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Now that Link is well into its first year, it’s going to start making additional investment in transit projects easier on many fronts. One of those is intercity high speed rail.  More after the jump.

The state of high speed rail planning in Washington leaves much to be desired. While we did recently win $590 million in stimulus funding, the projects that money will fund are only advancing us toward 110mph service, referred to as “Emerging High Speed Rail”. Our state’s incremental approach has been successful at building ridership, but its goals are limited – even with many billions more in investment, we’d only eventually reduce travel time between Seattle and Portland by an hour – from 3:30 today to 2:30. These projects do a lot more for freight carriers than human beings. High speed rail service in Asia and Europe has been going faster than this since the 1960s – new lines are over 200mph, in topographies far more challenging than anything we have to offer.

Our high speed rail office will tell you that they have a plan for real high speed rail service, but that the legislature’s not planning to fund the plan. Our current plan ends at service that gets to 110mph in a few places, but sticks mostly to the freight tracks we have today.

We have to sell the idea of going farther than that. And one of the biggest obstacles is showing demand – being able to project strong ridership. It’s especially difficult to do that when people have to take a bus to the station, or pay for parking! But in both Portland in Seattle last year, light rail lines now connect directly to our intercity stations. We should see that start to be reflected in Amtrak Cascades ridership this year.

And we should point this out to the legislature next year. If we start doing real high speed rail planning in 2011, we’ll see higher potential ridership from Link and MAX. By the time high speed rail could be built, we’d see U-Link and ST2 online as well, allowing people from all over the region to get to the station – and they would, if they were looking at a 1-hour trip to Portland.

Five years ago, it could have been impossible to win a fight for high speed rail planning in the legislature. I think that having new rail transit connections in our biggest cities, and now seeing the administration dole out half-billion dollar packages for passenger rail, may change that. The faster we can capitalize on it, the better.

144 Replies to “Link Will Help Make High Speed Rail Viable”

  1. I think the one thing that will get some serious support for spending state money on real high speed rail from Olympia is the prospect of getting big checks from Uncle Sugar.

    Selling the vision just gets you lectures on “fiscal reality” and “hard choices”.

    1. You have to have a plan and project list you can go to the feds with – and yeah, I don’t expect the state to pony anything up for actually building it unless they were getting matching funds.

      If they hadn’t decided to widen I-5, on the other hand… *rolls eyes*

  2. Ben, I applaud the concept of what you propose, but “a 1-hour trip to Portland” might be a bit much to hope for unless you run non-stop between Seattle and Portland. Something closer to 90-minute end-to-end service with stops in Tacoma and Olympia would be more practical.

    I’m uncertain whether a stop in Vancouver would be practical because by the time this project would come to fruition, I expect that the I-5 Columbia River Crossing would have been completed with a light rail line connecting Portland to Vancouver that could be used by travelers; however, having said that, a) it doesn’t entirely make sense that travelers should have to back-track significantly between PDX and VAW when the HSR line would essentially be parallel, and b) this same argument could be used for whether a Tacoma stop is necessary because Link may extend all the way to Tacoma by the time the HSR line is done.

    Lots of interesting stuff to think about here, that’s for sure!

    1. 220mph HSR from Seattle to Portland with stops in, say, Tacoma, Olympia, and Longview could easily get from end to end in an hour. I don’t think there’s any point in it stopping in Vancouver, though, that’s just across the water and would slow it down a lot.

      1. In countries with HSR, does the HS service continue all the way to the in-city station? Or does the train slow down in the city outskirts and proceed to the station at “normal” speed on regular trackage? If the latter, then the stop in Vancouver WA would be fine. It’s just a few yards from the rail bridge across the Columbia River and a few miles from the Portland station.

        I don’t see much to be gained by trying to go through north Portland at +/-200 mph.

      2. I don’t know about Japan, but in France and Germany the high speed trains usually use existing tracks to access inner-city stations. This is partly what made them economical to build, they could use existing stations and track in the city, and then dedicated high-speed tracks in the country where land is cheap. This is starting to change though, with projects like the new high-speed link to St. Pancras station in central London.

      3. Yes, Shinkansen is all dedicated track. France and Germany have built new tracks to some stations, and used old tracks for others.

      4. Japan also doesn’t have as much long-range rail freight–it’s largely either delivered in the metro areas or moved by barges.

      5. in France & Belgium, where the TGV goes, it’s 100 mph within sight of the city, not just to accommodate the old tracks, but to avoid the noise. a train at 200 mph is quite loud.

        Seattle to PDX is 173 miles per Google. According to the California High Speed Rail, they’re planning to go the 174 miles between SFO Airport and Fresno in 1 hour and 3 minutes. So, it’s doable, but would require an entirely new set of dedicated, grade separated tracks. California HSR is spending $20 Billion to go the 432 miles from San Francisco to LA with dedicated tracks, plus buying a fleet of HSR trains, maintenance, stations, etc. I think $10B is a good estimate for trackage from here to PDX, plus a fleet of TGV’s.

        If we can get the travel time closer to 2 hours than 3, we’ll have a heck of a lot of people who are interested in taking the train instead of driving. Baby steps IMO.

        2 1/2 hours is just as quick as flying to PDX, if you figure from city center to city center. If they could do that, and be consistently on time, I think they’d have more passengers than they know what to do with.

        Building a HSR line from scratch is expensive and impractical for all but the most highly traveled corridors. Rapid Rail, first aiming for 110 mph, is what this route deserves IMO.

      6. Well, Vancouver is nearly the same size as Tacoma and significantly larger than Olympia. I think it would need to be served. On my many trips to Portland on the Cascades, a very large number of pax exit at Vancouver (significantly more than Longview or Olympia).

      7. I often get off at Vancouver, even though I’m heading to Portland, because it’s easier for me to be picked up, and it’s much quicker than sitting for 30-45 minutes while Amtrak does the slow crawl to downtown Portland.

      8. And that wouldn’t be the case with a bullet train line, because it would have a new bridge.

      9. I get off in Vancouver often too–it’s usually easier for my sister (who lives near Gresham) to pick me up in Vancouver than to deal with traffic in downtown Portland, and it saves me a tiny amount in train fare.

      10. I use the Vancouver station even though I live in PDX because it has free parking. Nice for trips up north.

      11. If the train stopped in Vancouver, here’s an idea:

        * Southbound in the mornings could be used to help get commuters into Portland
        * Northbound in the afternoon, return to Vancouver

        Not sure what it’s worth or if it could work (you’d have to have decent commuter-friendly fares for that leg)

      12. With a true HSR service that runs frequently enough, the mix of express, semi-express, and local service could really make this a non-issue. There could be perhaps 1TPH that runs express Seattle-Portland, – calling at Tacoma and Olympia only – and 1TPH that calls at all intermediate stations. Even if every other train skipped VAN, I don’t think they would feel slighted if they still had hourly service and MAX access to Portland Union Station.

      13. Exactly. By far, the most ridership is Seattle-Portland anyway, so express service would make a lot of sense.

      14. Ben, by far is right!

        To prove your point, here’s a visualization I did of Amtrak ridership in Washington, Oregon, and BC. I started with a scale of 100,000 annual riders and scaled the radii of the circles accordingly. For example, Seattle’s ridership of 615,000 necessitates a circle is 6.15 times larger than the placeholder radius for 100,000.

        http://www.zachshaner.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/PCNW-Amtrak-Ridership1.jpg

        I apologize for the size of the image, but it had to be that large just to see the miniscule circles for stations like Wishram and Ephrata.

      15. From Zach’s chart, I count about 350K boardings/alightings between SEA and PDX – that will quadruple as the price of gasoline quadruples in the next few years – better to have higher speed track and updated stations ready soon. Then in the 30’s we can move on to 300 KPH services on dedicated lines.

      16. Zach, that’s an awesome graphic. I do recommend using area instead of diameter. :)

      17. I’m confused. These statements are directly from the Amtrak Performance Folio Reporting 2009:

        Amtrak Cascades service carried 761,610 passengers in 2009.

        Seattle had 435,652 total passengers in 2009, only 1,394 more than Portland’s total of 434,258.

        I’m guessing “passengers” means one way trips, which is fine but how do you have more between Seattle and Portland than the total for the system? And where does 615,000 come from?

        Then there’s four trains a day SEA to PDX? Each train can seat about 250 people. If Seattle had 435,652 passengers that’s about 1750 per day 365 days a year. So, by “total passengers” I’m guessing they’re counting each trip twice (once when you board and once when you alight).

      18. The report was specific to the Cascades. I suppose it’s possible station numbers included the Starlight but that just means it’s even more convoluted and unclear. There’s also Trailways buses which I’m betting are included in the numbers but they don’t mention. Seattle to B’ham via Amtrak Trailways is a couple bucks more than Greyhound. Greyhound operates at a profit. Is the bus service padding the fare recovery ratio for Cascades?

      19. The chart is total station ridership, inclusive of Cascades, Starlight, and the Builder. And Ben, diameter was chosen for dramatic effect. Area would indeed be more visually accurate, even if the scaling is the same either way. =)

      20. OK, but looking at the Cascades report I’m thinking 600k is boardings + alightings. It’s a good metric for station activity but it’s roughly double the number of trips which is roughly double the number of people that use the train to make a journey (assuming most are round trips).

      21. Zach, it’s awesome. I also love that you kept the shape of the route intact(ish).

        Bernie, station activity is what matters when you’re talking about connections. This post is specifically relevant to that number, because that’s the number of potential transfers to/from Link and MAX.

      22. The scaling is not the same either way—you’re representing Seattle’s 600,000 as thirty-six times the size of Vancouver’s 100,000.

      1. Ben,

        Respectfully, I disagree. Assume the following:
        – a run of 175 miles
        – no speed restrictions en route (including within urban areas)
        – the train accelerates from stopped to 220mph in the same distance and time as ICE accelerates from stopped to 186mph (p19) (yes, I know this comparison doesn’t quite work, but I’m doing a conservative proof-of-concept to justify my earlier hypothesis)
        – one-minute station dwell times
        – instantaneous deceleration from 220mph to stopped

        Per the link, acceleration will take 370 seconds and cover 13 miles, which for three station departures gives us 39 miles of acceleration covering 18.5 minutes of travel time. That leaves us 136 miles of top-speed running taking merely 37.1 minutes. Add two minutes of en-route station dwell time and don’t forget to factor in our amazing ability to stop on a dime, and our total running time is…

        57 minutes, 36 seconds.

        Given how incredibly conservative and absurd my assumptions were, do you still want to assert that Seattle-Portland with two stops in an hour is “easily” done? :)

      2. Okay, so express service takes an hour, and local service takes an hour and a half with four or five stops.

        Why does this even matter? It totally distracts from the point, which is that 110mph really just doesn’t cut it for intercity travel.

      3. It matters because planners (ie engineers) hate when the media or politicians say something stupid or impossible, getting the tax payers hopes up and minds set in concrete, and then we can’t deliver on an impossible scope while getting blamed by the media, politicians, and tax payers.

        And 110mph would do it just fine. We just don’t have 110mph, only 80mph in a few places. I, and I doubt many others, would’t mind a 2 hour train ride as its faster than driving and flying . The cost of going from 80 to 110mph is significantly lower (an order of magnitude) than going from 80 to 220mph. $2 billion is a number I’ve heard and seen a few times. Using the CalTGV estimate of a $40 billion system, ours will be 1/4 the size, so expect +/-$10 billion for a 220mph system from SEA to PDX.

      4. Agreed on why details matter, Mike.

        If your order-of-magnitude HSR guesstimate is in the right ballpark, that actually isn’t too bad considering that the estimated cost of all the PNWRC upgrades in the SEA-PDX corridor for 110mph operation is ~$4B (2006 USD).

      5. The main benefit to real HSR for me wouldn’t be the high speed part at all, but the seperate set of tracks. What we really need is more frequency (and a bit more speed wouldn’t hurt) to compete with driving and airplanes. There’s a real limit to frequency when we have to share tracks with freight. And once the price of fuel goes up demand for trains will go up for both freight and passengers – all trying to make due with one set of tracks.

      6. For what it’s worth, the current PNWRC plan mostly calls for this. Between PDX and VBC, Cascades trains will share tracks with freight trains only in crowded terminal areas — primarily PDX to VAW, Centralia, TAC to EVE, Bellingham and Brownsville to VBC. Capacity-improvement projects in the congested areas will mitigate against delays caused by conflicting traffic. All this will permit WSDOT to run the full service planned, which I think is 16 round trips/day PDX-SEA and 8/day SEA-VBC.

        This is on par with Amtrak’s current level of service in the Empire Corridor between NYC and Albany-Rensselaer — A-R was the 10th-busiest station on the entire system in 2008 (King Street was 16th, Portland 18th) — which is the only other comparable corridor in which 110mph trains are currently running. And yes, people do commute daily between Albany and NYC via the 2-1/2 hour train ride; when I was a kid my dad did that for a while during a period when his job duties required him to be in the city.

      7. Think about the way this is going to get constructed.

        Due to major built-up area, the existing route will be used from Tacoma to Seattle (apart from minor changes), until there’s ridership for a massively expensive cutoff. And also on the north side of Seattle, and also on the south side of Tacoma

        The existing route will most certainly be used from Vancouver, WA to Portland (and it can be made faster on the existing route), and also on the north side of Vancouver, WA.

        Now look at where the money for the *current* plans has gone in.

        In exactly these areas.

        The next step is dedicated passenger tracks on the long stretch from Tacoma to Vancouver, WA. They are currently planned near the existing ROW.

        A true high-speed trunk line could be built from south of Lakewood to north of Vancouver, WA. It’s not clear that it’s worth the ROW acquisition; 110 mph service along the existing route would give very successful timings on this route.

    2. They really should run a several trains a day, some that are “express” from Seattle to Portland, and some “locals” that stop at the interim stations. I’m picturing the express trains would be during rush hour, and the locals would be other times of day. I have no idea what kind of infrastructure would be required for that (i.e., what if an express train has to pass a local? Do we need another set of tracks) because I know zippo about rail design, but from a passenger standpoint, that seems to be the ideal situation.

  3. I went to Vancouver by rail, and then had to help several people figure out how to get from the Amtrak station to the Light Rail so that they could continue their travels to SeaTac Airport.

    Once you know where you are going, it is fairly simple, but the signage is extremely bad.

    The easiest way to get there is to walk out of the King Street station into a darkened parking lot to the south, and find a stairway that takes you to a bridge that crosses the railway tracks and ends at a crosswalk on 4th Ave. Then you have to know that you must walk between two office buildings and turn north to find stairs going down to the International District Station. When you arrive after dark, none of this is obvious.

    The other option is to walk out of the King Street Station and walk a block West, A Block North, and then Two Blocks East, to finally get to the south end of the International District Station. This route might be shorter if the King Street Station renovation is ever finished and you can take stairs inside the station to directly exit the station to the south, cutting two blocks out of the walking distance.

    1. King Street Station is being renovated entirely, and once that’s complete, the connection will be much more clear.

      1. On about half of my Cascades trips the conductor makes an annoucement on arrival at King Street telling people how to get to Link. People are very grateful for it, and it should be standard to do so.

    2. There needs to be a distinguished underground pedestrian tunnel that directly takes commuters from King Street Station to Intl. Dist. Subway station.

      1. I agree that it’s a good idea, but “needs to be” – how much would it cost, and what other project would you be sacrificing to get it?

      2. I’d rather see better wayfinding signs between King Street Station and International District Station. Also a more pedestrian friendly connection between King Street and the Sounder station/Weller st. overpass.

        A pedestrian tunnel would be an expensive and complex project. There is a continuous wall of buildings from Jackson to Dearborn along 4th Ave S. You’d also have to find a way to connect International District station to the tunnel without disrupting operations.

    3. There’s a stairway that goes from King Street near the lower level of the station to Jackson Street that cuts some walking off your second route.

  4. I honestly don’t think that Link will affect Cascades ridership at all at this point. Maybe the Transit Mall in Portland might get it a few more riders because light rail is more entrenched there, but I don’t know. However, once Link goes all over the region and has a clear, straight path from International District Station to King Street Station, I can see Cascades ridership going up.
    The real way to increase ridership is shortening the trip and making trains more reliable and frequent, as the current “HSR” plans will do. Of course it won’t get a ton of people until we have 220mph HSR from Seattle-Portland but it can greatly increase its market share by getting the trip down to three hours and reliability up to close to 100%. Once it becomes an attractive option, people will always find ways to get to their nearest station no matter what transit goes there.

    1. Clearly U-Link will improve things much more than Central Link, but today, much of SE Seattle now has an easy way to the train.

      1. I’d be interested to see where in Seattle the Cascades ridership comes from. Has there been any market research to that effect? I would love to see those figures!

      2. Or you could just send them an email and ask. A formal public disclosure request is a lot of extra work.

      1. We’re not going to be connected to NY, Chicago or LA. Seattle and Portland are little hamlets in an isolated corner of the country. If San Franciso was in southern Oregon and Chicago was in Idaho maybe there’d be a chance HSR gets built between SEA and PDX. Look how many people ride the Eurostar and it’s borderline financially. Another reason HSR here is a fools errand is because the cities are too close together. Very few people are going to opt for a $300 ticket over a $50 ticket just to save four hours travel time. If you were talking SEA to SFO in 4 hours instead of 16 hours you might get more takers.

      2. “Another reason HSR here is a fools errand is because the cities are too close together.”

        I’ve never heard the “we’re too close together” argument against HSR before.

        Hmmm… I guess Frankfurt is too close to Cologne, and Paris is too close to Strasbourg. And, therefore, no one takes those high-speed trains.

      3. Paris has a population of over 2 million, Cologne is a million. Travel time by train is three hours between the two. They’re also connected by rail to Amsterdam-Brussels, London, Madrid. With out the major metropolises little burgs like Rotterdam wouldn’t have HSR. Washington and Oregon combined have more land area than the country of Italy but only 1/6th the population. When Seattle, Portland and Spokane are on par with Rome, Milan and Naples we can start to think about HSR. Right now it would just be irresponsible to divert any funds from improving what we’ve got to plan this pipe dream.

      4. Bernie, cut it out. Strasbourg is on the other end of the LGV, with a paltry 300,000 in an urban area of 700,000, to our 600,000 in an area of more than 2,000,000.

      5. Well, as a matter of fact, Strasbourg is in the center of a densely populated and heavily industrialized area known as ‘Europe’. The Port of Strasbourg is the second largest port on the Rhine and Strasbourg has for centuries been on the main north-south stem of Europe.

        In contrast, instead of having the city of Paris to the west, Seattle has the Pacific ocean. Instead of having Germany and the Czech Republic to the east, we have Idaho. To our north lies, not the industrial Ruhr and Belgium and the Netherlands, but British Columbia.

        You might think, to hear Ben tell it, that a visit to Strasbourg would evoke similar emotions as a visit to Tacoma. Gotta go with Bernie on this one.

      6. Great! So we should just stop spending money on trains, and keep spending money on highways.

      7. The Seattle and Portland metro areas absolutely have sufficient populations to support high speed rail – and the distance is within the range where high speed rail is attractive. Ditto Vancouver BC.

        You can talk about how big Oregon and Washington are, but there is a sufficiently dense concentration along the I-5 corridor for which rail is well suited.

      8. Carl,

        Not “High Speed Rail”, “emerging High Speed Rail”. See the post near the bottom for why.

        Ben,

        No, of course we should not stop spending money on trains. Are you going all Gush Bimbo on us here? This is not Israel renaming itself.

        It’s about spending the taxpayers’ money in ways that make the most sense for the most people. Seattle is almost a real city. The downtown makes it look like one, but if you go to Vancouver BC you’ll see what a genuine city looks like. In the area between Stanley Park and the old Expo grounds, the waterfront and False Creek Vancouver has a density rivaling New York’s. That’s density of people living, not just working. There are over one hundred twenty to forty story condo towers right in downtown, with many more under construction. The overall density of the city is nearly 14,000 people per square mile, but most of it is single family homes. The downtown approaches 100,000 per square mile.

        When Portland and Seattle start to look like that, we will be able to support real HSR because there will be enough carless people wanting to make the journey to support it. Until then diesel hauled 110 from Lakewood to Salmon Creek should be the immediate goal, electric 150 the eventual. It’s fast enough.

      9. Vancouver, BC has even lower population than Seattle last I checked.

        And of course the HSR plans do involve connecting Seattle to Vancouver, BC.

        Yes, 110 is fine for now, and electric 150 will be fine for a long time.

      10. Dude, how do you expect Seattle and Portland to grow? SF and LA didn’t get big because they remained disconnected.

      11. Portland and Seattle are scarcely hamlets, Bernie, nor are they in an ‘isolated’ part of the country. You could say the same about New York if you wanted to go down that route – it is hardly centrally located’ Nor are Washington, DC or Miami for that matter. Los Angeles and San Diego are similarly located in an ‘isolated’ south western corner of the country. Only Chicago is a truly central city and it benefits from having the largest rail hub in the country but this doesn’t make all of the satellites that channel their passengers and freight into it ‘isolated’ or remote in comparison to it!

        The whole of the Cascade corridor needs to be speeded up and this runs from Eugene to Vancouver and so it more than meets the definition of a High Speed corridor and it could work if you ran some trains as express runs between the four main cities of Eugene, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver and localized others. In England, we do this all the time. There is an express from London to Brighton that takes only 55 minutes to run 55 miles. A semi-fast train stops at most of them, including Gatwick Airport and the ‘local’ stops at all interim stations. Of course, to replicate this set up here, you would need to build more main line track and reduce crawl through the more urbanized areas between Seattle and Olympia.

        Running HSR to San Francisco is highly desirable but would be logistically hard because of the long crawl between Eugene and Mount Shasta area when mountain climbs and switch backs heavily reduce all speeds through that area, together with the lack or sufficient Union Pacific track to allow passenger and freight traffic to coexist comfortably. Of course, you could discount this stretch as part of the overall HSR set up and concentrate instead on the aforementioned Eugene to Vancouver and Redding to San Francisco stretches. There is enormous potential in both corridors and could form part of an important HSR link up between SEA and SFO that you alluded to.

      12. Tim, your concernts about “the long crawl between Eugene and Mount Shasta area” aren’t entirely valid because an HSR line connecting the NW and Bay Area would blow through the mountains on a brand-new, dedicated alignment with significant bridge and tunnel construction to permit a high speed throughout, such as what will be done as CHSRA builds across Pacheco Pass southeast of San Jose. (It wouldn’t by any means be as cheap as following the contours, but that’s what would have to be done to make HSR effective.)

      13. Well I was looking at the existing line, not at the possibilities of a whole new line which one would hope would eliminate that long haul and crawl through mid and southern Oregon.

      14. “Would blow through the mountains on a brand=new dedicated alignment with significant bridge and tunnel construction” while “blowing through” the non-existent budgets of Washington, Oregon, California, and the Federal Government.

        The only reason TGV-style services work at the 600 mile range is because they stop at a bunch of significant cities in between. A good example is Lille to the southern TGV terminal at Marseilles, which is about 550 miles. Intermediate stops are made at Lille, TGV Est (Euro Disney and the eastern suburbs of Paris), Lyon, and Avignon, all cities of more than 1 million people. Plus of course, there are myriad TGV and conventional lines radiating from Lyon to points east and south.

        The “cities” between the Bay Area and Portland are the seething Megalopoli of Eugene, Medford, and Redding.

        Give it up, dude, and take a plane.

      15. I would like to point out the Trans-Siberian Railroad for an example of a successful line with no meaningful intermediate stations. Sure, it’s not TGV, but Russia is quite deliberately trying to convert it to high-speed operation along its entire length (slowly), and I don’t think they’re stupid.

        China is actually building HSR lines off across vast empty space to their western colonies. This, like Russia’s decision, is arguably mostly a political exercise in “linking the country together” to prevent secessionism, but that was the justification for both the US and Canadian transcontinental railroads. The US is probably going to have to do it again eventually.

        It’s totally not worth it until there’s something to connect at either end, but if California developed rail as dense as Japan (possible) and the Pacific Northwest developed a dense rail system too, *THEN* it would be worth thinking about.

      16. Very few people are going to opt for a $300 ticket over a $50 ticket just to save four hours travel time

        While i agree with the gist of your comment about 110 vs. 220 mph, I’m going to push back on this:
        1. where are you going that 220 mph HSR would save 4 hours? Doesn’t take me 5 hours to go from SEA to PDX… the slowest train is 4 1/2.
        2. $300 is just not a reasonable price estimate for HSR from Seattle to PDX (or even from YVR to Eugene). Maybe the most expensive ticket, bought on the day of, in 1st class (which is very similar to 2nd class on trains) would approach that cost. Last year, a TGV ticket from Brussels to Avignon, a distance of nearly 600 miles, cost me less than $150. Expensive HSR tickets are around, but so are very cheap tickets. You just have to look for them.

        That said, the PDX/SEA corridor isn’t big (populous) enough for a $10B 220 mph train. Much as i’d love to have one.

      17. “That said, the PDX/SEA corridor isn’t big (populous) enough for a $10B 220 mph train.”

        This burgeoning megalopolis – aka “Cascadia” – is inhabited by more than 10-million. If that isn’t big enough for you… then how are we going to solve the bumber-to-bumber traffic all along I-5? Is there an “official” minimum-population a megalopolis has to be?

        The traffic sucks, and Portland, Seattle and Vancouver are all growing at exponential rates.

        I think its time for a Shinkansen whether or not we have your “required” population.

        So the cost: $10B divided by 10M inhabitants could make it so that each person would just pay $1K; and that $1K could be divided within 5 months.

      18. Andrew,

        I’m the biggest HSR fan you’re ever going to meet. I went to France just so I could take one of the longer TGV rides you can, from Brussels to Avignon. I loved every minute of it. If, one day in the future, there is a chance to build true HSR on the Eugene-to-Vancouver Canada corridor, I will be in favor of it. But right now, I think the 110 mph goal they have in place is a great one. Cutting 1 to 1 1/2 hours off a trip that’s already faster than driving isn’t going to get much for us. A 2 1/2 hour train ride (that’s consistently on time and has lots of daily trips) would be very competitive with flying.

        IMO, the big challenge in HSR is to convince the naysayers that it can work in the US. There is a big experiment going on down in California right now, and I think it’s the perfect test case. SF to LA is one of the busiest air corridors in the country. That HSR should make bucketloads of money once it gets going, and it will loosen up the coffers, both publicly and privately, for true HSR elsewhere in the country. It will also teach Americans what real HSR is (it is NOT the Acela).

        Right now, they can do a heck of a lot for our trip from Seattle to Portland with just the upgrades they have currently planned.

      19. I think it’s important to note that the *current* upgrade plans — the funded ones — should give 96% on-time running (IIRC) at speeds faster than driving the speed limit, and competitive with flying.

        This should see a huge sharp increase in demand for the Cascades service. *After that happens* the political will for many more, faster trains will be there.

  5. While I certainly agree WA has been rather timid in its planning for anything over 175KPH, when the planning started a decade and a half ago, there was little incentive to do much more. Further we must also have available higher speed intercity service available to the intermediate cities and towns which need and use it now, and will need it and use it more so in the coming decades. And let us please be careful not to duplicate the silliness CA HSR is proposing in Fresno of having the HSR station on one side of town, and the Amtrak/Caltrans/San Joaquin station on the other side of town. Shared stations are a necessity.

      1. ahaahah well i’m glad you cited such an impartial source as the heritage foundation. because they have no sort of political gain associated with putting holes in the obama administrations plans for high speed rail.

      2. Here is a link directly to the “China Post.”

        http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/t-business/2009/09/28/226411/Taiwan-High-Speed.htm

        “TAIPEI, Taiwan — A futuristic rail service linking Taiwan’s two largest cities with hyper-modern technology was meant to be a source of pride, but instead it has turned into a rich source of embarrassment. ”

        “Less than three years after the much-touted rail system went into operation in early 2007, it has incurred 70.2 billion Taiwan dollars (2.1 billion US dollars) in losses, or roughly two thirds of its capitalization.”

    1. 6.1% of all travel? Or 6.1% of all intercity travel? And calculated by ridership-hours? By passenger miles? How are these tabulated? Distinctions are crucial!

      1. http://ec.europa.eu/energy/publications/statistics/doc/2009_energy_transport_figures.pdf

        link to this document:

        “EU energy and transport in figures”

        See Chart on Page 118 in the document (not pdf page #).

        From Page 95 in this document:

        “Passenger transport:

        I n 2007, total passenger transport activities in the EU27 by any motorised
        means of transport are estimated to have amounted to 6 473 billion pkm
        or on average 13 092 km per person. This figure includes intra-EU air and
        sea transport but not transport activities between the EU and the rest
        of the world. Passenger cars accounted for 72.4 % of this total, powered
        two-wheelers for 2.4 %, buses & coaches for 8.3 %, railways for 6.1 %
        and tram & metro for 1.3 %. Intra-EU air and intra-EU maritime transport
        contributed 8.8 % and 0.6 % respectively.”

  6. I agree with Ben that an hourly HSR between Seattle and Portland is a desirable objective. You could certainly run two types of trains – a non-stop express between the two cities and a second more stately ‘local’ train that stops at all the current stops. This would require three and four main lines (two each way) though as well as separate freight lines and I am not sure if we have the capcity for a six track rail highway?

    One thing I think might help is if Sound Transit and Metro allowed us to use their P&Rs for extended sojourns so that we can park there, take the bus to King Street Station and take our trips as needed. At present, I believe we have to vacate ST and Metro park-and-rides after 24 hours. This would put a lot of folks off taking either the Empire Builder or the Coast Starlight for vacations or business. It might even put some people off trying to get away with a weekend trip to Portland or Vancouver.

    110 mph is not an unworthy objective for the line if it is consistent and prolonged enough. Just reaching that for short spurts is not really going to work though in the grand scheme of things.

    1. There is no need for six tracks to provide both express and slower passenger service. It is done all the time in Europe and Japan that faster trains overtake slower ones at stops – either while the slower service is stopping, the express passes through non-stop, or if it is a transfer stop, the slower train stops first, any passengers transferring to the express get off, then express stops and departs, then the slower train departs – and there was time for people to transfer.

      People don’t get free parking at Seatac either.

      1. Correct. “express and local” are only related to the number of stops. All trains should have the ability to operate at the same cruising speed, meaning you’d only need tracks to be separate where the express train needs to bypass a station that the local stops at. Modern trainsets have enough power to get up to speed in a fairly short amount of time, and once they’re up to speed, just need to be spaced properly with the rest of the trains. This would be much improved by being able to get around the FRA weight requirements. The California HSR has simple double tracks planned for the majority of the run, with extra bypass tracks only within 1 mile of the stations.

        The separation of rail traffic would be necessary if they’re really running at 110 mph, as rail traffic isn’t really safe above 80 mph or so.

    2. FYI, the plan is for consistent and prolonged 110 mph, largely south of Nisqually and north of Vancouver, WA.

      They are quite intelligently eliminating low-speed and congestion bottlenecks first. There are only a couple more.

  7. HSR could also connect up to Vancouver BC to pick up additional passengers and funding from Canada. Obviously, a new right of way would be required to get through the Seattle metropolis. I can’t see using the waterfront right of way, it’s corners are too sharp for higher speeds.

  8. The natural north end of a true high speed line is not Seattle, but Vancouver BC, with Seattle as the first southbound stop- putting a widened I-5 corridor to some practical use. Eventual south end of the whole system is San Diego or points south.

    As the cave-man plumber says in The Far Side, “This not be cheap.” You might have to tunnel from Lynnwood to Southcenter, with Seattle station several hundred feet down- but it would give us a ‘quake-proof corridor.

    Present right-wing Canadian government can’t last forever. Same with the Canadian border itself. This project is ‘way to big for Olympia. Much of the investment will probably come from the Chinese, mainland and overseas- these people think in continents and centuries.

    If Democrats are too timid to make this into the employment program it should be, they can legitimately put it into the defense budget.

    Good picture. The ST colors look good on bullet trains.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Good timings to Vancouver require a totally new corridor from Vancouver, BC — starting from a new bridge across the Fraser River — to the US border.

      This would of course have to be funded by BC or Canada, or maybe Vancouver, and would cost at *least* hundreds of millions, probably over a billion.

      This is why the Vancouver end has been so poorly served relative to the Seattle-Portland route. The Washington State part of it isn’t that bad comparatively.

  9. Our high speed rail office will tell you that they have a plan for real high speed rail service, but that the legislature’s not planning to fund the plan.

    Is there any evidence of this plan’s existence? I’d love to see it just to have a better idea of what would be involved in this.

    A 1-hour trip would be fantastic — it would make Portland as close as Bremerton, turn it into a day-trip, no need for a hotel. And I’m not sure it couldn’t be single track — one train, making this trip once every two hours, would still be quite a draw. But it’s so hard to get the state to fund even the existing 110 mph plan.

    One thought that occurred to me the other day is, do you think we could get a west coast auto train like the one between DC and Florida? Not because I need my car when I go to California, but I’d imagine some people would use it and it would turn rail into auto-and-passenger infrastructure like the ferries and mean we could fund it with gas tax money (right?).

    I don’t think ST2 affects the viability much. The thing is, people have plenty of ways to get to the station from home if the service is good enough, where the light rail makes a difference is for Portlanders coming here. Most of them won’t want to figure out the bus system but will be much more comfortable with light rail. But ST2 doesn’t add a lot of destinations they’re interested in. (Or maybe I’m wrong. Do tourists go to Bellevue?)

    1. Lake Bellevue and Lake Geneva are very similar :- No, not many tourists but a lot of business travelers which I think is more of your target market.

  10. I’m still very firm that maintaining the trains average speed is much more powerful than going 220mph. Once we are at 110mph and 2 hours and 30 minutes, we are already ahead of automobile traffic and giving Horizon Airlines a very strong run for their money.

    Increasing the average speed by straightening out curves, reducing slow orders, and reducing freight conflicts would have an overall greater effect.

    And remember, travel times CAN be reduced further than what WSDOT’s goal is currently. Amtrak Cascades and Sounder trains WILL stay at 80mph UNLESS they are on a dedicated track, even after the installation of PTC. This is simply so the State (no funding available) doesn’t have to pay the extra money to maintain the track and permit 90mph running on the standard non-110mph main line. It is very possible to do 2 hrs to 2 hrs and 15 minutes between Seattle and Portland.

    An additional hour is not going to sway peoples mind dramatically enough to warrant spending such a high dollar amount with very little space available to build a true HSR in this region in the first place. If there is space, please, feel free to show where without destroying hundreds of homes and businesses.

    1. Right on. You’d do a lot more for building ridership by doubling the number of trains and keeping costs down than shaving an hour or two off travel times. It’s also vastly cheaper to add stops when you’re “only” talking 60-120 miles per hour. The Talgos have all the speed we can use for decades. And let’s not forget the importance to people of moving freight. All of Seattle’s garbage (literally) gets hauled off to Oregon by rail. That’s a freight trains worth of tractor trailer trash haulers that’s not rolling down I-5.

      1. Exactly! As population warrants a full HSR system, then fine, go for it but again, I fully believe that there is no room available build a full HSR system the way that some people want to believe there is.

        I would rather have 16 daily trains at 110mph that reaches out to more people than 220mph that will only stop at a few stations.

      2. They just opened a high speed line between Amsterdam and Brussels, through one of the most densely populated places in Europe. I think Seattle-Portland could manage just fine.

      3. I think the landfill is on the Washington side of the Columbia River, but your point that there is a lot of freight train interference is correct.

        I think I agree with everyone’s viewpoint that:
        > incremental improvements are worthwhile
        > absolute top speed is not essential and 110 mph running can provide attractive running times
        > frequency and reliability are extremely important – so waits are short and arrivals can be predicted
        > probably the only way to get enough capacity, frequency and reliability is to have new tracks dedicated to passenger trains – so they should be engineered for as much speed as economically possible – and as many bottlenecks as possible eliminated.

    2. In the Seattle area we probably wouldn’t build 220 mph lines for a while, but there is plenty of space between Lakewood and Vancouver, especially if you made stations between these areas local only. A little faster than driving is still less convenient than driving once you consider schedule times, getting to the station, getting around at your destination. But 3+ hour drives don’t make sense when you can get there in half that. And 90 minutes betweeen Seattle and Portland means we could eventually have 3 hours between Portland and Vancouver, which is a lot more attractive than 5. With California planning a 220 mph system, it might eventually make sense to extend their system northward and ours southward, but at 110 it wouldn’t make sense.

      I think mainly where you’re going wrong is you’re assuming there are a given number of trips people will make between Seattle and Portland and the speed affects their mode choice. Like I said, it could be as easy to get to Portland as it is to get to Bremerton. It could be a great day trip on a Saturday. Certainly for me, a 1 hour trip wouldn’t just get me to choose the train over driving when I go to Portland, it would mean I would go there several times a year rather than once a year.

      1. You’ve already got the option to take a 50 minute flight. So, no, people wouldn’t start traveling more because there’s a train that takes 90 minutes.

      2. Sure, the flight is only 15 minutes, but it takes ~40 minutes to ride light rail between the airport and downtown on both ends of the trip, plus having to arrive at the departure airport early to deal with the security nightmare. Contrast that to direct downtown-to-downtown train travel and, as I argued in a post not to long ago about Acela, people (primarily business travelers) will pay for a train ride which is mildly longer than the flight alone when rail is the more convenient mode of transport (don’t forget there are no restrictions on when electronic devices can be used on the train) and the total travel times are comparable.

      3. Yeah, I was comparing flight time since people were talking actual travel time on the train. Yes a DT RR station might be more convenient for some. But overall even a 200mph train is only going to be comparable to flying. Airline security and HSR security would likely be pretty similar. Remember the incident in Spain. If it’s hard to blow up a small plane and easy to get a bomb on board a high speed train guess what’s going to become a target. In fact the entire line, especially bridges become a target. Losing a plane is tragic, but doesn’t have the potential to shut down the entire system.

        I don’t know where the idea this would only cost $10B. We’re spending that much on Link which doesn’t go very fast and will only cover about 50 miles. Let’s pretend HSR would only be $4B more than fixing what we have. 2.5% interest on a $4B endowment would generate 3X the operating costs of Amtrak Cascades. That’s right, triple the service and everybody rides for free.

      4. There are no security checks on HSR trains in continental Europe or Japan

        Train fares are generally much lower than plane fares, so that could stimulate demand and/or shift some car & plane trips.

      5. Unless you’re talking national legacy carriers, trains are actually usually more expensive in Europe. People prefer the railways and the trains are usually full, allowing higher average price points. RyanAir, Jet2, EasyJet et al are often much cheaper than buying a comparable rail ticket.

      6. Plus the time it takes to get from the Airport to downtown Portland, which is where I actually want to go. I could throw in the time to Sea-Tac, though for some Sea-Tac may be more convenient than King Street station (but if it stops in Tacoma too, then for the vast majority it takes less time to get to the train). Add in the extra time to show up early and get through security, and the plane really isn’t so convenient. And it’s cramped, and in spite of how cramped it is a plane holds a lot less people than a train, and won’t have the amenities of the train. Seattle-Portland gets lots of riders in spite of the existence of airports connecting these cities.

        I’d rather double the speed of the trains that double the number — after all, doubling the speed is sufficient to double the frequency, without doubling the staff you need to pay. There is a reason that many high speed rail lines operate at a profit, whereas slower service never does. And having some trains skip some stations between Tacoma and Portland wouldn’t reduce the population reached by very much.

    3. “Once we are at 110mph and 2 hours and 30 minutes, we are already ahead of automobile traffic and giving Horizon Airlines a very strong run for their money.”

      Yes. I don’t mind if it takes 2 or 3 hours to get to Portland. The frequency and schedule of the trains matter more. It’s important to be able to go to Portland or Vancouver-WA and return the same day.

      The cost/benefit of HSR has to be compared to what else we can do with the money. Comprehensive light rail in Pugetopolis is much more important than HSR to Portland because people use urban transit every day, while they may go to Portland a few times a year.

      What the I-5 corridor needs is not what eastern Washington needs. If we can at least match automobile speed to Spokane (6 hours), and add more trains to Spokane and Yakima, that’ll be enough till the next phase (HSR to California and Chicago).

      1. Exactly. Every time I’ve wanted to take the train to Oregon I’ve never been able to find a round trip that worked unless I wanted to take the Trailways bus; which defeats the whole purpose. What’s the big rush? Taking the train is supposed to be fun. If you’re in such an all fired hurry then bite the bullet and squeeze yourself into the aluminum toothpaste tube and fly.

  11. It also occurs to me that as much sense as an express route from Seattle to Portland would make, the state probably won’t fund it if it only serves Seattle.

    1. Eric, worry about that step when we come to it. The first step is to find out how much it costs and where it could go – then you talk to the feds about it.

  12. Has anyone ever held a serious discussion of revolutionizing FRA rules to permit passenger expansion and higher speeds? Everyone seems to take it for granted that the almighty FRA is immutable.

  13. You might think that one way of showing demand and building support for real HSR would be to get a 110-mph line going and take away significant market share from the Seatac-Portland air routes. In fact, an old-fashioned incrementalist type of person would point out all sorts of supposed ‘advantages’ of doing that- building ridership, solving problems of station placement and cross-platform transfers, actually solving the problems that cause delays at the border, making sure that the tasks of baggage handling and ticketing didn’t consume at the station any gains in speed, etc. Not least of which would be a long-overdue revamp of the Bush-tainted FRA.

    But, who knows, these are modern times, and maybe just demanding a real HSR route with 220-mph running is the thing to do. Which leaves me with only one question- how do you propose to leave Seattle to the north?

    1. catowner, stop fighting with your allies. Maybe you hadn’t noticed, but we champion the improvements to 110mph here already.

      But if we don’t have a plan to keep going after that, we won’t ever build express services that are competitive with longer air travel – like Seattle to SF. Build 220mph on track that’s straight enough for 300mph later, and we’ll eventually solve bigger problems.

      1. Just build the 110 mph upgrades sensibly so the ROW can someday be upgraded to 125 mph or 150 mph or 220 mph operation someday. Keep the route as straight and level as possible. Grade separate everywhere it’s reasonably possible. Somewhere along the upgrade path, electrify the route. With our cheap hydro power, that’s an obvious thing to do early on.

        Also to the original point of the post, we should be thinking about feeder intercity rail. An additional frequency Everett to Spokane and Vancouver to Spokane that arrive and depart Spokane in the daytime. A passenger train over the Stampede Pass line. Commuter rail Auburn to Enumclaw and Everett to Gold Bar and Woodinville. All those things can drive local transit at the stations.

      2. Oh yeah, how about a couple more potential commuter rail routes:

        Everett – Marysville – Stanwood – Mt Vernon
        Kalama – Kelso – Castle Rock – Chehalis – Centralia

        Run them on the cheap with one or two unit DMUs or EMUs. For new stations, make them on the cheap with nothing more than a short asphalt platform, a bus shelter and a TVM. Focus at the start on commuter service, but as demand builds expand the schedule, lengthen the trains and improve the stations. Figure out where the smaller stations work well, then improve them and add them to a local regional rail schedule.

        If we have a dedicated passenger ROW, this can be accomodated with either good scheduling and sidings on the main HSR tracks, or a separate set of conventional speed tracks.

      3. aw, you can’t build the 110 projects to 220mph standards. There are totally different requirements – even Japan didn’t do that with their Shinkansen, they built new tracks instead.

      4. Read what I wrote please. For our dedicated passenger tracks, get right of way that is suitable for express HSR. You may need to rip out some track structures and redo it, or build higher speed tracks alongside conventional tracks, but lets not go through the ROW acquisition process multiple times. That said, there may be some places where having an express HSR shortcut to bypass some cities would make sense, or where the cost of tunneling or building viaducts doesn’t make sense for the emerging HSR case.

  14. We need more link lightrail lines to start construction, and I’m not just talking about ST2. I’m talking about (currently 2 lines either completed or in construction) the third, fourth, and fifth underground lightrail lines to start taking place.

    TWO lightrail/subway lines isn’t sufficient for a city Seattle’s size (4-Million). The ideal is: five-to-six lightrail/subway lines giving access to Greater Seattle and a “Central Station” that can be renovated from King Street Station.

    1. Remember underground light rail is at least $400 million per mile, it goes up from there if you need more than 1 station per mile or run into difficult construction conditions or need to mine stations.

      At best that is 10 miles for $4 billion or not quite West Seattle to Ballard.

      Also remember that any corridor not already due for light rail (IOW not northgate/UW/downtown) will only have about 50k daily riders in 2030.

      1. Ben,
        I’m not opposing more light rail, quite the contrary. I’m expressing frustration at those who insist any future light rail lines in the area be built like U-Link/North Link. That is incredibly expensive, which means we’re not likely to get much rail beyond what is in ST2. Furthermore it is likely not justified by the terrain, density, or potential ridership.
        .
        I really don’t see the problem with building more light rail in the region along the lines of the MLK segment of Central Link. It works better than buses, and offers greater capacity. Sure it isn’t quite as fast as 100% grade separation, but that is expensive.

        Even better McGinn is talking about taking the ROW needed for MLK type alignments from the space already allocated to cars which should be much less expensive than the amount of property acquisition that was required on MLK.

    2. Andrew – yes, we do. Step one, protect Marko Liias and Geoff Simpson and elect Joe Fitzgibbon this year. Want to help?

    3. You’re both right. Every city with >50% transit use has several subway lines and buses running every five minutes. In Seattle that’s equivalent to N-S lines in Ballard, Aurora, West Seattle, and 23rd S/Lake City, and E-W lines at approximately Northgate Way, 45th, and Columbia City. The Eastside and south King County also need networks.

      But… these don’t all have to be like North Link. Seattle is not Manhattan. There won’t be 50-story buildings throughout the city. Grade-separated transit is most necessary for long-distance trips (Northgate-SeaTac, Seattle-Everett). We don’t need three parallel lines for long-distance trips. For these we just need a way to quickly get to a Central Link station (by which I mean the whole Lynnwood-Federal Way line).

      When Brooklyn station opens, it will be almost as fast to go from Ballard to downtown by taking the 44 to Link, vs taking the 15 local. That’s the low-budget scenario. Modest improvements to the 45th corridor would approach the 18-express level, and an MLK-like train on 15th W would surpass it. I don’t think we need more than that. Anybody going further than five miles should transfer to Central Link.

      This provides a model for the rest of the city. There should be a maximum 20-minute time from any neighborhood center to a Central Link station, and if we can cut that further, so much the better. The west side also needs a N-S line to avoid having to go to Central Link for short trips (which could be potentially 20 minutes to Central Link and 20 minutes from it). But it doesn’t need a full metro-level line. Just set a target time for Ballard-West Seattle. 40 minutes is a good moderate target, and maybe they can shave it down to 30.

  15. Ben is right on target on this one.
    WA Legislature has been bouncing a High Speed bill around for the last several sesions (can’t remember the bill # but will look it up) with it going nowhere.
    Any trains that go faster than 110 will need seperate track from BNSF, grade protection, fencing(best), and a ton of other stuff.
    I think the time to start securing ROW for ‘sections’ of 110++ track is soon, not when the mid range and long range plans are nearing completion.
    I identified about 50 miles of old ROW, combined with some new elevated along I-5 that keeps the Defiance Bypass track headed directly into downtown Olympia then on into Cenralia, but couldn’t get anyone interested in looking at it. (straight, level, and mostly govenment owned by wsdot, or Thurston Co. or Tacoma Eastern as double stack storage yards)
    Anyway, these are the kind of issues the legislature should be addressing to keep the “Incremental Approach” going.

    1. I think they should be addressing the looming 20% across the board budget cuts and have no business wasting time and money on something that would not only be completely unrealistic to construct but balloon the operating costs of passenger rail. The kick back from a boondoggle like this might well be the end of the line for Amtrak.

    2. Here’s the link.
      HB1873
      This calls for some seed money and formation of a Joint Select Cmte to study HSR in the state. It keeps getting re-introduced, even for the 2010 special session, but gets shoved aside each year.
      Mike

  16. According to Google Maps, Seattle to Portland is 173 miles.

    173/110 = 1.57 hr = 1 hour 30 minutes

    So already very close to one hour trip even at the less than HSR.

    The main problems are all the slow downs and stoppages which affect the current train (I’ve taken it and most of the time it seemed to go 40 mph). These are the types of problems being addressed in the first round of funding.

    Even if it got to 80 mph, it’s still faster than a car, and doesn’t have the Olympia, Tacoma blockages.

  17. Ben,

    You’ll never get to 1 hour to Portland because of the political imperative to serve Tacoma and Olympia. If you were happy to have a south end Tacoma station somewhere near the “Y”, continuing straight from Sumner and climbing out of the valley southeast of Puyallup, bypassing Oly using the old Milwaukee and Prarie lines direct to Centralia, yes, you could do it. But I really do not believe that the legislature would make the necessary matching commitments to fund such a plan. You’d just be duplicating Horizon’s shuttle (yes, of course, without TSA and the need to get to the airport), but Alaska Airlines employs a LOT of people in Washington state and has a large listnership in Olympia. Can you say “Herb Kelleher”?

    So lower your sights to an hour and fifty minutes and get something that people will buy into. Speeds in the mid-100’s with dedicated tracks would allow that. It’s only 187 rail miles from SEA to PDX via the current route and the bypass will trim three or four of those. One fifty from Lakewood to Salmon Creek in Vancouver is just about 120 miles. With the three existing stops adding three minutes each, that would take one hour give or take a couple of minutes. Add fifteen minutes to get into PDX from Salmon Creek (70 mph for the five miles to 39th street and then 50 from there to PDX plus the stop at VAN) and that leaves you 35 minutes to get from King Street to Lacey. That will require double tracking the UP and running quite a few BN through trains that way, but it can probably be accomplished.

    It takes an hour and fifty minutes — at least — to get to Sea-Tac on Link, check in, get scanned, get on the 25 minute flight, and then get the Max to downtown Portland. For the Downtown and north trips to Portland an hour fifty would be very competitive with air travel.

    You can only achieve a significant lessening of the rail travel time by eliminating stations, which would mean you’d have to duplicate service.

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