Washington and Oregon recently announced a new partnership that will develop a plan for managing passenger rail services between Eugene, Oregon and Vancouver, B.C., as a single corridor, rather than two separate corridors as today. Transportation officials in Washington and Oregon signed an agreement that begins the ground work for faster, reliable, and more frequent Amtrak Cascades service.
What does this mean for passengers? Right now, little will change on the ground, but cost management, productivity, capital planning, and scheduling will be under a single office. John Sibold is the new Cascade Corridor director. Sibold has been the Rail and Marine director at the Washington State Department of Transportation since August and will focus on improving the reliability of passenger-rail service and managing the state’s freight lines.
Plenty more information after the jump!
Spokeswoman Laura Kingman was able to answer some questions regarding this new partnership:
Will Amtrak/WSDOT/OregonDOT be replacing and/or rebuilding locomotives to help improve reliability and performance?
WSDOT will purchase eight new locomotives by 2017 through a competitive bid process and in alignment with national procurement guidelines.
Is WSDOT still looking at purchasing a new Talgo trainset?
WSDOT has funding to buy two new trainsets by 2017. The manufacturer of the trainsets will be determined through a competitive bid process in alignment with national procurement guidelines.
Is there an RFP (Request for Proposal) available for the purchase yet?
The guidelines for the passenger rail equipment is currently ongoing and evolving under a PRIIA (Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act) 305 Committee. Until the committee has come up with guidelines, an RFP cannot be put out to suppliers.
With the ongoing situation with Wisconsin and their trainsets, if they are put up for sale, would WSDOT look at purchasing them?
At this time, we are monitoring the issue but we are not in a position to purchase these at this time. It is unfortunately what is happening there, however.
Will WSDOT be leasing and/or purchasing a location within Freighthouse Square for future passenger rail operations? How will baggage be handled here?
In order for WSDOT to use this station, the Point Defiance Bypass would have to be completed. That potential project is still going through the environmental process so the Amtrak Cascades route may or may not change based on the outcome of the environmental process. Details regarding baggage will be determined if we will be using the station.
With the joint venture, will Oregon’s new trainsets be used on all Amtrak Cascades trains or only Oregon bound trains?
Oregon’s trainsets will be cycled throughout the corridor. A new fleet management plan is being developed, which will help ensure the most efficient use of equipment for the corridor and manage maintenance requirements to keep equipment running optimally.
Will British Columbia be adding any additional funding for increased train service North?
British Columbia has not notified us of any additional funding at this time.
A few other miscellaneous items:
- The new WashDOT Passenger Rail website has a wealth of information on the Amtrak Cascades, including stats for operations, passengers, safety, system planning, facts, and much, much more. The Amtrak Cascades website will link to this page so passengers can understand how Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia work together to maintain the Cascades service.
- For those curious about Amtrak Cascades performance, WSDOT provides a Dashboard of revenue, operations, and more, monthly, available on the new website mentioned above.
- The on-board display screens on the trains will be updated from their current simple scheme to a more user friendly map.
- Movies haven’t been shown since the interior relaunch back in 2008 because the on-board audio system was damaged during prior refurbishment . While audio is available via the PA system, it is not feasible to play movies over this system since it is used by train staff and other important announcements. Currently, there is no money to repair these audio cables, but WSDOT is seeking money for this in the future.
- The other reason Cascades no longer shows movies is because of complaints by passengers of disruption with station on/off’s. On an airplane, a captive audience with minimal amount of people moving about, minimizing disruption; that is not the case on the train.
There will be plenty of changes for the Cascades in the coming years and things continue to look bright for the system.