Rider Alert: Amtrak Cascades Service Canceled Until Tuesday

Two separate mudslides have canceled all Amtrak service between Portland and Vancouver BC.  Conforming with BNSF’s 48-hour moratorium following such events, service is expected to resume on Tuesday morning.

  • Buses will completely replace trains 501, 506, 508, 510, 513, 516, and 517 .
  • Trains 11 and 14 (Coast Starlight), 500, 507, and 509 will run as trains between Eugene and Portland and as buses between Portland and Seattle.
  • Train 504 (Portland to Eugene only) is unaffected.
  • Due both to our mudslides and heavy snow in Minnesota/North Dakota, please check with Amtrak regarding the status of the Empire Builder.  Over the next two days trains will be severely delayed and will originate either at Everett or Spokane (depending upon tardiness) and passengers will be bused to/from Seattle.
  • North Sounder will not run on Monday.  South Sounder is currently unaffected.

Real-time train information is always available here.  Given the likely extent of flooding in Western Washington through Tuesday, bus replacement may soon experience its own delays or cancellations.  Stay tuned.




Comments

  1. So if one of the slides is between Everett and Seattle (if I’m reading this correctly), then wouldn’t north Sounder service also be affected?

  2. Be glad you weren’t in Minnesota yesterday. Talk about a snowpocalypse!

  3. It seems like you can practically predict every time we get a big snow or a big rain these mudslides happen. Glad Amtrak has the bus backup plan at the ready.

    • Why is this though? What would it take to shore things up and prevent such regular occurrences in the future?

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        It would take making it cost-effective for BNSF to do so – basically, paying them to do it.

      • Jim Cusick says:

        BNSF takes care of its own property, the problem is that it is adjacent properties that are sliding onto the tracks.

      • They should get the railroad cops out to harrass those properties for tresspassing on the ROW.

      • Another reason why the eastside line should be retained and rehabbed. Not only so we can have rail service to the eastside, but the Amtrak trains atleast with some delay could use it get around the mudslide prone section.

      • Guy on Beacon Hill says:

        The State has applied for money to stabilize the slopes along the BNSF rail lines as part of the HSIPR program. It may have been part of the recently announced $161 million award.

  4. AMTRAK rain service for Seattle totally stopped.

    North Sounder train service stopped.

    Buses expected to operate.

    Where are they getting the buses to do this? There are that many “extra” buses around? Or, are buses being pulled of their normal routes to take the place of these trains?

    How many buses are they going to operate to take the place of these trains?

    • Zach Shaner says:

      Not sure about the number of buses, but if I remember correctly Amtrak charters Starline coaches for these replacements. Given your many many rides on Link, you can see the Starline coach yard just south of the Rainier Beach station on MLK. =)

      Not sure about Community Transit’s extra capacity to operate additional Sounder shuttles or extra runs on peak routes (416 to Edmonds, 417 to Mukilteo, or 510 to Everett)…but they seem to handle it pretty well when these events occur.

      • I think Amtrak uses whoever they can get on a short notice. In years past i’ve seen MTR western and Grey Line of Seattle do the charters as well. Basecally all amtrak cares about is who can get 53 pax highway coaches to the station usually in very short order. During weekends its too bad Amtrak cannot contract out with some of the local transit agencies for short haul moves.

    • When my train from Vancouver was broken down before it left the station, Amtrak chartered some ten buses and booked thirty hotel rooms, which they offered on a first-come basis. My bus normally did charter tours. Different buses went to different destinations, so mine stopped only in Edmonds and Seattle. It took at least an hour to reach Canada Customs to let us out of our “cage” (the officers had already gone home), and another hour for the buses to arrive. So we went through US Customs a second time at the border.

    • Jim Cusick says:

      That depends on how full the trains are. A sold out Amtrak Cascades trainset can hold 250+ people.

      With conditions like today, there aren’t always buses available.

  5. When a bus route is blocked by a mudslide, do they ever utilize standby trains replace bus service?

    • During the latest Snowstorms there were lots of stories of folks using Link and Sounder to avoid buses. Can’t say I know what the numbers were – I think we’re still waiting for the ridership numbers to come in.

    • When was the last time I-5 north or south out of Seattle was blocked by a mudslide? I can’t remember that happening. Certainly not all lanes in both directions.

      • Yes Norman, we get it, you love freeways.

      • Mudslides I dunno, but Google has a number examples of I-5 closures due to flooding. At this very moment it is reported that the Southbound off-ramp from I-5 to South Center is closed due to flooding.

      • I seem to recall last year that I-5 in fife was nearly, if not entirely closed by flooding as several lanes were flooded out.

      • Charles is right – I-5 is more susceptible to flooding – particularly in Lewis County. I recall it was totally closed in January of 2009.

        Highway 101 is more susceptible to mudslides. Like the train tracks it tends to run along the coast with slide-prone slopes on the other side.

      • I just looked it up – I-5 was closed in Centralia for four days in December of 2007 and again in January of 2009.

      • I don’t know about mudslides, but it seems to get jammed up quite frequently all by itself. Particularly around Tacoma, for some reason,

      • It frequently gets jammed up right around Joint Base Lewis-McCord. Why this is at all relevant to Cascades service being cancelled, I’m not sure…

      • Centralia is not exactly in or out of Seattle, now is it?

        Was there no way to detour around that low spot on I-5 with buses and cars? Or did all buses just have to sit on the highway until the waters receded?

      • As I recall at the time, there was a 200 mile or something detour around the flooding in Cnetralia that involved I-84 through Yakima and a mountain pass or two.

      • BTW, if the BNSF and FRA permitted it, Cascades could be detoured via Seattle-Auburn-Stampede Pass_Yakima-Pasco-Vancouver-Portland. If the Milwaukee Road line still existed, that would be another alternative.

      • Also, the southbound lanes of I-5 were entirely closed during the snow storm for about 12 hours or so while they cleared a multiple-vehicle accident. Luckily the Express Lanes had been kept open southbound or it would have been virtually impossible to get into downtown from the north end that day.

      • I looked up the mudslide locations. The one blocking Seattle-Portland service is just north of Vancouver, WA apparently.

  6. Time to build a second mainline through Western WA. Every winter it seems we have landslides on the line, especially in the north.

  7. The point here is that anyone who reads the paper or even watches teevee knows that I-5 has been closed in Lewis County and near Lake Samish up north on more than one occasion, sometimes requiring extensive detours. Instant gratification (for auto drivers or rail/bus/air passengers) simply is not in the cards anywhere, ever.

  8. Well ST botched another simple bus transfer. At this mornings 5:56 am train, the train showed up and went right on through, on time. Meanwhile we all had to ride the bus.

    Of course the Starline replacement coach got into Seattle five minutes after the train normally would.

    What’s crazy is that the driver didn’t take the Mukilteo expressway to I-5. Instead he made a left turn onto the Boeing freeway and hit I-5 in south Everett. The driver added at least TEN extra minutes to the schedule.

    This agency is supposed to plan for these contingencies. How in the hell could you guys not know what the shortest route to Seattle is in the 21st Century?

    Plus, since we were let out way in front of the station, I forgot to tap my Orca card on the way off. So now I can expect a 124 dollar fine or who knows. In fact, to tap it I would have had to climb up to 4th Avenue, then back down to the commute platform, then head back UP again to 4th Avenue.

    What gives? Can’t you guys plan a lil’ better? NO SHELTER AT Mukilteo, not even a co-ordinated bustitution; you have had plenty of time and experience already, how come you guys at ST just can’t get your act together when it counts?

    • You mean that, if the bus had taken the best route, the bus would have been five minutes faster than the Sounder train trip is?

    • There’s no fine for not tapping out. Tapping in charges the maximum possible trip from your starting point. Tapping out refunds the difference between the maximum trip and your actual trip. From Mukilteo the maximum trip is Mukilteo-Seattle, and you did get off in Seattle, so it wouldn’t make a difference.

  9. Norman, the bus would’ve beaten the train by ten minutes in my estimation. ST just didn’t send their bustitution driver the correct route map, instead we ended up in needless gridlock and wasted gas and time.

    I appreciate how hard many ST employees work, the ones I see on the ground are usually professional, to say the least.

    But one has to wonder about the top end……what do they do exactly? What am I paying them for?

    • Do you have the option of taking a bus every day that would be 10 minutes faster than the Sounder train? Or, is there no regular bus service on that route?

      • Norman, the 417 is probably a shade faster. But I’ve chosen the commute rail option on purpose. Though ST has a long way to go in even completing the Mukilteo platform, I support the train because I want to see it as strong viable option for all users if they so prefer.

        One of the bigger problem is lack of co-ordination between agencies so far, its strange to think that WSF and ST still don’t communicate. With the ferries entertwined with the northern end commutes, their indelibly linked when it comes to cohesive service.

        Reality is that eventually I-5 is going to be so congested my point will be moot, traffic will trump all and that will be that. Then the train will most likely be a lot more attractive to former car users.

      • Rod Nelson says:

        [Ad hominem]

  10. People who work agree..... says:

    It’s nice to imagine that this is still 1965, the Seattle area has half the inhabitants it does now, and that the highways are shiny new and never get jammed up. But the reality is that the highway system is as unreliable as any other form of transport.

    So given the choice between being stuck on a bus in a traffic jam along the ugly and uninspiring I-5, or enjoying a ride along the coast of Puget Sound on a spacious modern train, what’s ten minutes (especially to a non-ideologue)?

  11. Does anyone know the history of railroading in Seattle.

    What loon decided to put the main line along the edge of sand cliff?

    • Guy on Beacon Hill says:

      Old 19th century steam railroads worked best when there wasn’t a lot of elevation to deal with. Most railroads were laid out to avoid going up and down hills and in western WA, that meant following the coastline, even though that created a rail line that was full of curves. In the 21st century, modern electrical traction can handle elevation gain and loss better than 19th century steam locomotives, but it’s very expensive to build new rail lines, so we continue to use the 19th century alignments.

    • They were NOT loons, but highly qualified railway engineers using the scientific method and modern, late 19th century construction methods to introduce steam powered railroading to the Pacific Northwest. Today’s methods are is vastly different from 125 years ago – please do read both some general history and transport history to enlighten yourself.

  12. Due to an additional mudslide, service is still disrupted north of Seattle.
    http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=Page&pagename=am%2FLayout&cid=1237608335997

    With BNSF’s moratorium, service won’t be restored before Thursday.

  13. Does anyone know where this new slide is – in particular, is it south of Everett? I have a ticket for tomorrow’s Amtrak train to Chicago, which goes from Seattle to Everett and then east from there. Amtrak only mentions the Seattle-Vancouver train, and not the Seattle-Chicago train, in their cancellation notice that aw linked to above. But I would imagine that my train is cancelled as well, if “north of Seattle” is taken to mean “just north of Seattle.” I mean, the whole line’s north of Seattle – that’s not very helpful.

    Also, north Sounder would be cancelled for the next two days as well, if this were true. But I don’t see anything on ST’s website…

    Anyone know more?

    • I didn’t see anything on ST’s website or at Seattle Times when I posted the Amtrak rider alert. But I had heard that Sounder North was cancelled on the radio this morning.

      The Empire Builder has been having horrible problems in other areas too. See http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?4,2341070

      • Yeah, Sounder north was cancelled this morning, but I think that was because of the 48 hour moratorium on the previous slide, not anything to do with this new slide. News was reporting yesterday, before any word of this new slide, that Sounder north would indeed be cancelled this (Tuesday) morning, but would be running again this afternoon as usual. There’s nothing to the contrary on ST’s website right now, so I’m guessing that the new slide has got to be somewhere north of Everett. I hope it is.

        I think those snow/cold issues in the upper Midwest should be fixed by the time my train gets there on Thursday night… hopefully… after all, the big storm was last weekend. They’ll have had almost a whole week by then.

    • From Amtrak at mid-day yesterday:

      “December 13, 2010
      2:30 pm EST

      Severe weather, including high winds and blowing and drifting snow, has caused weather related infrastructure problems, avalanche watches and warnings as well as delayed and standing freight trains resulting in canceled or delayed service on Empire Builder routes (Chicago – Portland/Seattle).

      As a result, several trains are currently delayed, and the following services have been affected:

      Empire Builder routes going west: Trains 7 and 27 originating on December 14 have been canceled. Alternate transportation between Chicago and Minneapolis and Spokane, Seattle and Portland will be provided.
      Empire Builder routes going east: Trains 8 and 28 originating on December 14 have been canceled. Alternate transportation between Seattle, Portland and Spokane and Minneapolis and Chicago will be provided.
      Alternate transportation is not available between Minneapolis and Spokane.
      Amtrak will continue to monitor the weather conditions and will provide additional updates as necessary.

      Amtrak regrets any inconvenience. This information is correct as of the above time and date. Information is subject to change as conditions warrant. Passengers are encouraged to call 800-USA-RAIL or visit Amtrak.com for schedule information and train status updates.”

      I’d not bet on a train east of Spokane – does anybody know where the two “missing” sets of eastbound Empire Builders are?

    • No new news about the Empire Builder, but WRT Cascades, Amtrak now says:

      Another Mudslide North of Seattle Further Delays Restoration of Service

      December 14, 2010
      5:45 pm EST

      Due to an additional mudslide north of Seattle, BNSF railway has suspended rail traffic until 1 pm on Thursday, December 16. This will affect Amtrak Cascades service between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Passengers are encouraged to visit Amtrak.com or call 1-800-USA-RAIL for train status updates.

      Amtrak service south of Seattle is not affected by the latest mudslide.

      Amtrak will continue to monitor the weather conditions and will provide additional updates as necessary.

      Amtrak regrets any inconvenience. This information is correct as of the above time and date. Information is subject to change as conditions warrant. Passengers are encouraged to call 800-USA-RAIL or visit Amtrak.com for schedule information and train status updates.

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