the costs for my example above are for a vehicle that I would call… austere.

        If your vehicle doesn’t have zero value after $200k, to keep the ‘residual value’ high, your maintenance costs go way up, because you have to perform major repairs to keep it in ‘like new’ condition.

        And be thankful when you drive over the passes that the roads aren’t privately owned. You are driving on highly subsidized roadways. And no, the gas tax you pay (per mile=.02) along with all the other users don’t come close to paying for the building of (amortizing the cost over the lifespan of the highways), and the maintenance (especially during the winter) of those roads.

        Jim

    • Jim Cusick says

      I am eternally fascinated by those who only look at the cost of gas as the total cost of driving.

      Having been a gearhead all my life, (and saving big bucks because I can do most all the work myself,) I frankly don’t know why the cost of driving goes over peoples heads!?

      AAA currently puts the per mile cost at somewhere around 58 cents.

      Lets make it real simple, 50 cents per mile is the cost of driving.
      Plain and simple.

      Leavenworth is about 120 miles away from Seattle.

      Total round trip cost would be $120.00 if you drive your car.

      Mr Welch (below) can bring his wife and daughter along ‘for no extra cost’ because he’s already spending $120.00 round trip to drive himself.

      I still don’t get how people miss that.

      Jim

  5. says

    I would love to take the train over there and stay two nights, with a full day in Leavenworth, but… if I’m on vacation, I sure as heck don’t want to get up early enough to catch a 6am train. Sigh. If it was an afternoon return or even late morning I’d be on this thing next week!

    • Jim Cusick says

      litlnemo,

      You can always take the afternoon bus (contracted by Amtrak), back to Everett or Seattle. (It doesn’t stop in Edmonds, though).

      Unless you hate the bus.

      Jim

      • Konrad Roeder says

        For a round trip to Leavenworth and back consider the following:

        8 Empire Builder Seattle, WA (SEA)
        4:40 pm

        Leavenworth, WA (LWA)
        8:00 pm
        3h 20m

        -===-

        With three possible return trips:

        1) 7 Empire Builder Leavenworth, WA (LWA)
        6:08 am

        11-OCT-09 Seattle, WA
        (SEA)

        4h 17m

        2) Leavenworth, WA – Bus Stop (LEV)
        9:55 am

        Seattle, WA (SEA)
        1:05 pm

        3h 10m

        3) Leavenworth, WA – Bus Stop (LEV)
        1:10 pm

        Seattle, WA (SEA)
        4:45 pm

        3h 35m

      • says

        Actually you can get a family discount on Amtrak, but anyway as I posted above you are only looking at the gas costs. Those few hundred extra miles mean an earlier oil change, wear on tires, depreciation due to mileage, etc. Many large organizations including the US government and AAA have estimated this total cost per mile.

        Obviously driving a car instead of taking the train has potential advantages like side trips, but trains have advantages as well. For example, it’s easier to enjoy the scenery on a train. Pick whichever works for you, but Amtrak is not ripping you off.

  6. Craig says

    $20 one way is a pretty reasonable price for the train. I took the Trailways bus back from Leavenworth last year. Just from Leavenworth to Everett was $24. The hours of operation are crappy but the price is fair.

  7. Kaleci says

    Since the Trailways bus is an Amtrak thruway bus, you can take the train on Friday afternoon and return on the bus Sunday afternoon.

    • Konrad Roeder says

      Some guy nominated the Leavenworth (Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach station) Wikipedia page for deletion. He contends the bus stop is not notable. I don’t think it’s a good idea since LEA – the bus stop is located at the quickstop 76 and LWA – the new train station is located on the other side of town up on the hill.

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