Photo from FlixBus Facebook

[UPDATE: Service details added below]

With Cascades service between Seattle and Vancouver out for most of the remainder of 2022, cross-border travelers between the cities will have a new option in FlixBus. The German-based intercity carrier is launching a new Seattle-Vancouver route, slated to begin service this Thursday, June 2nd.

The suspension of Cascades service along with the folding of BoltBus last year has proven to be a double whammy for anyone hoping to get between Canada and the U.S. via transit. With COVID restrictions continuing to have latent impacts at the border, it remains to be seen how quickly cross-border intercity transit can recover. The Seattle-Vancouver service will be FlixBus’s second cross-border route, after the NYC-Toronto and Buffalo-Toronto routes, which only just launched this month. Service details below:

FlixBus’ first cross-border routes between Seattle and Vancouver will run 5 days per week in each direction on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, and will also include stops in Everett and Bellingham, Washington. 

Vancouver-bound buses will leave Seattle (6th Avenue and S. Lane Street) at 7:30 a.m. with stops in Everett and Bellingham, crossing the U.S.-Canada border and stopping at Pacific Central Station and Richards Street-Waterfront Station between 11:30-11:40 a.m.  

Buses heading to Seattle will leave Richards Street-Waterfront Station at 12:45 p.m. with stops at Pacific Central Station, Bellingham and Everett before arriving in Seattle by 3:55 p.m.  

41 Replies to “A new cross-border service starting June 2nd”

    1. The website makes you query specific days and city pairs for a schedule. It looks like there’re three daily trips, leaving Seattle northbound at 7:30 AM, 3:30 PM, and 6:45 PM; and leaving Vancouver southbound at 7 AM, 12:45 PM, and 3 PM. In Seattle, at least some trips also stop at UW and Seatac as well as downtown.

  1. I wish there were better options for pet owners. Neither Amtrak or any other Seattle ->Vancouver bus operators allow dogs, and FlixBus doesn’t either. If you want to visit Vancouver and take your dog with you, the only legal options are to either drive or fly.

    1. The Amtrak website says dogs are allowed on domestic routes up to a few hours, but not routes that cross into Canada. So, even when Amtrak Vancouver service eventually resumes, there will still be no pet friendly transportation option available.

      I know for a fact that visiting Canada with a dog is allowed – I just did it last weekend (by car). So, the question becomes: if you have can travel by train to Portland with a dog and travel by car to Vancouver with a dog, why are dogs not allowed on travel to Vancouver by train? It just doesn’t make sense.

      1. Put it this way. Several years ago, there was a reality show that features Paris Hilton/Nichole Richie. When the pair board a bus with their pets, their pets made an “accident” on the bus thus making it very unsanitary. This may be OT, but thats one of the reasons why pets are not allowed. It may not answer your question, but it just my 2 cents.

    2. I used to take the train or bus to Bellingham or Vancouver fairly often, until I got a dog. Now I can only drive.

      I understand they don’t want to turn the train into a zoo with animals running around everywhere. I think some kind of reservation system to limit their numbers (like they do with bikes) could work. It’s worth considering a pilot program at least, especially while ridership is still so low.

  2. I didn’t download the app. to find out prices for different times of day, but according to the website bus fares for the 51-mile ride from downtown Seattle to downtown Vancouver start at $17.99 one way.

    Does anyone know what Cascade cost for the same trip pre-pandemic. The Seattle Times has an editorial today calling on Amtrak to restore Cascade train service to Portland and Vancouver. The border reopened last August.
    According to the editorial 290,000 travelers took Cascade from Seattle to Vancouver yearly pre-pandemic. Apparently other east coast Amtrak lines are up and running. The Times suggests this bus — or a bus — is provided by Amtrak until the Cascade is running again.

    1. Prepandemic, I’ve ridden Cascades to Bellingham for around $20-25 each way. I would expect Vancouver to be higher.

      Of course, $18 each each is incredibly cheap for a bus too, and might be a temporary teaser. I’ve talked people who have paid more than double that.

      The only two ways I can think of to it for under $36 round trip is to either drive an electric car (and do the bulk of the charging at home, where electricity is cheap) or string together rides on regular transit buses (which is possible, but takes awhile and requires several miles of walking to get across the border).

    2. I rode Greyhound and then Cascades a lot to Vancouver in the 2000s. I don’t remember the exact prices but I think Greyhound was $20 each way and Cascades started at $28 if you booked a month in advance or traveled midweek. Cascades also had sales during the low-volume seasons (e.g., early November, late January to early May).

      I used to take Greyhound because it was cheaper and its schedule allowed me to go up Friday after work, go to clubs and shows Friday and Saturday night, and come back Sunday morning. But the routing in Vancouver was very indirect because it stopped at New Westminster on the way rather than going the faster way through south Vancouver. Finally I decided the comfort and ambience of the train was worth the cost, so I switched to Cascades.

    3. Amtrak has 4 buses that depart King Street Station and are straight shot to the border, and then end at Pacific Central Station, and vice-versa. Their website shows $45 each way. (Probably because they have had the monopoly on that trip for a while.) They might have to adjust with competition from Flixbus. Flixbus’s $17.99 price appears to be a teaser price, but I don’t know if they have the same pricing as Amtrak and the airlines, where price is determined by availability.

      We’ll just have to see.

      1. FlixBus is about $4 more than Bolt was pre-pandemic. Of course costs are higher now with fuel and labor so adjusted I’d guess it’s about the same. Amtrak can’t compete on price with a private provider. They can offer a higher level of service with a train but even if the train is really nice it’s going to be hard to charge more than double the faster bus service.

        I don’t see trains to Vancouver coming back ever unless Canada puts major dollars into the kitty to upgrade the tracks. I’m not clear on why they are so opposed since they get more from tourism than WA?

      2. Flixbus shows a 4hr 10min travel time from Seattle to Vancouver BC.

        Same time as the train did it.

        Of course, Amtrak could shave at least a half hour off their time if Canada did improve their side.

      3. Don’t know. Really hard to hire drivers right now? Flixbus has the added motivation of trying to expand worldwide; they’re a German company. IIRC Greyhound is owned by an English company. Probably only room for one company in this market and Flixbus seems more focused on expansion.

      4. “I don’t see trains to Vancouver coming back ever unless Canada puts major dollars into the kitty to upgrade the tracks.”

        That raises the question of whether it’s worth reinstating. Travel time is an hour longer than buses because of the unimproved track and waiting for freight trains at the Fraser Bridge. Washington improved most of its track, Oregon has done some of it, so what about BC? It takes one and a half hours hours to get to Bellingham, and it should take another hour to get to Vancover, but instead it takes longer because Canada has done nothing.

      5. Greyhound seems to be on its last legs. The service map is a joke compared to that in the 1980s, their last really good decade. They’ve abandoned Canada except for a few cross-border runs from the US, they quit stopping in small towns, and many of their new policies suck.

        IMHO, their downfall started with the strike in 1989. One of the company “reforms”, replacing an open ticket system with tickets for specific trips and eliminating stopover privileges, was the first of their bad ideas.

        9/11 brought the second of their “reforms”, which may have been due to government regulations and not their fault: eliminating anonymous ticketing. You now have to give your name and, in theory, show ID. They weren’t seriously enforcing the ID requirement last time I went Greyhound, but that was several years ago and may have changed (for the worse IMHO). They also raised the minimum age to travel independently from 12 to 15, and later to 17. I’m guessing the reason they didn’t make it 18 is due to the college market and the fact that there are a significant number of 17 year old college students.

        Their third mistake was abandoning small towns. They could have at least kept the stops along major highways and made them “on call” rather than eliminating them altogether.

      6. When my younger brother and I were pretty young in the 1960’s my mom would put us on a Greyhound bus with a packed lunch to visit my older brother in Spokane. The ride was sloooooooooow with lots of stops along the way. No way a parent would do that today, and neither would an airline or other public carrier — especially Greyhound with its customer base — because of the liability.

        I imagine security regulations, and just common sense, ended anonymous ticketing. I don’t think I would be keen on getting on a bus through some pretty rural areas with a bunch of folks who demand, or need, anonymous ticketing. Try renting a car or booking a hotel room (unless for the hour) anonymously.

        Obviously, what is challenging Greyhound is the loss of profitability. I would think low-cost airline carriers hurt, the sheer size of the U.S., and fewer and fewer folks going to and from small towns, which they can do in a car as well. Maybe a much better interstate highway system too. Maybe better and more extensive and heavily subsidized rail between high profitable markets and cities.

        Greyhound flourished in a time when the U.S. was much poorer. Folks took Greyhound because they could not afford to fly or own a car. Plus there were a lot fewer crazies. So the demise of Greyhound in some ways is a good thing because the service was slow and uncomfortable, and today those riders can afford better options, and few things are as anonymous s driving a car from A to B, or more flexible when it comes to stops. Probably the reason for the camper/RV craze.

    4. It’s a bit longer than “51-mile[s]”. Did you mean “151”?

      The Ambus doesn’t go to Vancouver yet. It goes to and from Bellingham once a day, though.

      1. Actually there are two different services.
        Amtrak contracts with MTR Western for the in-state portion, of which there are now 2 round trips daily.
        There are 4 round trips that go over the border, which Amtrak contracts with the Canadian company Cantrail.

        The Amtrak Canada buses don’t stop anywhere in the States, and the Seattle-Bellingham buses don’t go over the border, nor do they go to Edmonds or Stanwood.

  3. Nobody seems to know about it, but I’ve taken Quick Shuttle to Vancouver a couple times, and I was happy with it.

  4. Another thing I would like to see on Seattle->Vancouver routes is better options regarding pick-up points within the two cities. Every bus doesn’t need to serve Pacific Central Station. Same with Everett Station (which requires a lot of stoplights to get in and out of).

    My ideal Seattle->Vancouver trip would involve riding Link to Lynnwood Station (once it finally opens), catching a Vancouver bus at Lynnwood Station (that gets right into the I-5 HOV lane, with no stoplights), skips Everett Station altogether (they have other buses to choose from, and Everett Station is slow to access from I-5) and get off the bus at a SkyTrain station on the Vancouver side that is on the way, but not all the way downtown. For instance, if I’m staying along the Canada line or catching a plane at the airport, a Bridgeport Station drop-off would be perfect. If I’m staying along the Expo Line, I’d want a drop off at a station in the Surrey area. Only if my final destination is actually near Pacific Central Station would I want a drop-off at Pacific Central Station.

    Currently, there’s no buses out there that really do this. Someone from Roosevelt or Lake City has to detour to downtown Seattle or slog it on buses to Everett. On the Vancouver side, the drop-off options outside of downtown are at random hotels, rather than SkyTrain stations, which makes them nearly useless.

    Obviously, traditional downtown->downtown service needs to exist too. But, what I describe feels like an untapped market that would allow considerably faster door->door travel times than what’s offered today, and would complement existing service well, rather than compete with it.

    1. I agree, that sort of thing would be useful. It is worth noting that every stop along the way takes time, but some take a lot longer than others. Since Lynnwood TC is right along the freeway, it takes a minimal amount of time to serve it. In the future, the station will do a good job covering the north end of Seattle, including many of the suburbs.

      For Vancouver, I think the best bet is Marine Drive SkyTrain Station, since it is essentially right on the way. Riders could backtrack to reach the airport, or easily get to southern Vancouver/Richmond locations. It is fairly easy to get over to New Westminster on a single relatively frequent bus. The two seat ride to various places in Burnaby and Richmond don’t look bad either.

      There would be some backtracking though. I could see having a stop that makes it more convenient for Surrey, since Surrey is so big (much bigger than greater Everett). Serving the South Surrey Park and Ride would involve getting on and off the freeway, but otherwise doesn’t take long at all. That is a possibility.

      In all of these cases you need cooperation with the local transit agency. There may not be room or interest in fitting in other buses, especially private ones. This is why this really should be run by the province/state. I find it nuts to think that Washington State is considering a ridiculously expensive high speed rail line, and we don’t have good train or bus service. Washington State and BC should cooperate on good service between the two big cities.

      In an ideal world there is a mix. At one end of the spectrum is a pure express — downtown Seattle to downtown Vancouver. Then you have the stop in Lynnwood & Marine Drive, since it is so easy to serve them (really big bang for the buck). Then throw in Bellingham. After that you have the local, with stops in Everett, Mount Vernon, South Surrey and everything else. Ideally you have hourly service (of some sort) with two hours for the express version.

  5. The business model looks like they are reinventing the flat tire (Boltbus), which had similar stops, schedules, and prices.

    If I were going to BC any time soon (and I am not, for pandemic reasons, not pandemic-restriction reasons, but I will be even less likely to go if the restrictions within BC get loosened), I’d prefer to go from Northgate Station to King George Station, and use the local sky-train/subway system to go where I want to in Vancouver. Making Seattle north end-ers backtrack downtown is an own goal. Having to stay on the bus the long way around Greater Vancouver to Pacific Central Station toward the west end of town is a nuisance that makes me look for other options that just get me to the station in Surrey.

    There is lots of room at the old Northgate Transit Center that Metro may as well lease to private bus companies wanting to provide Northgate-to-Bellingham and Northgate-to-Surrey service. Food options are ample a short walk away. Restroom options are also available.

    But don’t lease for too long-term, as it is less than three years until the new business model would be Lynnwood-to-Bellingham and Lynnwood-to-Surrey service.

  6. “The vehicle is ventilated before and after each ride.” Feeble. Talk to any transit agency to get advice on how to have better air circulation and filtration throughout the trip. They’ll offer it freely.

    I see the usual surface hygiene theater, with little basis in science, but nothing about requiring masks unless the local laws require it. Doing that would be a lot cheaper and far more effective. It might even reduce the number of crazy people on the bus.

    But they do keep the front row empty, so at least the driver is somewhat protected. (This was also a pre-pandemic thing, to give the driver time to slam the breaks if a passenger approached the driver while the bus is moving.)

      1. “Meticulous one-way masking is your only hope if you feel you can’t handle or don’t want a potential Covid exposure.”

        Or, just don’t go anywhere and surrender all public spaces to the minority of the population who have somehow been convinced (mostly by fault of incomplete information from public health officials) that they can fully rely on the vaccines (which really only protect you from bad health outcomes, not getting infected or infecting others).

        This “new normal” really sucks. The end of the case decrease and beginning of the latest surge correlates pretty closely with the lifting of indoor mask mandates.

      2. Indoor mask mandates haven’t existed in about half the country for a long time. That’s what the NYT article gets into. The differences in case rates are not significant, which shows that mask mandates may not be the best public health policy here. For much of the population, the vaccine itself is enough. Yes, this new normal sucks (especially for those with compromised immune systems), but we can’t fool ourselves into thinking that mask mandates are going to do much of anything. They have largely failed.

      3. The vaccines only work marginally to stop the spread now. It is hard to interpret the King County dashboard data any other way.

        Mostly the spread-stopping is being done by staying apart and wearing masks.

        The vaccines are what will keep you from getting a worse case once you do get infected. But the data coming in shows a significant portion of those getting infected will have long COVID health impacts. It really is worth it not to get infected, and an act of basic humanity not to spread it. Not wearing a mask in an indoor public setting around strangers is still a rather jerk thing to do. But lots of people are doing exactly that. Because the public health officials told them it is okay to do that. Telling the masses it is okay for most people to stop wearing masks has certainly led to a lot more masklessness in places where the virus spreads easily. That includes on transit and in essential businesses like grocery stores.

        The mask mandates were actually about 90% successful if you measure whether it got people to wear masks. Maybe *recommending* that everyone where masks in indoor public spaces would still be 85% successful, but that is not the experiment that public health officials have inflicted on us. Instead, I see only about 50% of employees in high-risk public-facing jobs are wearing masks now. That was a rather abrupt change, and totally on the public health officials and politicians for encouraging it. It might also help if we could ban CDC and FDA officials from getting golden parachutes from the pharmaceutical companies.

  7. Just curious….
    Has anyone here had any issues entering BC/Canada since the border was reopened? Any issues using the ArriveCAN system or border agents not being able to access your file/account? I believe the 72-hour requirement is still in place. Thus, I’m assuming the bus operator would need confirmation from the traveller that they have fulfilled this requirement or their reservation would be subject to cancellation.

    Any and all feedback is appreciated.

    1. I’ve never had any issues, done it 4 times I think? I’ve never even had the Canadian Border Patrol ask to look at the ArriveCAN QR code, but maybe they are able to pull it up when looking at my passport. All in all, it’s very easy and feels like a formality more than anything else.

      1. “I’ve never even had the Canadian Border Patrol ask to look at the ArriveCAN QR code, but maybe they are able to pull it up when looking at my passport. All in all, it’s very easy and feels like a formality more than anything else.”

        Now you know why it’s a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, and how MonkeyPox is spreading.

        There’s no real protection, short of closing the borders/grounding flights/ships/etc.

        What they’re counting on is YOU being an honest upright citizen.

  8. Does anyone know how many go north to Vancouver and how many go from Vancouver to Seattle, now and pre-pandemic on Cascade or any of the buses?

    I think that ratio might explain why BC is not motivated to improve the tracks on their side of the border: most riders are going north.

    Does anyone know how open Vancouver is now? Last weekend I met folks who are looking forward to taking their boats to BC this summer after it has been closed for two years because much of the best boating is north of the border. But they won’t have to take transit, certainly a 4.5 hour bus, and plan mostly on going to remote areas. IIRC they stated a negative test is required before entering Canada, and there are fewer and fewer formal testing centers open these days, certainly where they live.

    My guess is work travel between Vancouver — Seattle — Portland will decline post-pandemic because so much work has gone online, and travelling to any of these cities is not much fun for work (especially if the border is bad). When you remove or reduce the work traveler my guess is the ridership estimates on Cascade are going to go way down post pandemic.

    I have to agree I would be hesitant to take a 4.5 hour bus to Vancouver without any mask mandate — or with a mask mandate, recently a number of folks I know who were fully boosted got Covid, one couple after flying back to Seattle although they had been all over the east coast and are anti mask, although the symptoms were mild What happens if you are in Vancouver and test positive?

    If I had to rank the three cities in terms of entertainment and tourism at this time it would be Vancouver, Seattle and then Portland, although I haven’t been to Portland in 10 years or Vancouver since the pandemic. Five or so years ago I would have Seattle at the top and Vancouver second. 10 years ago we liked Portland better than Vancouver for a vacation, but thinks look rough in Portland today and not worth a vacation trip. The thing is a 4.5 hour bus ride to Vancouver — if all goes well at the border — is not much longer than a flight to Hawaii (depending on the airport) or Mexico, and a few hours longer than San Francisco and LA, so not really competitive for a vacation IMO, especially on a bus.

    1. I guess it depends on the kind of entertainment you’re looking for. If strip clubs are what you’re after, Portland would be #1.

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