Sunday Open Thread: Oregon Amtrak Commuters

From this article on how Oregon’s Cascades ridership is booming.

About Martin H. Duke

Martin joined the blog in Fall 2007 and became Editor-in-Chief in 2009. He is originally from suburban DC, but has lived in the Greater Seattle area since 1997. He resides with his family in Columbia City and works as a software engineer in Lower Queen Anne.




Comments

  1. So last night I saw a crazy guy get (literally) dragged off a bus at around Thomas and Broadway E. Does the KCSO have online crime reports like SPD does so I can find out what happened?

  2. What’s the status of the Cascades painted F59PHs and NPCUs? Aren’t those owned by the State of Washington?

    • The F59s have lately been going to LA on the Coast Starlight. When I came back from LA in September, there was one on #14 as the second unit for HEP. It died in central Oregon and we got a BNSF leader in Portland to get us back to Seattle.

      Amtrak California painted locomotives have been coming north too. I saw one last week at King Street Station.

      • Nathanael says:

        Amtrak’s been doing some heavy repairs on the F59PHs, I think, which can’t be done at Seattle but can be done in California. But don’t quote me on that, I’m not sure about it.

      • Brian Bundridge says:

        The overhauls have been going on at LA for the Cascades and the Amtrak California units have been going to Progress Rail for new 710ECO engines and going back to California. The Pacific Surfliner locomotives have been going to CAT in Tukwila for Head End Power (HEP) engine replacement.

  3. $58 seems underpriced for a monthly pass for an hour-long train trip.

  4. Michael Arnold says:

    I wonder how many commuters we have taking the Tukwila to King Street segment, seems closet to the Oregon City to Portland segment? Beats driving most of the time I am sure.

    • Michael Ragsdale says:

      On my afternoon SB trips, I’ve often seen people getting *on* at Tukwila. That included myself, when I caught the 140 from Southcenter a few times.

      I’ve seen a few people getting off, but more getting on**

      ** Granted: I wasn’t fully paying attention because my attention was usually to my laptop

    • Amtrak says there isn’t enough seats available for Seattle to Tacoma to offer them to commuters but every time I’ve been on it (which is quite a lot) there’s been two empty cars that fill in Tacoma. Seems those cars could be used like NB Amtrak trains are. The amount of money Amtrak would get though is next to nothing. Probably isn’t worth the trouble.

  5. Thumbs down on these Amtrak commuters. They are not only part of the problem, they are the problem.

    • Tim Whittome says:

      What does this mean?????

      • The further one lives away from work, the more problems they create for society. Commuting is a costly and unsustainable lifestyle, no matter what the mode. That’s one of the reasons I admire the great Kemper Freeman. He lives across the street from his office and walks to work. Many of our region’s transportation problems would be solved if more people followed the example of the progressive Mr. Freeman.

      • Jason Barbour says:

        (Actually a reply to Sam’s comment)
        “Live where you work” is great in theory, however in application doesn’t work so well. The less income one has the less likely they are able to “choose” where they live and where they work–one could apply for a job at a location close to them let’s use Bellevue in this example, be interviewed at that local location, then get a call from that company saying ‘we’re offering you a position at our Gig Harbor location; take it or leave it.’ (There’s hard research to back this up, one such report is “Spatial and Social Dimensions of Commuting” in the Winter 2000 Journal of the American Planning Association.)
        There are also those who find a place to live close to their job, only to have that job move to a location across the metropolitan area, and those who work in office parks where neither housing nor necessities are available.
        As the article points out, Amtrak is but one such option for Portland/Oregon City and Portland/Salem commutes: TriMet operates weekday rush-hour 99-McLoughlin Express; and Wilsonville’s SMART and Salem Area Transit team up to run the weekday rush-hour 1X-Salem Express between Wilsonville’s commuter rail station and Downtown Salem (making Beaverton to Salem transit commutes possible with minimal effort).
        As for higher-income commuters, we live in a country where personal choice has been upheld via the First Amendment as superior to rational choice and even common sense, and what works for someone might not work at all for someone else. All one can do is find a situation that works for them and advocate that others do the same.

      • Let’s not forget that some people choose their jobs and they choose their houses and those two things may not be next to each other. I don’t think it’s my or anyone else’s place to tell them where they should work.

      • I’ve figured it out… Sam is Kemper Freeman! And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for us meddling kids.

        Other things that Sam doesn’t like:

        - Two-income households (unless they both work for the same employer)
        - Highways (since they encourage people to travel long distances)
        - Motorized vehicles (same)

      • Unless it’s Kemper’s private helicopter, then it’s OK.

      • While I believe 5-15 mile commutes to work are reasonable, it is important to draw the line somewhere. If someone wants to commute to work 50-100 miles every day each way on a train with prices and schedules oriented towards people making once-a-year vacations, ok. But that person shouldn’t expect special service with commuter-oriented schedules (lots of trains a rush hour, nothing any other time) and taxpayer-subsidized prices.

        For example for our area, I think expresses between Seattle and Tacoma are ok because Tacoma is a big city in its own right and there’s a lot of traffic going back and forth. But no bus should be providing a one seat ride between Seattle and DuPont unless it’s also moving people between Seattle and Olympia. And such a bus should cost maybe $10-15, not $3 and should be running every hour or two all day in both directions, not making a 40 mile deadhead for a single 40 mile commute trip at rush hour, with no service at other times.

    • Mike Orr says:

      It means Sam has just taken his troll pill.

    • Kemper Freeman living across from his office is a rather new phenomena for him, and many folks living in downtown Bellevue.

      I would not ascribe his behavior as progressive, now what I suspect would he.

      • I wonder how many of the workers in his buildings live across the street.

      • Helps to have a pedestrian bridge too.

      • Of course it’s progressive. It’s like a right-winger who drives a mini car and recycles his trash. Maybe he does it to reduce his environmental impact, or maybe he does it purely for convenience

  6. GuyOnBeaconHill says:

    Adding a morning departure southbound from Portland with an evening return would be a great move and it might cause Oregon Cascades ridership might really take off. The reality in WA is that passenger counts have dropped. I think mudslide fatigue is that main cause.

    • Mudslides are bad for us. When I book that ticket I wonder if I’m riding a train (Which is why I’m buying the ticket) or riding a bus which I can’t stand. In their defense though they will refund you if you end up being put on a bus and you don’t want to. If you decide not to take the bus you’re no worse off then you were before driving.

    • zefwagner says:

      That would be great. I would love to be able to take a day trip to Eugene, but it’s not really possible at the moment.

      • Dan Carey says:

        No, it is not, maybe the two new trainsets that ODOT is getting will change that.

  7. Oregon City is 13 miles from Portland, so he’s basically using Amtrak as his Sounder.

    (Did he say it takes an hour??)

    • Oregon City -> Portland is scheduled at 0:41.

      Salem -> Portland is 1:11.

      If there is recovery time in the schedule at Portland, it might usually take less time.

      • BTW, the timetable has Oregon City at 15 miles from Portland and Salem at 52 miles.

      • The penultimate paragraph cites the precise trip time as 17 minutes from Oregon City. Salem is an additional 42 minutes away.

        Still, that’s a very low fare for any such commuter trip. If the Oregon DOT is going to promote it as a commuting choice, it needs to bring the fare a little more in line with reality. With essentially no marginal costs, this could put some extra dollars in Cascades’ coffers.

      • The key to making Amtrak commutes work in practice is not so much the schedule travel time, but reliability. Even if the train warps instantaneously from Oregon City to Portland, the commute is still unreasonable if every once an awhile, the train decides to show up in Oregon City and hour or two late. Especially if you’re sitting at the station the entire hour or two with no idea whether the train’s going to pop in in the next five minutes or not. Anytime you’re dependent on a vehicle of any type coming from a long way away, reliability is going to be an issue. Maybe Eugine is not far enough away from Oregon City for this to be a concern. But waiting at Tukwila for a train coming all the way from Portland, or waiting at Edmonds for a train coming all the way from Vancouver B.C. just feels to risky – by the time you’ve allowed enough cushion in your schedule for delays, you’re no better off than just taking the regular bus.

  8. WisDOT is trying to figure out what to do with their shiny new trainsets.

    I hope WSDOT is paying attention. Maybe Wisconsin would be interested in getting rid of them. If their idiot governor had accepted the ARRA grant, they would have the money to build the maintenance base. On the other hand, we got some of that Wisconsin money…

    • Let’s hope Washington doesn’t elect an [ad hom] in the mold of the Wisconsin experience as our next Governor. You know, “mild mannered” appearing but once elected, proceeds to dismantle everything that we’ve invested in for decades and sell off vital infrastructure for private profit. There would go our ferry system, our roads our power system.

      • “Idiot?” We here at STB like to discuss and argue transportation issues in a vigorous, yet polite manner. We like to stick to the issues and avoid name calling. If you can’t abide by STB’s TOS, perhaps this isn’t the blog for you.

      • If a governor does idiotic things, what am I supposed to call him. Please leave the moderation to the moderators.

      • Nathanael says:

        There is no question that Walker [ad hom]. This is merely a statement of fact. I think it is difficult to be more polite than that about Scott Walker.

      • Thank you Sam. Rob McKenna is a good man, through and through. Although no fan of light rail, his courageous actions on the King County Council arguably saved Sound Transit. Furthermore, I have had to fight off hard-core conservatives who have slammed Rob McKenna for saying – and I quote from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/politicsnorthwest/2014589790_mckennasayshesnoscottwalkerbutmaybebutchotter.html – “Collective bargaining is a right. It’s not the problem. The problem is politicians who give away too much at the bargaining table” + he won’t “terrorize them”, them being unions.

        As somebody who just spent a Friday playing tourist using Sound Transit (and Metro) technology in Seattle, I thank all current and former King County Councilmembers who made that happen.

        Finally, anybody who has read “Safe Passage” as I did this weekend would realize that privatizing WSF would be a total dis-ass-ter. A ban on ferry worker striking would have to be lifted and there is the high risk of a monopoly replacing a government-run service.

      • Do I need to point out that I made no references to names in my post other than the [ad hom] Scott Walker? You infer that Mr. McKenna fits that mold. But, if the shoe fits…

    • Nathanael says:

      By the way, thanks for the article link. The money quote:

      “Because of the loss of federal aid [caused by Scott Walker's hostility to train service to Madison] a Journal Sentinel analysis last year found the state could wind up paying more to keep the current Milwaukee-to-Chicago service than it would have paid if the service had been extended to Madison.”

      • Ergo, trains are expensive, ergo, less should be spent on them, wash, rinse, repeat. Then respond to criticisms regarding the lackluster public infrastructure with the rejoinder “let them drive cars.”

  9. Tim Whittome says:

    I see from this article that Romney if elected would try to end federal subsidies for Amtrak – yet another reason to not vote for the guy. I am tired of Republicans beating this horse or drum. In fact, tired of them altogether but that is off-topic.

    The Amtrak Cascades is a key corridor and I hope we can add trains sooner rather than later to the mix.

    I agree with the commentator above who felt that mudslide fatigue was getting to folks on the Cascade/Amtrak/Sounder northern line out of King Street Station. We need to grab a handle on this, otherwise, the pressure will be on to end Sounder north.

    Elsewhere, King Street Phase IIb rennovation kicks off on Thursday at 12.30pm if folks are interested. This is an email I got earlier this past week:
    We’re celebrating the start of construction on the King Street Station Seismic Upgrade project, one of 20 federally funded high speed rail projects:

    What: King Street Station Seismic Upgrade Construction Kickoff
    Date: Thursday, March 15, 2012
    Time: 12:30 p.m.
    Location: King Street Station
    303 S. Jackson Street, Seattle

    WSDOT, the city of Seattle and the federal government are working to restore and upgrade the busy and historic King Street Station to meet current and future needs of expanding passenger rail service. Join Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo, U.S. Representative Jim McDermott, Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond and the city of Seattle as they kick off this crucial phase in restoring this historic landmark.

    Washington state is investing nearly $800 million in federal high speed rail funds to deliver critical rail infrastructure improvements that will improve travel choices, preserve the ability to move freight, and foster economic growth across our state.

    I plan to be there.

    Tim

    • I have photos somewhere from the Phase I kick-off in Summer 1999.

      • Tim Whittome says:

        Interesting. Along came Eyman, however, and I-695 and that was that on the restoration project for ten years.

    • Nathanael says:

      There are an awful lot of phases of this (King Street Station Upgrades) project. I’ve lost track of which parts are done, which parts are in progress, which parts are funded but not in progress, and which parts are planned but unfunded.

      • Dan Carey says:

        I take a train a few times a year, and each time I am there I notice some progress, which is good.

      • Tim Whittome says:

        Well we are at Phase IIb right now which should finally complete the work. The ceiling should get restored along with the exterior and interior light fixings and the opening of the ‘Grand’ staircase, new ticket counters and baggage claim area. I agree, though, that this has been an interminable project and one that should have been completed long ago. The existing work looks great but the schedule has been tentative and exhausting. I have hopes that before the end of next year, it will look really nice and a challenge to the aesthetics of Union Station in Portland. I would like to mention, though, that London rehabiliated and restored the whole of the Houses of Parliament, including Big Ben in less time that it has taken us to get King Street back up to its former glory. Now, that is a depressing view of it!

  10. Tim Whittome says:

    The question of how much Metro customer services employees know about the whereabouts of their buses and those of Sound Transit’s was brought home to me a couple of times last when.

    The first came during the titanic struggle to get to the Sounders game on Wednesday during the time of the accident on the I-90 that backed everyone up for at least 60 minutes (including four members of the team) and to as far back as Issaquah. When I called Metro to get some idea on the delay to the 554 bus I was on, not only had the person at the other end not heard about the accident until I mentioned it, but he said that the 550 bus ahead of me was only delayed by 21 minutes which was clearly wrong.

    Then on Saturday, when I queried where another 554 bus was that was currently nearly 30 minutes late, the rep. tried to convince me that either the bus was right where I was standing or had moved two blocks further down the road and then that it was coming backwards up 2nd Avenue. Either the tracker system is not very good, is broken or someone doesn’t know how to interpret it back at HQ. Either way, it proved very frustrating.

    Metro needs to have a better handle on the location of its fleet and that of Sound Transit’s since they double up on the service.

  11. Idea for Metro service improvements (oversights, missed opportunities, missed potential, etc)

    Route 21
    All Northbound trips originating from Westwood Village should serve the stops southbound on 26th Ave SW at SW Cambridge St and westbound on SW Roxbury St at 28th Ave SW and 30th Ave SW. (Currently, the route makes no stops from the layover point until 35th AVe SW & SW Roxbury St).

    Routes 54 & 55
    These routes should serve SW Avalon Way between 35th Ave SW and SW Spokane St in both driections instead of just northbound-only.

    Routes 21X, 54X, 116, 118, 119
    These routes should operate via the Fauntleroy Expressway in both directions instead of just southbound-only.

  12. Tim Whittome says:

    Linked to problems on Third Avenue in Seattle which we were discussing last week, yesterday I picked up several bags worth of trash from the streets and placed them in trash bins. I did this, though, not on Third Avenue, but on Fourth and Fifth Avenues north of downtown on the way to the Seattle Center. Both Fourth and Fifth have had the number of their trash receptacles removed in recent years which has created more of a problem than existed before. Parts of both have gotten quite bad.

    However, I have a radical suggestion. Though I am sure that most readers of the Weekly and the Stranger dispose of their newspapers responsibly, clearly a lot do not but add pages and pages of the newspapers to the city’s streets, causing blight and a mess. I pick up tons of both newspapers each year and I hate it. Because these papers are free, not everyone picks, reads and gets rid of them responsibly and the urban community is the worse for it.

    My suggestion that the owners of the newspapers will hate, is that a tax be levied on the newspapers to be allocated to the City Public Utilities fund for the cleanup of city streets that necessarily follows from the poor disposal of the papers by some of their readers.

    The Stranger and the Weekly need to step up to their responsibilities here. Third Avenue is a major discarded corridor for these newspapers (but not the only one as Jackson Street by the International District Station is another) and it is getting really irritating.

    • Lack Thereof says:

      Clean up the papers and there will be fast food bags and junk food wrappers.

      The only comprehensive solution is to add more trash cans. LOTS of them.

      As any retail employee knows, the average citizen leaves a trail of litter behind wherever they go. If you can make sure there’s an obvious trash can every 10 yards, you stand a chance at stemming the tide. If they can’t see it or it’s more than a few steps away, the garbage is just going to end up on the sidewalk.

      • Tim Whittome says:

        I agree on the trash bin issue. Sometimes, I feel, though that some folks will actually move a trash bin in order to be able to hurl their trash to the surrounding ground.

        I did ask SPU about placing more bins on 4th and 5th Avenue but due to cut backs they feel that the streets are not as well traversed as those in the central core and therefore in need of less of a cleanup. However, they clearly haven’t been thinking of what happens to people coming back from some huge event at the Seattle Center.

        Everything is too haphazard with regard to the aesthetics of some of the avenues and whilst some outlets have done good work with the trees along them, others don’t bother and the City doesn’t seem to have the funds or the will power to ensure aesthetic conformity. Shame because 5th Avenue at least is a tourist route.

        On the whole, though, Seattle is an exceptionally clean and well maintained city which may partly explain why I notice the parts that are not so vividly.

    • Tim is following my advice of employing the broken windows theory to improve 3rd ave.

      • Tim Whittome says:

        Yes, trash begets trash, broken windows beget broken windows and un-removed graffiti begets yet more of it. Urban blight endlessly recycled……

    • Nathanael says:

      Newspapers actually belong in recycling bins. Maybe a “save the trees” ad campaign might help….

      • Nathanael says:

        I’m assuming Seattle’s street trash cans have recycling bins too?…

      • Tim Whittome says:

        Seattle has lots of recycling bins on its streets, but whether they are used correctly, I couldn’t say. Did see some conscientious soul sorting his trash the other day into the correct one.

  13. I used to love commuting to Edmonds on the Cascades. More comfortable than the Sounder. Never occurred to me to get a beer on board, but in hindsight, DUH. (I took a bus home from the train station, so no need to worry about drunk driving.)

  14. downintacoma says:

    Just a reminder for those interested: the Tukwila Sounder Station will be having an open house at the station (7301 Longacres Way, Tukwila) tomorrow, March 13th, 3:30p to 6:30p during the afternoon peak.

    Official details: http://projects.soundtransit.org/Projects-Home/Project-Updates/Tukwila-Sounder-Station-Update.xml

Sign in or create an account to save your credentials and make commenting faster.



You may want to read our comment policy.