Stephen De Vight / Flickr

Washington is updating its State Rail Plan, its investment plan for capital projects and operating arrangements with neighboring jurisdictions.

On October 31st, there’s a public workshop for interested parties in Seattle, from 9am to noon. You can find out exactly where by RSVPing to Kerri Woehler at 360-705-6902 or

26 Replies to “State Rail Plan Meeting Wednesday”

  1. Great shot of a clean and shiny Superliner car, but to be accurate, you should have used a Talgo pic.

    1. Not so, the Superliner is just as accurate as a Talgo. The Superliner cars fill in as complete trainsets for the Talgo all the time, and in fairness one could say have performed better after all these years. Plus, the cars are worn out and then some.

      1. Grant, the run to Vancouver BC has had Superliners on them quite frequently. Saw it several times this summer from my spouse’s place in White Rock. Add that to other recent years where I’ve seen them on as subs for the Talgos as well. I prefer them for the better view, but the Talgo cars are way better at being stable at high speeds, one can keep their beer upright w/o having to hold onto it vs. the Superliner.

        Hopefully the plan to cut service to BC doesn’t hold water, it has taken too long to get two trains back to daily service, sure is great to see.

      2. Anthony lives in the north end. He is correct, that is the run (510/517) that gets the Superliners when the Talgo trainsets have to go in for upgrades or maintenance.

        I was only being picky, since it’s the Talgos that say “Amtrak Cascades” on them.

  2. WSDOT recently released their budget request for the next biennium. Lots of cuts across the board, including the rail program.

    From the Executive Summary:
    Costs for state-supported Amtrak Cascades passenger rail service are increasing due to federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) requirements that shift operating and capital costs for trains operating on regional routes from the federal government to states. In an effort to constrain those costs, service changes are proposed that reduce train station staffing levels and the frequency of service during non-peak periods of the year.

    Specifically, they are talking about converting Tacoma to an unstaffed station and reducing the number of Seattle-Vancover, BC trips.

    1. WSDOT appears to be run by highway-obsessed lunatics. I don’t know how to change that.

      It makes precisely zero sense to reduce the number of Seattle-Vancouver trips (which is only 2 each way per day). That would be deeply, deeply stupid.

      It also makes no sense to make Tacoma unstaffed; that would simply overload Seattle.

      Asinine. People who go to the meetings need to yell at them for these penny-wise, pound-foolish proposals, while they propose to pour 4 billion dollars down the rathole of roadway construction.

      1. Everyone: Contact your state legislators and anyone you know in WSDOT, and say that you oppose “decision package 1C, passenger rail service reductions” (falsely advertised as “efficiencies”) in the “WSDOT 2013-2015 biennial budget request”.

        Say that it is a penny-wise, pound-foolish proposal which will worsen service to the point where it will cost more money than it saves.

      2. “decision package PL-1C”.

        This shows that WSDOT is run by idiots who need to be fired ASAP. Anyone who doesn’t understand that cutting from 2-a-day (on opposing schedules) to 1-a-day merely increases your running costs, because ridership and revenue drops by more than half — anyone that ignorant needs to be fired from a transportation department.

      3. I suspect this — cutbacks from the hard-won 2-a-day to Vancouver back to 1-a-day — of being the first step in a plan to kill north-of-Seattle service entirely. Service cutbacks of this sort are an excellent way to destroy ridership and make it easier to remove service later.

        Is it possible that someone in WSDOT decided that with the mudslides, the problems with Sounder, the fights with Candian Border Services, the lack of funding for improvements in Canada, that the Vancouver, BC service should just be scrapped? If so — and there is an argument for it — they should have the courage of their convictions and propose to scrap it entirely.

      4. “Is it possible that someone in WSDOT decided that with the mudslides, th…”

        Close call this morning. Not bad enough to stop service, but we all know the problem is fixable.

    2. The important comment about making Tacoma “unstaffed” is that this would imply (though they don’t say so explicitly) that Tacoma would stop offering checked luggage. Including on the Coast Starlight. There are no unstaffed stations which offer checked luggage service.

      This is demonstrably insane as a proposal and would lead to crowds of longer-distance travellers driving back from Seattle to Tacoma, or forward from Centralia to Tacoma.

      Of course, it is possible — given how completely lunatic this proposal is — that WSDOT is merely trying to force Amtrak to pay for the staffing of the station. Which would be nasty and sneaky.

    3. It is more likely, however, that the demonstrably insane proposal to make Tacoma unstaffed is actually due to gross ignorance of the details of train service by the yahoos at WSDOT, who may not even realize that checked luggage exists on Amtrak.

  3. However, 4 billion will be spent on highway improvements.

    Let’s all hold hands and gaze at our collective transit navels now.

    1. I made a lot of incensed comments above, because the details in the WSDOT budget request show either gross ignorance or actual maliciousness.

      The Washington State Department of Asphalt Pouring needs to have its upper-level staff cleaned out, because they don’t appear to understand the first thing about train service.

      1. The rail braintrust left WashDOT long ago.

        As it is the staff that remains is doing a hard job. Especially having to work under a Governor who thinks the Alaskan Way tunnel was worth so much political capital.

  4. Regarding the State Rail Plan, I would suggest:
    (1) Emphasize the importance of improving Seattle-Portland passenger rail service, of FUNDING it, and of letting nothing get in the way of that.
    (2) Depending on your preferences, tell them to fish or cut bait on Seattle-Vancouver, BC service. Either get serious about it and pour money into it — which will mean demanding a commitment from either Canada, British Columbia, or municipalities in BC — or remove service entirely. Perfunctory one-a-day service on unimproved lines is about the most expensive way to operate, as Amtrak well knows.
    (3) Advocate for whatever else you’d find useful, obviously. :-)

    1. And in line with what I mentioned above, ask them what the hell they plan to do about checked luggage service at Tacoma if they make it “unstaffed”.

  5. Self check luggage cars. Walk through it on the way to your seat, while scanning your eTicket at the self serve check-in kiosk. Engineers need only apply, and then, with PTC, we can do away with them, too. Sheesh. Don’t you people understand a business balance sheet? It’s obvious washes are the biggest expense item.

    1. By the way, Nathanael, I appreciate your passion.

      I’ve only degenerated into the snarky comments because I’ve been involved for so long.

      I have to take it out on the weak-kneed transit supporters here, or become some flaming car-hater, which I’m definitely not.

  6. It seems to me that the anguish over the budget is a bit overblown. Both the rail operations and rail capital budgets are recommended to be increased over 2011-2013. Operations is being increased in light of the shifting of costs from Amtrak to the state due to PRIIA. Capital projects are still taking advantage of the HSIPR grants.

    The Vancouver operations cuts are described as “seasonal or part-week
    service”. Not ideal, but the train may still go as far as Bellingham, as it did before. Look to the future years operation costs. They go up a lot once the two round trips to Portland are added in about four years. Let’s make sure those funds don’t get cut.

  7. Wow. I can only say I hope that Tacoma does not get cut.

    Seeing as that as it stands, the service is very close to breaking even, if anything WSDOT should go even harder at things and get the Bypass done and get more frequency. Last time I rode, the train was packed. It would be foolish to cut it now. Get more trains on the track and it should take off. Stop doing stupid projects like Stanwood, and look at bringing the train crew staffing in-house to get Amtrak out. All Amtrak will do then is say that they need more and more money to just staff the trains. Maybe look at BNSF to provide the engineer and conductor, they already do on Sounder.

  8. Wow, this thread was a Grade A freakout, wasn’t it?

    I never understood the need for Amtrak’s arduous luggage check process on short-haul trains. Trains in the UK have overhead racks for small stuff and bigger racks at each end of each car for suitcases. It’s probably not possible now to easily convert the existing Talgo cars to have that required space, but it would probably save a bunch of operations money if they did. Only loss would be checked bikes.

  9. When I was looking at the WSDOT budget request, I saw that acquision of anotther trainset was programmed for the 2013-2015 biennium. Instead of doing a procurement for new equipment, maybe they should be talking to Wisconsin to see if they have a Talgo or two they might want to part with for a good price.

    It would be advantageous from a maintenance and spares point of view to have trainsets that are compatible with the Oregon trainsets. I understand that they have a different seat pitch than the Oregon cars, but they could move cars around among the trainsets to have a greater distinction between business and coach class. Or run a three class service with cheap ticket prices for the crowded cars.

    Of course, those same trainsets could also be utilized in the midwest on the Michigan or Chicago-St. Louis lines and see 110 mph sooner than they would here.

  10. Yuppie choo-choo fetishists at work again. According to Amtrak’s research, the average Cascade rider’s household income is nearly 50% higher than the average household income of B.C., Washington, and Oregon combined.

    But you people would rather cut basic services, such as health care, so you can have your “Superliner” subsidy. Not that you’re selfish or greedy or anything. Oh no, not you. You’re “progressive” and “good” and all that.

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