Photo by Zargoman (Flickr)
Photo by Zargoman (Flickr)

Sound Transit has announced that it will offer special Black Friday Sounder service, with 1 round trip from Everett and 3 round trips from Lakewood. The first trips from Lakewood and the lone trip from Everett will both arrive in Seattle about 90 minutes before the  day’s festivities begin with the 9am Macy’s Parade. Shoppers and families coming into Seattle on the North line will have about 9 hours Downtown, while those on the South line will have 7-hour and 9-hour options. In addition, Seattle residents visiting family in South King and Pierce County have a few reverse travel options as well. Here is the full schedule:

SounderExtra Amtrak service between Seattle and Portland has been dramatically scaled back this year. Where previous years saw as many as 11 added trains, this year we’ll only see a single round trip on both Wednesday and Sunday, leaving Seattle at 12:30pm and with the return trip from Portland departing at 5:45pm.  This paring back is almost surely due to the withdrawal of federal support for state-supported corridors that became effective October 1 of this year. Many trains for the weekend have already sold out, so act quickly if you’d like to take the train this weekend.

Stay safe and enjoy the long weekend, everyone.

48 Replies to “Special Train Service for Thanksgiving Weekend”

  1. In my experience, all Amtrak seats to Portland at a useful time sold out over a month ago, when I tried to make a reservation. Thankfully Bolt Bus still had seats available.

  2. The reduced Amtrak service is really disappointing. Now that the two extra Oregon trains are available, I was expecting several additional round trips on Cascades equipment. I see that the added trains have a longer scheduled duration, so they must be using older equipment.

    1. Hey, gotta save those Amtrak dollars to subsidize the guy who wants to foam for two days from Yuma, Arizona to New Iberia, Louisiana.

      Priorities, people!

      1. Yeah it’s pretty damning for WSDOT to cut the most reliably sold-out trains in the PNW. Sure, all operating costs are now their responsibility, but these extra trains probably get 60%+ farebox recovery, and we even have extra trainsets to do it with! Instead, we’ll let them idle and we’ll cut back. I don’t understand it.

      2. What’s damning is that Amtrak cut the cord to all but one of its useful services, allowing these services to stagnate when they should be flourishing. Meanwhile, the agency continues to siphon Northeast Corridor profits into $1000/rider subsidies in North Dakota.

        The “touch every state” political strategy has clearly failed.

      3. Amtrak did? It was Congress that forced it to stop subsidizing regional lines, regardless of whether they had better ridership than some national lines.

      4. d.p.: failed? Lately, Amtrak keeps getting the same federal funding every year, apart from a small “sequester” reduction — a better situation than under Jimmy Carter. In fact, Amtrak has been getting the same level of federal funding even while the states were required to pay more, so Amtrak just improved its funding.

        I don’t think you can say that this political strategy “failed”; it seems to have succeeded.

        Also, there are generally-useful Amtrak services in the “long distance” category. Everyone loves to pile on to the three-a-week Sunset Limited, which is indeed pretty much useless in its current form. But (for example) the NY-Chicago, NY-DC, NY-Florida, and Chicago-Denver routes are, objectively, useful, and they’re all longer than 750 mi.

      5. No, Nathanael. Just no.

        Each of the segments you mentioned takes barely 2 hours on a plane, with lots of direct-flight competition and airfares routinely 1/3 of the train fare. Even at the busiest times of year (and even cheaper for Florida).

        Meanwhile, that train to Denver is slower than dirt, and New York-Chicago doesn’t even remotely resemble a straight line.

        Anybody hauling too much stuff to fly, or any large family without the resources to fly, isn’t able to use the train either. Besides, it’s almost twice as fast to drive those distances than to waste your life on Amtrak.

        And don’t try to pull out the decrepit “intermediate trips” canard, as the schedules are so inconvenient and the trains so unreliable that only an infinitesimal percentage of those traveling between Cleveland and Albany would even consider the train.

        750 to 1,000 miles is a feasible trip on a real high-speed rail system, and New York to Chicago is exactly the type of trip for which real future high-speed rail should be explored. But today’s train, on today’s tracks, remains a fringe mode. Period.

        ————

        Yes, precisely, Mike. It was Congress.

        The “touch every state” strategy was supposed to earn generalized support for Amtrak, including the ability to make targeted investments in the most productive services with the greatest potential for growth. Instead, Congress has forbidden wise investments in regional corridors, and mandated the theft of Northeast Corridor profits to support their useless “touch” trains, directly harming Amtrak’s ability to invest in Northeast Corridor improvements.

        The “touch every state” strategy has therefore caused explicit harm, and no good whatsoever. The strategy has failed.

      6. Ballard is the center of the universe, Nathanael.

        Besides, they don’t call them the ‘flyover’ states for no reason.

      7. They’re also “fly-to” states, and “fly-between” states. Or “drive-between” states for shorter trips.

        Or, in a handful of situations where the distance between two relatively prominent destinations renders it appropriate (e.g. Chicago-Milwaukee), they are “train-between(-but-the-train-is-now-hobbled-because-the-foamers-wasted-their-energy-defending-long-distance-crap)” states.

        Unless one is a foamer, or just plain stupid, they are not “travel-at-the-speed-of-the-19th-century” states. These states exist in the present, not in your romanticized, clung-to past.

        If these trains served any valid purpose beyond “vague and ill-reasoned political sop”, then they’d have better than 0.00001% modeshare in their corridors, and they wouldn’t required four-digit subsidies per user.

      8. I don’t really know what you expect, Jim. I advocate in favor of urban and commuter rail segments that are meticulously selected, carefully executed, and operationally uncompromised so as to be game-changing catalysts for the experience of daily non-automobile mobility. Just a few posts above, I advocated for the serious exploration of <1,000-mile high-speed rail between destinations with extremely high demand. I routinely advocate for not marginalizing or kneecapping the budgets of promising regional corridors like Cascades.

        I’m not anti-rail by any stretch of your thin-skinned imagination.

        But all you ever seem to advocate is “trains, because trains”. Your input is not remotely “fascinating”.

      9. No, d.p. Just no. You don’t understand anything about the situation in Northeast or the Eastern Midwest. How long has it been since you were anywhere between NY and Chicago? A decade? More?

        Each of the segments I mentioned takes a minimum of an hour from the city to the airport on each end, and a minimum of an hour in security. So add 4 hours if you go end to end. But the trains are actually there to take people from the intermediate points, which may have faster airports, so call it only 2 hours of pure overhead to get to an airport. (The Lake Shore Limited is carrying Buffalo-Chicago, Syracuse-Chicago, and Rochester-Chicago traffic, mostly.)

        So, *absolute minimum* trip time by air, four hours. Price? Expensive. Experience? Demeaning. There’s a reason people are riding coach on Amtrak instead.

        As for intercity bus service, it currently requires multiple transfers, some on streetcorners, *and* it gets stuck in traffic. I have been told that intercity buses are actually decent in some areas but not here.

        “only an infinitesimal percentage of those traveling between Cleveland and Albany would even consider the train.”
        The numbers say you’re wrong. Sure, driving is the first choice of most people, out of sheer habit, but driving between Cleveland and Albany *SUCKS*, and people know it. Bus travel is actually worse, if you can believe it. Flying is the choice of nobody at all on routes like that. (“Cleveland to Albany? Sure, change planes in Detroit!” has been the rule some years.)

        In fact, on routes like that people are, more and more, just cancelling their trips entirely. But the people who are still travelling are slowly moving to trains.

        “Besides, it’s almost twice as fast to drive those distances than to waste your life on Amtrak.”
        Nope. This is a false statement. It sure isn’t, not out here — you simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

        I mean, if you drive *extremely unsafely* or have multiple people taking turns sleeping (somehow) in a car, then it could be faster — maybe. But if you drive safely, you have to get a hotel overnight somewhere between upstate NY and Chicago. Which makes it much slower than Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited. Have I mentioned that the top road speed limit in NY is 65 mph (with 55 mph in most places), while the train can go at 79 mph?

        As for Denver-Chicago, where there are much higher road speed limits, that’s 17 hours by train by the current (inappropriately circuitous) route which skips all the cities in Iowa… or 14 hours by car. This is not “twice as fast”. Admittedly, someone willing to fly can do it in 5.5 hours (including the trips to the airport on either end and the security wait).

        Corridor-only fanatics have never looked at the actual numbers, which is partly Amtrak’s fault, because Amtrak rarely presents meaningful numbers — its financial numbers consist almost entirely of overhead allocation, while the ridership numbers are often what you get when you fill up the only train you have and don’t add more service.

        The single biggest problem with the eastern “long distance” trains is simply that they don’t run on time; several are already faster than driving if they do run on time. This is the same phenomenon with “corridor” trains, which also do quite badly when they don’t run on time.

        The cross-Rockies trains are a different and much more useless matter, and appear to exist to get Senate votes. *Which they do in fact get*, so until we abolish the US Senate, I don’t feel able to argue with that.

      10. And you really don’t understand the economics of railroads, d.p.

        It’s all about the huge fixed costs; it’s mostly overhead. If you lose the funding for the overhead, you’re dead. The goal is, of course, to expand enough to cover the overhead, which Amtrak has never had the funding to do.

        It would actually cause Amtrak to lose more money if it cancelled the Silver Meteor or the Palmetto, according to a rare document which revealed “direct costs” computations. Cancelling the Lake Shore Limited would save about $1 million a year on a direct costs basis, but probably lose more than that in connecting ticket sales.

        The cross-Rockies routes are the only ones where cancellation would be likely to actually save money. Even then, it’s frankly silly to worry about individual route costs if the route attracts Senatorial support to keep the huge fixed overhead costs funded. The savings from cutting most of the cross-country routes are relatively minimal, but losing two US Senators’ votes could be disastrous. The Empire Builder nets six Senators; for decades the Cardinal netted two to four (though the politics seems to be changing).

        By contrast, the Sunset Limited, as far as I can tell, nets zero Senators and is *actually* pointless.

      11. It is genuinely dispiriting, Nathanael, to watch someone with your breadth of knowledge contort himself into pretzels trying to defend one of his least sensible pet interests.

        Simply put, your claims that Amtrak competes well for your chosen sample trips crumble to dust the moment any reasonable person notices that these trains run once per day (if that), with a maximum few hundred seats, and are rarely sold out. That is, by definition, not a service that is proving useful or in (beyond-fringe) demand for even the sorts journeys for which you claim it is best-suited.

        But you’re not done with you backbending. In drawing your contrast, you declare that 10-12 hour road trips require the traveller to allot two days and stop overnight at a motel, or else be driving recklessly. I personally hate highway driving, and I still know this is a load of bullshit. Especially when the alternative is trying to sleep vertically in Amtrak coach class, because the only train is a 12-15 hour overnight. For which you would pay 3x the fare of flying between any two semi-major airports along the way, and then sleeping in a bed.

        I have no doubt that “overhead” (off-board staffing, certain maintenance and upgrade costs that fall at Amtrak’s feet rather than the track owners) eats the lion’s share of Amtrak long-distance spending, as you say. But if the demand does not exist to run “marginal” extra service — and such demand very clearly does not exist — then you’re stuck with the high overhead and the pathetic return on your overhead expenditures. This the $1000/rider flying out the window.

        You descend further into ridiculousness in your attempt to cite a “rare document”, which separates long-distance overhead from individual long-distance trip operations, in order to “prove” these routes don’t lose money. You attempt this immediately after having gloated that federal funding for Amtrak is stable, even though it no longer includes a dime for productive regional corridors. So
        Amtrak’s entire “stable” government funding — plus the profits it siphons away from the successful Northeast Corridor — disappears down the rabbit hole of long-distance once-daily fringe rail!

        Trying to separate this into overhead and operations in order to “prove” the trips themselves lose less — trying pretend it’s not all one money-sucking category of pointless non-transit — is nonsensical. The (massive ) overhead on a failed corridor carries carries the burden of opportunity costs just the same. 100% of that “stable” federal funding is now waste. How dare you claim that this status quo is healthy, that no room exists for wiser spending choices!?

        That you feel the need to rank the Amtrak network based upon which Senators each route “wins”, rather than on any real-world criterion of effectiveness, is highly telling and stultifyingly unpersuasive.

        (p.s. Your fear of airports is almost too irrational to address. I’ve been between New York and Chicago plenty recently. Midway remains an exceedingly efficient airport, and less than a half hour from the Loop. Security at New York’s airports is getting faster all the time. The flight is between these places takes two hours. The drive takes 12. The train takes 18-21. Please, Nathanael. Don’t be absurd.)

      12. I think you guys are fundamentally agreeing (Nathaniel and DP) but are getting caught up in details and in Amtrak’s peculiar service. East of Chicago is precisely the area where distances are short enough that high-speed intercity rail and comprehensive regional rail could be very successful, and is successful in Europe.

        The problem is west of Chicago, where unfortunately we are. It takes two days from here to Chicago, or three days from here to New York, and that’s too much for people, especially when it’s not less than the cost of flying (although it can be off-season when it’s close the departure date). Amtrak’s “inefficient long-haul” services are mostly from Chicago or New Orleans to the West Coast. Although paradoxically, the Empire Builder became the most productive of the long hauls, and I think the Coast Starlight is second.

        I used to think Amtrak should eliminate long-haul lines and focus on regional lines, but then I was convinced that Amtrak should keep its long-haul service running even in this skeletal state. Because once you shut down the network, it would be virtually impossible to ever resurrect because conditions aren’t the same as when it was first built (when trains were by far the fastest transportation mode). It’s the same argument as keeping Metro or Community Transit running in the face of recessions or political opposition: incrementally improving it is much easier than restarting from scratch (or from an hourly Metro network). We just need to keep Amtrak alive until the political climate gets better. Since 2000, ridership has steadily increased on several lines, and would increase more if Amtrak had the capacity, and it has become a mainstream alternative (at least back east) whenever weather or terrorists disrupt flights.

      13. Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, could one make a legitimate argument that private companies would be more motivated to invest in inter-city bus service through routes served by Amtrak if they didn’t have to compete with Amtrak for customers? In other words, if the Empire Builder were cut, would Fargo, ND really be left out in the cold with nothing (except $500+ plane flights), or would Greyhound suddenly decide that daily trips to Minneapolis (at a reasonable hour of the day, of course) would be profitable enough to be worth doing?

      14. “I advocate in favor of urban and commuter rail segments that are meticulously selected, carefully executed, and operationally uncompromised so as to be game-changing catalysts for the experience of daily non-automobile mobility.”

        I advocate in favor of urban highway segments that are meticulously selected, carefully executed, and operationally uncompromised so as to enhance the daily mobility experience.

        We gearheads are like that.

      15. “. In drawing your contrast, you declare that 10-12 hour road trips require the traveller to allot two days and stop overnight at a motel, or else be driving recklessly. ”

        Stone cold fact for a solo driver — 10-12 hour driving is reckless. I figured this out long before I ever took an intercity train.

        I hope you are never allowed to have a drivers’ license again if you believe otherwise.

      16. “I think you guys are fundamentally agreeing (Nathaniel and DP) but are getting caught up in details and in Amtrak’s peculiar service.”
        That we are.

        “East of Chicago is precisely the area where distances are short enough that high-speed intercity rail and comprehensive regional rail could be very successful, and is successful in Europe. The problem is west of Chicago, where unfortunately we are.”
        Roughly correct. After looking at things rather carefully, I could be rather more specific about what areas are no good — you can reasonably go west from Chicago to Minneapolis, for instance, or (if politics allowed it) between Dallas and Houston, while there are great voids of no population and difficult terrain in the Appalachians and their western foothils.

        d.p. wrote: “But if the demand does not exist to run “marginal” extra service — and such demand very clearly does not exist ”
        Such demand exists in the East, but there has been severe difficulty providing supply. In peak months, Amtrak sometimes can’t make the Lake Shore Limited train consist long enough to meet demand and I’ve been on the train when it was sold out. A second frequency would be successful if it could be negotiated with the freight railroads (always the problem) and if Amtrak had enough cars for it (which it doesn’t).

        Such demand does not exist in the Mountain West.

        For your reference, the only document I’ve ever seen with no-overhead numbers for the “long-distance” trains:

        http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/778/373/Amtrak-Covers-88-Percent-of-Operating-Costs-ATK-13-022.pdf

        Look at page 10. Interesting, isn’t it? The order is quite strictly east to west, and isn’t anything like the numbers shown in most reports. With overhead stripped out, the Empire Builder looks a lot worse than in most reports, while the Palmetto and Silver Meteor are actually profitable, the Auto Train breaks even, and the Lake Shore Limited costs less than pretty much any of the unprofitable corridor trains.

        For reference, the enormous California Zephyr number is hiding something interesting. The train requires 2 trainsets to run from Denver to Chicago (quicker), and *four* more trainsets to run from Chicago to the West Coast (slower), so roughly speaking 2/3 of the costs come from the west-of-Denver part. But substantially more than half the ridership is from Denver east, and Amtrak has routinely added extra coaches from Denver eastwards to try to meet demand; the train often sells out east of Denver. This is *despite* the idiotic route through Iowa which misses all the cities; it appears that people are driving an hour south from the various cities to take the train. So a Denver-Chicago train would probably look pretty good financially, while a Denver-Emeryville train would look even *worse*.

        The section from Denver to Reno is completely hopeless in terms of providing reasonable transportation, even with theoretically-possible upgrades; equally hopeless are the Empire Builder west of Minneapolis (or maybe Fargo), and the Sunset Limited along its entire current route. The Sunset Limited is extra-specially useless, actually.

        Now, here’s the political problem, d.p. Amtrak needs to be able to fund its overhead. This overhead will exist regardless of whether Amtrak runs any long-distance trains or not; you don’t avoid or even reduce it by cancelling trains, it’s still there. The states have been completely unwilling to provide any funding for overhead. At the federal level, the House of Representatives has *repeatedly* tried to defund Amtrak. Amtrak is surviving solely due to getting Senate votes, and if it loses in the Senate, we lose the WHOLE THING, Cascades, NEC, and all. Six Senate votes (MN, ND, MT) are worthwhile, although I think Senate votes are the main reason to support the Empire Builder west of Minneapolis.

        Horribly, an awful lot of things are subject to this “Senatorial” situation in the US. Why were the booster rockets for the Space Shuttle built in Iowa, a fateful choice which was one of the major causes which killed the crew of the Challenger? Senate votes!

        I support abolishing the US Senate entirely, but the political environment we live in steers federal money towards low-population states even when it’s inappropriate, useless, or even if it it *kills* people. We have to deal with this until we can abolish the undemocratic, unrepresentative US Senate. I’d be happy to join you in doing so.

        But you need to understand what the actual reality we have is: the depopulated states which get lots of federal welfare demand their pork during every deal; they’re willing to destroy things in the other states in order to get their pork; and because of the US Senate they have the ability to destroy things in other states. It’s seriously obnoxious, but it’s the way things have been since 1789.

        Of course, when the pork doesn’t even get you Senate votes from the states which are receiving it, as with the Sunset Limited, it seems even more unjustifiable. I suppose the only argument is Mike Orr’s — if you lose something it’s hard to get anything back; incrementally improving it is much easier than restarting from scratch.

        Now I don’t see any path for incrementally improving anything on the Sunset Limited route, since UP refuses to allow additional train service and the states and cities involved are uninterested in buying any of the track — so at this point I say drop that route. The path for incrementally improving the Lake Shore Limited route, by contrast, is obvious and is *already happening*, and the same is true on, surprisingly, the Texas Eagle.

        As for airplanes, I swore them off in 2008, when they’d been shitholes for 7 years. I’m not taking your word for it that they’re better.

      17. In peak months, Amtrak sometimes can’t make the Lake Shore Limited train consist long enough to meet demand and I’ve been on the train when it was sold out. A second frequency would be successful if it could be negotiated with the freight railroads (always the problem) and if Amtrak had enough cars for it (which it doesn’t).

        I expect that a second frequency of the LSL could attract a lot more riders from places like Cleveland if it arrived and departed during the daytime instead of in the early morning hours. Likewise for the Capitol Limited, the Cardinal with respect to Cincinnati, and the Empire Builder in Fargo and Spokane.

        Horribly, an awful lot of things are subject to this “Senatorial” situation in the US. Why were the booster rockets for the Space Shuttle built in Iowa, a fateful choice which was one of the major causes which killed the crew of the Challenger? Senate votes!

        The solid rocket boosters segments were built and refurbished in Utah, assembled in Florida. According to wikipedia, components of the SRBs came from many states (including three companies in Washington), but it doesn’t list any from Iowa. In any case, I don’t see why having the contracts strewn around the country contributed to the Challenger disaster. It was really a failure of the engineering process and NASA culture at the time.

    2. Aren’t the extra trainsets ODOT’s? It may not have been up to WSDOT to run them.

      Does the agreement that the two states signed making it a single-corridor apply to a trainset that one state purchased?

      1. They do belong to ODOT, but Cascades has been running for years in Oregon with trains owned by Amtrak and WSDOT. Oregon wants to use them to improve service to Eugene (adding an extra round trip and making the times more convenient) but they have also said they will be used to expand service to Seattle once the Point Defiance Bypass project is complete.

        I toured one of the trains at Union Station a few weeks back; they are very nice.

        http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/COMM/Pages/TalgoHome.aspx

        “One specific expansion coming up in the Northwest, required by the funding awarded and scheduled for completion in 2017, requires Washington to add two
        additional roundtrips between Portland and Seattle. Because Washington DOT owns three of the current five trains and Amtrak owns the other two, that expansion could have meant a disruption in or elimination of service between Portland and Eugene.

        To ensure equipment is available for Portland-Eugene service, Oregon opted to purchase trains that can be used cooperatively with the current fleet everywhere in the corridor. By owning trains, too, Oregon will have a stronger role as a partner in the Cascades corridor. The two new Talgo trains join the five other Talgo trains in helping preserve options for Oregonians.”

      2. I think that it is particularly odd that the extra Oregon trains just seem to be sitting in a shed right now. I am also surprised that OR and WA didn’t arrange to pull them out for Thanksgiving.

        When trains are selling out, extra runs generally pay for themselves.

  3. So is BNSF playing Santa Claus early by allowing extra trains to run on holidays and game days, or does ST pay a per mile or per hour extra charge for trackage and trainsets on ‘specials’?

    1. I’m guessing Sound Transit is writing BNSF a blank check for each extra train they run, but I don’t know for sure.

  4. I admit I take Sounder for the fun of it (I live in Ballard). So I’m pleased to be able to get to Lakewood and return on the same train. Normally I go as far as Tacoma because the trains which arrive at Lakewood stay there overnight, necessitating a turn around for me at Freighthouse. Friday I will be able to travel some rare mileage. And (mostly) in daylight.

    1. One could take either of the first two northbound trips on the 512 to catch the North Sounder run from Everett Station. The second run only allows 6 minutes to transfer, so the first run would be better.

      It’s too bad that the first train to Lakewood leaves before the north train pulls into KSS. Otherwise you would start in Everett and travel all the way to Lakewood.

    2. I also enjoy taking the Sounder to Everett (in season, when the days are long). But of course there is no reverse run, so I walk a few paces to the ST express bus, which, I-5 traffic notwithstanding, gets me back to Seattle in a reasonable amount of time. I get off at the 45th Street [freeway] stop, walk to Green Lake, and catch the 48 from there.

  5. I would suggest to folks to take BoltBus instead, but they are completely sold out on Wednesday and some fares are as high as $50 this weekend.

    1. It’s too bad we don’t have a bunch of extra passenger train cars sitting around that could be put into service around the holidays…

  6. Supposedly, the Oregon Talgo will make their public debut on Wednesday though the schedule suggests it is an convention trainset as it is a 4 hour train instead of the usual 3hr 30 minutes…

    1. Brian,

      Is it not possible that BNSF knows its freight timetable at that time of day and told ATK “you’re going to get stabbed three times south of Olympia, so put some pad in the schedule”?

      1. That’s entirely possible. It’s worth remembering that Cascades has really very bad on-time performance right now, and will continue to do so until Pt. Defiance Bypass is completed; perhaps this longer schedule will be *achievable*.

      2. OK, that’s a fair point, I was looking at YTD rather than last month!

        The theory is that Pt. Defiance Bypass will bring the OTP over 90% year-round *while* eliminating padding. Impressive if they can pull it off.

  7. Looks like one trainset on each route.

    I wonder why they don’t run a second RT on the north end, at least to and from Edmonds. (EVR-SEA-EDM-SEA and SEA-EDM-SEA-EVR). I can’t believe they don’t owe each crew for at least four hours and there’s almost no freight on Black Friday.

    Lots of folks ferry across from Bainbridge and Poulsbo on Friday and the lots there are a ZOO! If Edmonds/Kingston had more service — the church P’n’R is certainly available — it might take some pressure off Winslow.

    1. For people headed downtown, there is no reason for them to drive to Kingston and ride Sounder from Edmonds. Simply driving to Bainbridge and taking the ferry directly into downtown would be much faster. Given that Winslow is built to handle thousands of commuters every weekday – people headed into work downtown, I find it hard to believe that anything Friday would overwhelm it.

      1. Well, asdf, you haven’t tried it have you? My wife’s family has a summer home in Hansville and we go up there every Thanksgiving to celebrate with family members and friends in Seattle. We often go back in on Friday as well.

        Since we want to go to downtown Seattle, we’ve tried Winslow and the ferry twice. You have to get there by 10 AM or there are no places to park. The lots are not “thousands” of slots, not by a long shot. Many people during the week use the bus and kiss-and-ride to get to the terminal. Kiss-and-ride doesn’t work for family trips and the commuter buses stop running at about 8 AM, so that doesn’t work for more leisurely shopping trips.

        Nowadays we pretty much drive on because of the parking hassle. Then we park at a friend’s in North Seattle and take the bus downtown. But it would be much nicer to park at the church in Kingston, walk on, and take Sounder if we had the option.

        It just seems like it might be worth trying. One round trip in the morning from the coach yard to Everett and back can’t be much more than two and a half hours. You know they’re paying that crew for four hours at a minimum. A turn back to Edmonds wouldn’t cost any more than the diesel fuel and maybe some rental to BNSF, though I doubt it. Don’t they have two slots from Everett on weekdays?

  8. Could the Feds have screwed the Cascades Corridor any more than it has with it’s recent ‘bags-o-cash’ HSR money for improvements to the BNSF tracks, while withdrawing any support to run the trains?
    So the only winner here for HSR down the road is the all-mighty railroad.
    Our Nineteenth century robber barons are alive and well.

    1. +1. It’s the utmost insanity to give ~$800 million for track improvements yet withdraw $9.8m in annual operating funds. But the state support withdrawal was baked in back in PRIIA-2008, while the ARRA funds for track improvements weren’t awarded until a year or two later. Everyone expected WSDOT/ODOT to pick up the slack, but we haven’t yet seen a long-term funding plan.

      The good news is that the money has strings, so WSDOT has no choice but to add a minimum of two more roundtrips in order to not have to return the money. In the meantime, however, we’re already seeing stagnation in ridership and farebox recovery as WSDOT balks at running even the current level of service (rumor has it that trains 513/516 could well be re-truncated to Bellingham, etc).

      1. “The good news is that the money has strings, so WSDOT has no choice but to add a minimum of two more roundtrips in order to not have to return the money”

        When this happens after Pt. Defiance Bypass opens, the improved OTP and running time should hopefully cause higher ridership and farebox recovery, and therefore convince WSDOT to go back to enhancing service.

        I suspect WSDOT employees of simply being exasperated about the situation in British Columbia, where nobody has lifted a finger to improve the route in any way.

        It takes almost TWICE as long to take the train from Vancouver to Bellingham as it does to drive. If it’s not improved within British Columbia, it’s really not going to be worthwhile.

        (So, d.p., there’s a useless slower-than-driving Amtrak route, as opposed to the faster-than-driving Lake Shore Limited in my neck of the woods.)

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