Amtrak 452 Braid New Westminster BC 2005/03/30
Amtrak Cascades, by Stephen Rees

Here’s a killer news round-up:

  • Amtrak is working to get a second train to BC, but is getting the run-around from the Canadian Government. The Canadians want to charge $1500 a day for customs and immigration services for the train, and while that might not sound like a lot, Amtrak does not have a massive budget and doesn’t want to pay the fee. You’d think the Canadians would see the benefits of the additional tourism dollars, especially with the Olympics coming, but so far no progress has been made in getting the fee waived..
  • The P-I mentions that the state legislature is becoming a major hurdle in getting an MVET to pay for the increased bus service that King County wanted as a part of the viaduct construction. With Ron Sims in DC, who’ll fight for it?
  • The PI also takes a jab at the 20-40-40 rule in discussing a Municipal League Report that argued for Metro to take a serious look at its finances.

    Metro will also have to “squeeze every ounce of productivity and service out of limited resources.” That will require re-examining a highly political formula that has been designating most new service for far-flung, low ridership suburbs. It should also bring much more serious attention to labor costs.

    Well put. I agree its remarkable that Metro hasn’t yet cut service.

  • As Publicola notes, Maria Cantwell voted against the ill-conceived auto-purchase “stimulus” amendment, but worked to get an electric car amendment onto the bill.
  • This is sort of a sad story of a woman who was forced to move from her home to make way for the Capitol Hill light rail station. It isn’t like she didn’t get paid a fair price for her house, or have it come as a surprise, since Sound Transit notified her more than 10 years ago.
  • The argument against transportation spending.

18 Replies to “News Round Up: Trains, Buses and Cars”

    1. That’s a silly argument – our Canadian brethren would get all the benefit of extra tourist dollars and visitors into Vancouver, BC. We need not just one extra train but more – the second train to Vancouver is merely a first step in what is hoped will be many more trains in the future. Sadly none are planned beyond this second one, but we do need this one and the Canadians should pay their share as they get the benefit from it.

      As for Amtrak having a massive budget, it has been starved for years now and so the backlog of needed projects is enormous – our State alone has a ton of them from track bypasses in the Tacoma-Point Defiance area to additional sidings in our own Vancouver to improving the track speeds all along the Amtrak Cascades corridor.

      1. I wonder how much Canada charges each plane load of visitors for custom charges (excluding normal landing fees)
        This is a direct benefit to them, especially gearing up for the Olympic games in Feb 2010, and the fact that the border crossing construction will not be ready, causing multi hour waits at the border.

      2. Of Passenger Trains pulling into Pacific Central Station, there is only one daily train, and it is not VIA Rail Canada’s Tain 1, the Canadian. It is Amtrak Cascades. The Canadian only runs Tri-Weekly, since the cuts inflicted on VIA in 1990 by the Progressive Conservative government of Prime Minister Mulrooney. West of Toronto, there is just the Canadian(tri-weekly), Malahat(Vancouver Island, and daily), Hudson Bay(Tri-Weekly), Skeena(Tri-weekly, goes between Prince Rupert and Jasper), and Mixed Train 290/291 in rural Manitoba.

        I would like to see Amtrak Cascades go further into BC, perhaps Prince George, but if the technical details were not a big hurdle, it would be political. That route goes by Whistler, and that is Rocky Mountaineer’s turf. There are stories Rocky Mountaineer Vacations is one of the reasons the Canadian’s frequency has not been upgraded in the last 20 years, nor Vancouver-Calgary service on VIA being restarted.

    2. The vast majority of that money is spent on the Northeastern corridor. Amtrak cascades has a budget of about $23 million, which means this fee would be about 2% of it’s already shoe-string budget.

    3. “Why should Canadians foot the bill…?”!

      Well, for one thing, maybe because the train carries Canadians back and forth across the border, same as it does Americans.

  1. Both the original story and this post, oversimplifies the issue – in fact, the British Columbian provincial government also invested significant planning and funds in track upgrades so that a second daily train could run to Seattle. They are as enthusiastic about the project as Amtrak. However, the current federal government is hapless, and is holding up the project for the aforementioned $1500 fee. Bureaucracy at its finest.

    1. This clarifies the situation a little and I hope that some resolution comes soon – its ridiculous that we have to even debate the logistics behind running a second train on what is a paltry 140 mile journey from SEA to Vancouver. In England, that is approximately the distance between London and Birmingham and there are trains running every 30 minutes or better on that route! This is why we need a much more holistic approach to our railroad problems here – the British Columbia and Washington State governments with Amtrak have footed the bill on improving the track between Seattle and Vancouver and now we need to progress to the next stage of running more trains along the corridor. The fees for the border crossing seems like a time wasting hangup to me at a time when progress would be more beneficial. We need to move beyond looking at Amtrak trips as some equivalent of a nostalgia trip on Thomas the Tank Engine and more as a viable transportation option in times of need and demand.

    1. I wonder if this federal gov’t hang-up is a relatively new development. Has this been a known issue for years, or something new imposed by Steven Harper’s conservatives?

  2. Over here on the East Coast, apparently AMTRAK cannot even get across the border into Montreal at all. From what I hear, the Northbound Vermonter train stops at St. Albans, everybody is deboarded and put on buses. From the border to Montreal is only about 50 miles. the trains used to run through many years ago; seems to be some sort of dispute about crewing. Either way, the whole dispute is foolishness.

    1. Amtrak still operates rail service into Montreal via its once a day Adirondack service which begins its trip in New York City. Also, trains make it to Toronto from New York via the Maple Leaf.

      I wonder who pays for customs charges on these routes?

  3. There really should be a cross-border agreement for all train travel in the US and Canada that creates a funding mechanism for this sort of thing. The sensible formula would use projected ridership (adjusted each year based on historical ridership) and apportion the responsibility for customs fee to each rail agency accordingly. Canada could pay a bit more during the Olympics to account for the actual volume.

    Or better yet, why not negotiate a treaty that eliminates customs checks at the US-Canada border entirely, except for freight trains and trucks? The economic benefit in cross-border travel would massively outweigh whatever dubious law enforcement benefit either country gets from harassing travelers in cars and trains or on foot, plus it would save half a million in year in customs and immigrations costs per added train.

    1. With Iraq winding down, the Military-Industrial complex is going to need some stymulus too. How tough would it be to take Canada in a fair fight?
      Just kidding, don’t get your shorts in a bunch.

      1. That’s funny!! You must watch the Daily Show!

        I am sure our Canadian friends can help us resolve this silly logistical problem. The timing of the train to leave Seattle in the evening and Vancouver in the morning makes this a great service to folks in both cities – Canadians can arrive in the morning and depart at night for a great day trip to Seattle – much as we can do at present if we wish to with the current schedule.

  4. I’m a Canadian, living in the Vancouver suburb of Delta, close to the BNSF tracks where Cascades passes through.

    I am very happy that Amtrak is trying to get a second train to Vancouver, and highly encourage them to fight tooth and nail to get that train up here. Driving constantly down to Seattle and Bellingham to go shopping and catch flights is a pain, and everyone would appreciate and benefit from extra train service.

    Unfortunately, our Federal/Provincial government seem to enjoy putting rail service on the back-burner; the only frequent rail service provided here is the West Coast Express running peak hour runs within the region. Amtrak Cascades is our only frequent out-of-region link, followed by VIA Rail’s Canadian with service 3 times a week to the East Coast.

    As a Canadian, I’m embarrassed to hear of our Government not recognizing the need of environmentally-friendly transport to and from Washington State.

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