Amtrak Cascades by Timberline1955
Amtrak Cascades by Timberline1955

Great news for travelers to Vancouver B.C.! The second train to Canada will continue operating until September 30, 2010. During the 2010 Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games, more than 11,000 passengers rode the new service.

“The success of this additional Amtrak Cascades service reinforces what we already know – that intercity passenger rail service is a valuable transportation resource and people are using it,” said Paula Hammond, Washington transportation secretary. “As we continue to grow this service, it will provide more travel options for Pacific Northwest travelers, reduce congestion at our border crossings and help our environment.”

The future of the train service depends on whether the ridership was primarily for the Olympics or if there exists sustained demand for a second train. Canada’s Border Services Agency will waive a $1,500-per-day border inspection fee, money that Washington state doesn’t have budgeted, if it finds the daily ridership sufficient to justify the extra customs agents at Pacific Central Station.

38 Replies to “Second Train to Vancouver B.C. Extended Until September”

  1. I don’t understand why Canada charges these fees to Washington, as if it’s only a perk for Washington residents. You would think that a progressive and rail friendly city like Vancouver (and country like Canada) would make this work without the petty disagreement about a relatively small amount of cash.

    1. Canada isn’t rail-friendly. Vancouver is, but the city can’t make international agreements by themselves. :)

      1. Yeah, and do a quick search under “B.C. Rail” to get the scoop on how corrupt and anti-rail the provincial regime under Gordon Campbell is.

  2. They need to come up with a better color scheme. That brownish-maroon with dark green makes it look like it was from the 1950s. Color is subjective though.

    1. Yes it does and that’s why I personally think it’s great. But then I like the pumpkin scheme on BNSF.

  3. Vancouver is only rail-friendly when it comes to urban transport. Consider that there are 14 Amtrak Cascades trains weekly leaving Vancouver. How many Canadian VIA Rail trains? 3. The thrice-weekly train to Edmonton and Toronto is it for intercity rail in Vancouver, and it’s average speed is much slower than even Amtrak. It takes three hours just to get to Hope! (100 miles away) And even worse for Canadians in the Lower Mainland, between Vancouver and Kamloops the train takes a different route whether it’s going east or west, so residents near intermediate stations (all flag stops with 48-hour notice requirements) can only travel in one direction.

    West of Ontario, VIA long ago gave up the idea of being an intercity transport option. It excels at customer service, accommodations, food, and the excursion rail experience. Very few people travel the 4 days between Vancouver and Toronto in coach.

    1. It’s not really fair to criticize BC for not investing heavily in east-west intercity rail. How much east-west intercity rail do we have? The nearest large city is Calgary which is over 400 miles away as the crow flies, more than twice the distance to Seattle. Calgary is also about 1/2 the size of Seattle and to get there a train has to travel through the Rocky Mountains. To upgrade the rail route between Vancouver and Calgary to HSR would cost 10s of billions and it still would not be competitive with flying, and that is to the closest city to the east. It simply does not make sense to invest in this corridor. The price of oil would have to increase by about 10x before rail would be economically competitive with flying.

      Rail is not the answer to every transportation challenge. It needs to be deployed in corridors where it makes economic sense. The Cascade corridor does make sense; an east-west connection to Alberta does not.

      Vancouver is an island of urbanity in a sea of wilderness. It makes perfect sense that they would not be the ones to lead the way on intercity rail. Seattle is the only major city that it makes any sense to build a high quality intercity rail connection to, and because the vast majority of the track would have to be in the United States, it makes sense for them to wait for the U.S. to lead the way.

      We should definitely lead the way, though. There is demand on this corridor, at least as much as there is between Seattle and Portland.

      1. That said, there surely IS a market for a daily transcontinental train on each route (CN via Edmonton, CP via Calgary, meeting in Winnipeg (perhaps even two/day in summer) and a combined train east to Sudbury with a split there for Toronto and Ottawa/Montreal. If the 3x weekly Canadian can stretch to well over 20 cars in the summer, and if schedules were timed for daytime intercity service on the prairies, VIA would be carrying far more passengers than today.

      2. Look also at what happened to BC Rail. I am surprised the Malahat is still running!

        On the plus side, WCE has good ridership.

      3. Tony, I don’t expect bullet trains crossing the Okanogan or crossing the Rockies, but a daily service with average speeds of 40+mph isn’t too much to ask. VIA’s trains take longer now than they did 30 years ago on the same tracks. It’s a simple case of under-investment.

    2. Vancouver is rail-friendly.

      The province of BC most certainly isn’t (look up the BC Rail scandal), and the Harper government isn’t (though they did put a small amount of new money into VIA, better than the previous government’s cutbacks). The Ontario government isn’t terribly great, but better than either of the above.

    1. The Cascades to/from Vancouver is really nice in the summertime … as the scenery is beautiful and the return trip (back to Seattle) lets you enjoy the evening and sunset as you travel down the coast.

  4. Does the US charge similar fees to Canadian trains coming to the US (say from Montreal or Toronto)?

    1. Canadian Trains dont come into the US. This is an entirely one-sided affair…Amtrak runs into Montreal with the Adirondack and into Toronto on the Maple Leaf.

      1. Wow. I thought only here was it one sided. That’s F-ed up. Come-on Canada, I thought you were supposed to be progressive!?!?!

      2. Also, who pays for the U.S. Border Preclearance Facilities at all major Canadian airports, so that flights landing in the U.S. from Canada are treated as domestic flights? Are we picking up the tab for that as well?

      3. I thought they did that because of the favorable exchange rate: it’s cheaper to maintain staff in Canada than in the US.

      4. The Maple Leaf is actually joint VIA-Amtrak. The Cascades and Adirondack are *pure* Amtrak, no Canadian participation (beyond allowing them to use the stations).

  5. I think this second train will do very well once the threat of discontinuing it is removed. Long term, it won’t help the service if every six months we have to ‘review’ its success or not and lend it a six month ‘recovery’ on investment period.

    Take this threat away and people will be able to plan their travel accordingly.

    Didn’t Olympia budget a third train last year?

  6. I happily rode the train up to Vancouver during the olympics, and it was exciting to see it filled with so many new riders. However, it was terribly unfortunate though that almost half the trip time took north of the border, including the hour spent waiting in the Canadian customs line. It’s almost as if they’re inentionally trying to scare off new riders. My friend (who was boldly giving up a car ride to give the train a shot) walked away from the station mumbling “Never again.” It was discouraging.

    1. Amtrak seriously needs to speed up their trains. It’s pathetic, and embarassing when Europeans see our hopeless rail.

      The train should never slow down below 80-100mph between stations!

      1. Compare Russia (vast distances to cover and relatively little population density).

        They still have massive freight service. Their passenger services have much, much larger numbers of trains per day, which are reliably on time, and generally faster than in the US (which is outrageous, since they’re not fast at all by European standards).

        No, it’s more government policy than geography.

      2. But our use of freight rail is impressive compared to Europe. So we don’t always choose the gas-guzzling solution.

      3. After doing some digging it doesn’t look like Russia’s rail system freight/passenger ratio is that much different than the US. More people ride trains than in the US because fewer people can afford cars. Also their airline “industry” is pretty bad and Russian winters make the midwest look like a tropical paradise. For years the only high speed line was Moscow (8 million) to St. Petersburg (4.6 million). It links the largest and 4th largest cities in Europe but was only 155mph top speed and operated at 110. So a little better but not that much different than the Northeast Corridor. Once you start moving east from european Russia into Asia it gets pretty slow (30-40 mph). Other lines in European Russia and the former Soviet states average around 50mph if they’re on schedule but they share ROW with freight just like the US railroads. They do have more HSR coming on line than we do. A new line is supposed to open for the Olympics but still just 155mph service.

      4. I agree with you – the crawl into Vancouver is a disgrace and an embarassment. They need to automate the yard in Vancouver to at least get our trains on the right line into the station.

        The last 35 miles shouldn’t take nearly two hours to complete.

        This is a known problem just that no one does anything to correct it seemingly.

    2. I would *never* again take a car to Vancouver, unless I’m guaranteed a safe place to park it, as I’m too cheap to pay for valet or garaging.

      I took my old dumpy Volvo wagon there in ’98. There was nothing of value in that car, yet the smashed the window and rifled through the glovebox.

      A fluke, I thought, that happens.

      Went there again in 2002 with a Honda. This time, TWO smashed windows, with the charming addition of blood.

      That, combined with the fluctuations at the border crossing (I’ve been stuck there for a few hours also) make it the train for me from now on – although I agree that the customs process could be much better.

      But if you want to know lousy customs, try taking the train from Montreal to NYC. Customs is ran by the Barney Fife school of customs inspectors, takes TWO hours, and is held in the cafe car, so you can’t get anything to eat.

    3. Yep. The problems on Vancouver,BC-Seattle are ALL north of the border.

      1 — customs checks delays at border
      2 — very indirect route from border to Vancouver
      3 — very slow bridge across Fraser river
      4 — no decent facilities at station in Vancouver
      5 — slow track within Vancouver metro
      6 — no Canadian money to improve ANY of the above

      1. 1 – This is a U.S. problem.
        2 – If we could just bypass White Rock/Crescent Beach the route would actually pretty good.
        4 – If customs could only be done at the border think of the possibilities…a stop could be added in New Westminster, Pacific Central could be opened up, the cage could disappear, multiple platforms would be available for Amtrak use, and the station would suddenly seem much more welcoming.
        5 – Two words…welded rail. Is it really that hard to do?

  7. Crossing the border is not just a US side issue. There is woeful understaffing on both sides. And it is not just trains. Last year, during the Skagit Tulip Festival, there were stories of more than 60 coaches full of Canadians that never got across the border to visit the Tulip Farms.

    The tour busses were caught in lines at the boarder SOUTHBOUND, and ran out of hours to make it back to their points of origin, and had to turn back. The farms take reservations, and got called when tour operators had to turn around. At 40 pax per average, thats 2,400 folks who would have paid money to the farms for admission, purchased flowers, food, etc.

    1. Why isn’t that a US issue? US Customs/DHS goons held up the busses coming into the US! It has little to do with staffing and alot to do with the Theatre of Security the DHS loves so much – reality tells us that there were no terrorists attempting to tiptoe among the tulips in the Skagit Valley. A bunch of middle aged gardeners on charter buses from Vancouver doth not terrorists make, period.

      1. SHHHHH!!!! The illusion of security is much more important than actual security. Quit trying to disturb the plebs!

Comments are closed.