All Aboard Washington has the scoop:
We’ve just received word that Canadian Minister for Public Safety, Vic Toews, announced in a CBC interview this morning, “Upon careful review of the business case and despite some significant financial constraints, the Canada Border Services Agency has decided that it will continue to provide publicly funded border clearance service to Amtrak’s second daily train.”
This is great news. Even after discounting the effects of the 2010 Olympics and the addition of the 2nd train, ridership has been growing faster to/from Vancouver BC than any other destination, up 24% in 2011 over 2010. Though capacity constraints are well-known and there is not much room for growth, it is encouraging to see the service being well-utilized.
Though Canada has perhaps the least rail-friendly federal government in the rich world, the staffing challenges presented by arrivals spaced 11 hours apart are not insignificant, and I hope in the coming years that Amtrak, WSDOT, BC, and Ottawa will work creatively to streamline service and clearance procedures so that these issues are minimized. Even rail advocates should recognize that the cost of CBSA services at Pacific Central station is a steep C$1,500/day. (Interestingly, until yesterday seats on trains 513/516 beyond October 1st were going for $83 each way, more than double the fare on 510/517. The fare has since returned to the standard $38. Was Amtrak briefly considering passing the border fee onto passengers?)
Of course, most welcome would be a provincial partnership with ODOT and WSDOT for operations funding and capital improvements, but don’t hold your breath. I have an email in to Laura Kingman at WSDOT for more information, and will update this post if any new info becomes available.