I received an interesting message on just how long it took 2 of my friends to get to Portland. Cindy took Amtrak since she hates traveling by plane and Jeff took Horizon Air from Seattle to Portland cause he thinks the all of the problems with the trainset will eventually just fall apart. They both agreed to meet at the Starbucks on Broadway and Morrison. Walking distance from Portland Max or the Portland Streetcar. Neither one had checked baggage this time.

Let’s start off with Jeff’s story. His flight was scheduled to depart at 7:30am. He took Shuttle Express from Kirkland around 4:00am after I gave him a heads up to Airport Construction for the light-rail and new expressway. He ended up waiting only 5 minutes for traffic at the unloading zone. The problem was the line for security which was 2 1/2 hours for the puddle jumper 50 minute flight to PDX. His plane left 43 minutes late due to terminal congestion and excessive planes on taxiway according to the pilot he had a bottle of water and you guessed it… peanuts. On approach to PDX, thanks to strong crosswinds forced them to go around which added another 10-15 minutes. When they finally landed, a hard one at that, they were stuck another 10 minutes for their gate to clear up for another late plane that was supposed to be long, long gone. He walked to the Portland MAX to Downtown Portland for a 40 minute ride to meet the misses.

Cost: $107.74 after taxes round trip

4am Departure
Shuttle Express 30 minutes 4:30
Unload delay 4:35
Security 2 1/2 hours 7:05
Onboard the plane at 7:25
Flight Delay 43 minutes – 8:18
Flight Delay 10 minutes – 8:28
Flight Delay 10 minutes – 8:38
Max to Downtown 40 minutes – 9:18

Total time: 5 hours, 18 minutes…for a 50 minute flight….

Onward to Cindy – She opted to sleep in after Jeff took off, her daughter was going to drive her to King Street Station. They left their house at 7:00am arrived at the station at around 7:15am and the train was just pulling into the station. Normally they would load Business Class passengers first but because of the time constraint, they loaded all at once and departed at 7:36am, nearly sold out as she described it. The bistro car opened up just before Tacoma where she got coffee, sausage egg and cheese sandwich, they played A Christmas Story on the monitors. The only delay was 5 minutes while waiting for the Vancouver Rail bridge to close. They arrived into Portland at 11:09am, 9 minutes late. She walked 3 blocks from Union Station to the Portland Streetcar. She got lucky as the car was just a few blocks down dealing with a truck that was trying to pull out of a tight space or something otherwise it would have been a 20 minute wait for the next one and could have walked it in that time. She got off the streetcar and walked 3 blocks to meet Jeff and continue the shopping.

$66 after tax

Delayed Departure: 6 minutes
Delay Bridge – 5 minutes – 11 minutes total delay
Schedule padding – Unknown – Arrived 9 minutes late

Total time 3 hours 39 minutes…scheduled 3 hours 30 minutes

While this isn’t one of those great “Trains are better than Planes, blah blah” postings, I do find it incredible that it took damn near 6 hours for a 50 minute flight once you add everything in. Even the drive time added to Cindy’s trip would have only bumped it up another 15 minutes.

Myself, I look forward to the day that we get semi high speed rail here and bump the scheduled time to less than 2 hours and 30 minutes between Seattle and Portland. Sure it might not be a while but it is coming, when the government gets off it’s rear here and get serious about it like California. The question is, would us in the corridor (Eugene to Vancouver, BC) take the train more… WSDOT says it could do less than 5 hours between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, BC in it’s high speed rail draft….2016-2020 should be interesting.

6 Replies to “Horizon Air vs Amtrak Cascades! Read on…”

  1. Why did your friend wait in the regular security line?

    Horizon Shuttle passengers have a dedicated line at the TSA checkpoint. (At least they do at PDX.)

  2. That’s a good question. I’ll have to call and ask if Sea-Tac has that. I never flown Horizon myself out of Sea-Tac but I’m tempted to compare the services and what Amtrak could do to make it more competitive.

  3. Not really a fair comparison in my opinion. As stated earlier, there is an express line for passengers on the SEA-PDX flights at both PDX and SEA. Plus, the sequence of events was by pure coincidence and probably would not happen again. While the taxi wait would be more common, missed approaches are pretty rare. To me it just looks like your friend was not very lucky that day.

  4. ok so to the ones that are saying this is a unfair comparison. and we assume that the time is exactly the same. I am going to round up the amounts to the nearest 10. You are still looking at the price difference of $110 for the plane and $70 for the Train. I am going to go with the one that will save me $40 for the same time and service to Portland.

    Oh and to the last “guy” that posted it sounds like you use the plane often to go to Portland. Did you know that you can plug your laptop in to any cascade train and get power. so you don’t loose productivity well on the train.

    Now the next thing to provide like they do with the ferry service is wireless internet access.

  5. Well obviously this trip was on very short notice. As long as you book at least 2 weeks in advance the plane ticket is 60 bucks, not 110. Well look at it this way, as both airports have or are getting wi-fi, you can spend 50 minutes in a plane without internet (the battery should last 50 minutes) or 3 and 1/2 hours in a train without internet. So your argument is irrelevant here. So getting to the airport 1 hour early + 50 minutes flight time + 30 minutes for the MAX is only 2:20. Also mind you, the train can be delayed just as the aircraft can. I’ve taken the train twice between SEA and PDX (once each way), and the second trip took nearly 5 hours. That is one advantage flying has, once you leave you leave and are garunteed to land within the hour. (Holding is very rare at PDX, only under the worst conditions would this apply).

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