Leavenworth Icicle Station to open September 25th!

Empire Builders at East Glacier Park
Empire Builder's at East Glacier Park by the Author

Washington State will open a new Amtrak station in Leavenworth, Washington. Icicle Station, which began construction on June 25, 2009, will open a covered platform station on September 25th. Phase 2 of the project will build a new station building and the group is accepting donations for the project.

The station code (LWA) is not currently active. I would expect this to be in the Amtrak system but the end of the week. The next station will be Stanwood station which is slated to open in November/December.

For more information regarding Icicle Station, check out the website. Perhaps someday we will get a daylight train between Seattle and Spokane and/or Seattle-Auburn-Ellensburg-Yakima-Pasco train.


Portland’s Green Line: The 5th Line in the Saga

All aboard to Clackamas!
All aboard to Clackamas!

Last Saturday, Tri-Met celebrated its 5th MAX light rail line with the opening of the Green line, an 8.3 mile long system which runs from Portland State University to the Clackamas Town Center. The $575.7 million dollar project was built by Stacy and Witbeck and wide range of subcontractors. Stacy and Witbeck has been the leader for Commuter Rail, Streetcar and Light Rail projects in the United States with over 20 projects under construction or completed. Construction of the Green line took just 3 years from Final Design to Opening day. Impressive, considering the extensive work needed with the Steel bridge, new “diamond” crossings, and all done with minimal service interruptions to MAX and the Portland Streetcar. The I-205 corridor has more than 2300 parking spots available with the largest at Clackamas Transit Center with 750 spots. The I-205 corridor also features a mostly grade separated trail next to the ROW.

Check out the rest of the Green line after the fold!

Continue reading “Portland’s Green Line: The 5th Line in the Saga”

Washington State Ferry News

Enjoying a summer trip on the Tacoma
Enjoying a summer trip on the Tacoma by the Author

Update by Brian Bundridge: M/V Wenatchee is now back in service as of the Friday afternoon commute. Thanks for Todd Shipyard for the quick turnaround!

We here at Seattle Transit Blog haven’t really covered a lot in terms of ferry news. The accident involving the M/V Wenatchee on Sunday has caught my attention with the heavy activity in the news regarding the ferry service. Like my Amtrak Cascades posts, I will post monthly or bi-monthly updates, along with news regarding ferries.

  • The accident involving the M/V Wenatchee is still yet to be determined. The heavy fog this time of year is quite uncommon. (At least according to the Farmers Almanac) WSF is hopeful that the Wenatchee will be back in service before Labor Day Weekend.
  • Victoria Express is providing two 149-passenger foot ferries which will shuttle passengers between Seattle and Bremerton. For schedule information, please check out WSF’s page regarding the shuttle service
  • The ferry shuffle once again dinged the Bremerton route. The 124-car Kitsap will provide the sole service on this route until further notice. The normal ferry, the Hyak, will serve the Edmonds/Kingston route until further notice. The 202-car Puyallup will serve the Seattle/Bainbridge route which will restore its service back to normal capacity.
  • WSF has moved forward with procuring two additional 64-car ferries and the bid going out this fall. Depending on the money saved, WSF may seek to procure a 144-car ferry instead of a 64-car ferry.
  • The first 64-car ferry is well under construction at Todd Shipyards! Its sea trials are expected Summer 2010 and service on the Port Townsend/Keystone route.
  • WSF is also pursuing one or two 144-car ferries which will be based on the Issaquah Class vessel. The 144-car vessels will be used on various routes throughout the ferry system.
  • Currently in drydock, the 87-car M/V Klahowya and 188-car M/V Walla Walla for scheduled maintenance (16kb PDF). There are no backup vessels available to fill in gaps in service.

In other news, Washington State Ferries released their long-range plan (2mb PDF) in June 2009. This plan goes over the future of the ferry system, capital funding issues, terminal upgrades and when vessels will be “up-sized” to support heavier traffic, etc. The worst part about the plan is the deferred new terminals at Edmonds (year 2029) and Mukilteo (year 2017). Both of these terminals were critical components to North Sounder and increasing ridership on the train. The City of Edmonds may proceed and build the new station with WSF’s assistance.

WSF is also looking at ways to add a reservation system to certain ferry routes. Currently, the Port Townsend/Keystone route is on a trial reservation system. Because of the small size of the ferry, this boat is very hard to get on if you want to take a casual drive via Deception Pass, etc. Between now and 2030, WSF will be adding 10 boats and retiring 7 boats (The Evergreen State, Rhododendron Class boats, along with the Kaleetan and Yakima Super Ferry Class boats)

That is all the goodies I have for now! I will be sure to update as soon as I hear that the Wenatchee is back and also, feel free to chime in about ferry news! It is something I hope to cover along with the heavy rail end of things more frequently.

BNSF Construction Updates – August 2009

BNSF in the snow by Brian Bundridge
BNSF in the snow by Brian Bundridge

It’s been a while since I have posted one of these so lets get right to it! This will cover all passenger carrying rail lines.

Transport Canada has finished up an aggressive maintenance blitz for BNSF and CN rails. Most of the jointed/bolted rail has been replaced with Continuous Welded Rail or CWR for short. This will greatly improve the ride quality on the Amtrak Cascades trains. An increase of speed is currently in discussion with Transport Canada on what is viable and what is not viable, including a discussion to honor the tilting capability of the Amtrak Cascades trains.

Construction has finished for the new Blaine Customs Facility which will allow more Amtrak Cascades trains in the future and increase freight capacity as well. This project involved moving the main line over slightly to build a new main. The old main was then converted into a second siding. This will allow for multiple trains to be inspected without one holding on the main line, which in turn, delayed Amtrak trains greatly (at times, upwards of 1 to 3 hours)

The Mt. Vernon siding expansion is still on hold as BNSF continues to seek additional funding for the project. It is expected to start construction in 2010 now.

Construction on Stanwood siding has begun rehabilitation with new 50mph (from 15mph) switches and installing concrete ties and new CWR on both the siding and the main line. An extension of the siding will begin in September. This project will increase freight and passenger capacity and will reduce wait times of over an hour for opposing traffic. Currently the station is on track for a November completion and service by Christmas 2009.

Construction at BNSF’s Delta Yard and Curve Realignment has also began construction with grading and bringing in fill dirt. This project will add several new yard tracks and provide grading for future expansions. This will also include a new bypass track for through-freight. This bypass will increase the speed from the 10-35mph to 35-70mph. This project is scheduled to be completed in Spring 2010 and its completion will allow for a third Seattle – Vancouver BC Amtrak Cascades round trip to begin.

Construction is currently on hold for Edmonds and Mukilteo (second platform) along with the 4 cross overs between Richmond Beach and Everett Jct.

BNSF Commuter Construction crews continue to make way at the Interbay rail yard in Magnolia. This expansion will add double tracking between Galar Street and W Emerson Pl along with a reconfiguration of the main line and yard tracks. Once completed later this year, this will improve passenger and freight movements out of the busy yard and will increase speeds by 10mph for freight, 15mph for standard passenger equipment (Superliner, Horizon, Amfleet for Amtrak and Sounder) 20mph for the Amtrak Cascades. This project should be completed entirely in November/December 2009.

As Ben reported earlierDo It Right Tacoma is protesting the berm that Sound Transit has selected for the construction of D Street to M Street. They currently have a petition running to force Sound Transit to change this to a post and beam model instead, which will delay the project and add several million dollars to the project overall, potentially losing federal grants, including the chance of receiving stimulus funding. Until this is resolved, expanding Sounder to Lakewood and Amtrak bypassing Point Defiance will not go on schedule.

I have not heard much on other major projects, including Vancouver but from pictures I have seen, there is work still being done there.

WSDOT has submitted their Track 1 application (45kb pdf) for ARRA stimulus funding. This funding will cover minor improvements that will increase Amtrak Cascades service, improve on-time performance, and much more. WSDOT will submit Track 2 in October.

That’s all for now!

A Journey from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. on Transit

New Flyer trolleybuses in Vancouver rush hour traffic
New Flyer trolleybuses in Vancouver rush hour traffic

It’s the perfect occasion for a transit adventure to Vancouver, B.C. The brand new Canada Line opens today at 1 pm for free rides until 9 pm. If you’re feeling adventurous and have the time, it is possible to travel from Seattle to Vancouver on public transit by making a series of transfers and some walking or cycling across the border. The journey costs $12 and takes at least 7.5 hours. Back in March, wanting to do a transit field trip up north, I decided to try the schedule on Evan Siroky’s Regional Transit Transfers page. The following (after the jump) is an account of my experience with lots of pictures!

Continue reading “A Journey from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. on Transit”

Second Train to Canada Starts Next Wednesday Thursday!

Amtrak Cascades #513 departing Seattle by Brian Bundridge
Amtrak Cascades #517 departing Seattle by Brian Bundridge

[Update 2 from Brian Bundridge: The Amtrak Reservations System now has the train available, starting August 20, 2009. The trip is slated to be 8 hours and 15 minutes to cover the 320 mile distance with a cost between $48 to $65 one way between Vancouver, B.C. and Portland, Oregon]

[Update from Brian Bundridge: The Amtrak Reservations System curently does not show the additional train in the computers yet. This should be fixed sometime this week.]

WSDOT reports that the second Amtrak Cascades round trip to Vancouver BC, extending the existing round trip that currently terminates in Bellingham, will begin service on Wednesday the 19th. The new service is expected to maintain the existing schedules, with a Vancouver morning departure at 6:40, and an evening arrival at 10:45.

For people like me who enjoy spending a weekend in Vancouver, this will make a Friday departure from Seattle feasible for an extra night. This is the first through service between Portland and Vancouver since 1979, when the Amtrak Pacific International left Vancouver at 11:25 am and arrived in Portland at 8:25 pm. This is also the first change to Seattle-Vancouver service since the current round trip started fifteen years ago.

At the moment, this train is only a pilot project. Service will only last until after the Olympics and Paralympic Games this winter. This would be a great time to talk to your state representatives and senators about fighting to keep this service operating!

Followup On Sounder To Lakewood


Dozens of pieces of email and many comments later, I’d like to follow up on what I’ve learned since yesterday’s post, and what I missed that makes me even more sure that this “post and beam” structure is not a good idea.

First, an apology to those of you from Tacoma. I was unnecessarily dismissive of the Dome District as a place for future development, and I didn’t mean for that to overshadow my argument – but that it did. Let’s say for the sake of argument that in thirty years, this area will be like the Pearl District, or at least in the process of changing, like South Lake Union. Maybe that will happen!

Next, my reasoning. As I mentioned yesterday, this is a project I’ve been well acquainted with for years. It’s not just extending Sounder to Lakewood that’s important here – as part of the state’s Point Defiance Bypass project,  Amtrak Cascades will also move to this track to cut six minutes from trips in the corridor. For now, that means a total of 18 trains daily – ten Sounder, eight Amtrak – but not only might some of the Sound Transit 2 Sounder improvements add to this service, but more Amtrak Cascades service is very likely in the next few years.

And this gets us into the reason I think the berm should stay.

When post and beam proponents talk about the cost difference between the berm and their posts, they’re talking about the difference for a single track – some $1 million. They bring up the narrower profile – but that profile comes at the cost of space for a second track. In the Amtrak Cascades long range plan, a second phase exists for Point Defiance Bypass, adding a second track and increasing train speed along Interstate 5 in South Tacoma. That part of the plan would qualify for high speed rail funds, and it’s been on the books for a decade – but it’s been ignored by post and beam supporters, even though their own web site shows a graphic of two tracks on the berm. Building a second post and beam structure next to the first would be necessary in the long term, and cost nearly as much as today’s project, rather than simply being some earthwork and two new bridges.

The TOD impacts claimed by post and beam proponents also don’t hold up under scrutiny. Their web site shows images of shops and space underneath a railway, which I believe is the High Line in New York. This did happen a hundred years ago – but in the US, it’s very difficult for a public agency to incorporate (or even allow) private use or modification of their facilities. Tacoma isn’t really Manhattan, either, the demand for this kind of development wouldn’t really exist for a very, very long time even if it were possible.

What really, really rubs me the wrong way here is that this opposition group seems to be only a couple of months old, but they’re acting like they’ve been wronged. I knew about this berm in 2005. Where were they then?

Editorial: You’ve Had Quite Long Enough, Get It Done

My first real foray into the world of local rail transit was my interest in improving Amtrak Cascades service to Portland – I had waited behind freight trains plenty on various trips, and I started trying to figure out why our local intercity rail service was so unreliable and slow. I found many projects listed by WSDOT as ways to improve Cascades, and one caught my eye – Point Defiance Bypass. Through a partnership with Sound Transit to extend Sounder to Lakewood, new track would offer a more direct route from Tacoma southward, removing passenger trains from the freight snarl, and cutting five minutes off my trip – more than any other single project offered.

In the intervening time, Central Link has gone from groundbreaking all the way to being open.

No, really. When I first heard about the Sound Transit portion of this project, I don’t even think that there had been any neighborhood meetings for Link yet. It’s been that long.

And a small band of people in Tacoma want to delay finishing Sounder even longer – for a new reason, almost like the last, but just different enough to spur a new round of editorials about ‘destroying’ a part of Tacoma that’s mostly a couple of surface parking lots and a freeway overpass. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself. In the upper right, Freighthouse Square, where Sounder currently terminates. In the lower left, the curve of the old railway to be reused. In between? A handful of businesses, empty lots, an interstate highway. A beautiful urban village to be ruined by a train.

Sound Transit will build an overpass for Sounder – and use earth embankments on either side of South Tacoma Way. The latest opposition tactic is to demand a concrete structure with posts instead – to offer a dry place for the homeless to sleep at night. They wring their hands at light rail’s neighborhood-friendly concrete pylons, and compare to their future pile of dirt, when of course Link was no different – it used earth embankments in several places as well.

Do I seem sarcastic? That’s because this is a farce. These are anti-transit activists drumming up opposition to Sound Transit through typical fear, uncertainty and doubt. They know Pierce County doesn’t have adequate transit service yet, and they know that if Lakewood gets regular rail service, a pretty large group of people will start realizing how useful this is.

Two completed stations sit waiting for Sounder service. This will offer help for commuters into both Tacoma and Seattle. The construction area is not walkable or pedestrian friendly, the benefit of transit service far outweighs any loss. Please, please stop listening to these people.

Passenger Rail News Roundup: ARRA Funding and Talgo

A lot has been happening!

  • Washington State has requested $1.8 billion dollars in stimulus money to upgrade the Vancouver BC – Portland, Oregon with diesel locomotives but includes funding for a 220mph corridor
  • Meanwhile, Oregon State has requested $2.1 billion dollars in stimulus money to upgrade the Portland, Oregon – Eugene, Oregon route into a 110mph electrified rail corridor
  • Wisconsin has won the bid to build a new Talgo Assembly and Maintenance Facility. The State of Wisconsin will also be purchasing 2 new 14 car Talgo trainsets with an option to buy 2 more with a capacity of 420 passengers. I am not sure if Washington State ever competed for this project. It is expected that the trainsets will be the Talgo 7 or Talgo 21 (H/T; Trains4America)
  • Amtrak has put out an RFO to build the new Viewliner II long distance single level passenger cars. Hmm, Oregon Iron Works perhaps? (H/T; Trains4America)
  • And in Canada, Via Rail may strike due to contract issues with the government (again)…

Train Schedules for your phone!

Sounder at King Street Station by Brian Bundridge
Sounder at King Street Station by Brian Bundridge

Are you a busy person and on the run, trying to get to the train station before that last one leaves? Never miss a train again with TrainLogic! TrainLogic has a mobile application for Blackberry or any java enabled phone for cheap! The application is subscription based at $7.50 for six months. During the six months, application updates and any schedule changes and modifications are included in the cost. I requested the Amtrak Cascades to be added to their schedules and they did it in just a few days! Excellent and friendly customer service.

The schedules available for our region;

Sound Transit Sounder Commuter Rail and Tacoma Link
Amtrak Cascades
Portland MAX (All Lines), Streetcar, and WES

I have been using the app on my Blackberry 8330 and will be testing it on the Blackberry Tour (Verizon Wireless) when I receive the device. The application itself has been great and uses very little memory. If you are on the run and need to know when that next train is, this app is definitely the one for you! If you need a schedule added for your region, simply e-mail them and they’ll gladly add it to their list.

Continue reading “Train Schedules for your phone!”

Amtrak Cascades News-Roundup

GPS on the Cascades by Brian Bundridge
GPS on the Cascades by Brian Bundridge

There is a lot of reasons to be excited if your an Amtrak Cascades customer. Several key improvements have been completed and announced this past week. The heated debate over the second Amtrak Cascades train to Vancouver BC has been temporarily settled and will start service August 17, 2009, at least that is what is notated in the Amtrak system. This will be an extension (not a new service as the CSBA likes to think it is…) of the existing Amtrak Trains #513/516 which currently terminates in Bellingham.  The Northbound train will arrive after 10pm and the Southbound will depart around 6am.

This will be the first Portland to Vancouver BC train for the Cascades system with the full journey taking slightly over 8 hours with a 15 minute layover in Seattle either direction for crew change. If the Federal Stimulus funding is allocated this run will be completed in less than 6 hours.

Starting July 25, 2009, the Talgo will also return to Amtrak Trains #510/517. These trains have been substituted for nearly 3 years as trains are going through their mid-life refurbishment. These included new paint, new leather seating in coach and business class, new A/V systems, improved air brake system, improved restrooms, and minor changes to the Bistro car. The Superliner coaches in use now will be returned to Amtrak and used elsewhere in the system.

The BNSF Commuter Construction crews are nearly finished with the Interbay rail yard project. This project when completed will fully double track the corridor between Pier 70 in Downtown Seattle to North Magnolia, near the Ballard Bridge. This will bridge the gap of single track along the Amtrak and Sounder corridors to just 2.7 miles of remaining single track. Those locations are Edmonds and Mukilteo.

The new Blaine Customs Facility has started construction. This facility will add 2 to 3 new tracks which will end the common 30 to 70 minute waits for passenger trains at the border. This is expected to be completed April 2010.

In Everett, the new PA Jct realignment and new yard tracks have also entered the construction phase. This project when it is completed also in April 2010 will shave almost 6 minutes off the schedule, raising the speed from 10mph to 60mph.

Stanwood Station and the siding extension is moving along swiftly and is on schedule to open in November 2009. BNSF however is short $1 million dollars to extend Mt. Vernon siding which is a prerequisite for stopping at Stanwood Station.

Currently, there is no estimated time for construction for the new Amtrak Coach Yard in Seattle but I have tentatively heard December 2009 start and completion in March 2011.

King Street Station exterior is about 90% complete with brick clean up and more clock work to finish up. The project is slated to be completed in September 2009. Interior work can not start until the City of Seattle completes the sewer treatment facility next door to KSS.

Second Vancouver Amtrak Run Enabled

Lots of people have been emailing us about the news that Canada’s government has agreed to fund the border guards to allow a second Seattle-Vancouver round trip, one that will go all the way to Portland.

It’ll leave here in the evening, and come back in the morning.

According to the Times, it’ll start next month.  The bad news is that the fix is temporary: it’s only through the Paralympic Games, which finish March 21, 2010.

I’m sure Brian will be back with more, but please resume your weekend merrymaking.

State Stimulus Spending Stiffed Transit


We’re very fortunate that Congress funneled some of the ARRA (stimulus) funds directly to the PSRC, because Olympia was (and is) a black hole for transit.

We knew that state funding of transit is well below par in Washington, but a new report from Smart Growth America about the flexible portion of each state’s transportation stimulus funding laid out just how reactionary the legislature’s position is.  No surprise here, but our state put exactly zero into public transportation,and 4% into bicycle and pedestrian projects.  As Erica C. Barnett points out, 16 states beat us in the former category and 21 in the latter.

As the Transportation Choices press release observes, the road money wasn’t even spent well: 29% went to new highway construction, rather than clearing the sizable maintenance backlog on the state’s roads.  This kind of project does little for driver safety and simply encourages sprawl, as well as being less job-intensive than regular maintenance.

Take Sounder to the Sounders!

City of Destiny by Brian Bundridge
City of Destiny by Brian Bundridge

Great news for the upcoming Sounders FC vs Chelsea game on July 18th, on top of Link’s grand opening, Sound Transit will be running 2 Sounder trains between Seattle and Tacoma and 1 train between Seattle and Everett!

The Tacoma trains will leave at 9:30 and 9:45am and arrive in Seattle at 10:30 and 10:45 respectively. Both trains will be making all stops.

The Everett train will leave at 10:00am and arrive in Seattle at 11:00am and will be making all stops.

As always, trains will depart 30 minutes after the end of the event from King Street Station.

For more information, check out Sound Transit’s special events

Add: I want to add and stress the crossings in SODO will be VERY busy between Link, Sounder, and Amtrak trains arriving and departing. Use extra caution when crossing over the railroad tracks, especially at Royal Brougham where there is construction for a new overpass.

Good and Bad: Point Defiance Bypass Gets $6 Million, but FlexPerks Amtrak Discount Cancelled

Transportation Choices Coalition’s blog has noticed a motion (PDF) for the next Sound Transit board meeting about Point Defiance Bypass. Apparently, WSDOT and Sound Transit jointly applied for a $6 million federal grant to help fund work to extend Sounder to Lakewood. The project is still short quite a bit, but this gets them closer.

Update: I wonder if we’ve written about this before. I don’t see anything about it, but it looks like this has been expected for a while.

In less pleasant news, we’ve learned that the FlexPerks program no longer offers a 15% discount on Amtrak Cascades travel for U-Pass and FlexPass holders. The program offically ended at the end of the year, but the coupon code continued working through the end of March. According to Metro, their reduced staffing no longer allows them to administer the program, and they let it quietly die.

Amtrak Cascades – More Track work

Rail Grinder by Brian Bundridge
Rail Grinder by Brian Bundridge

Starting Monday, June 29, 2009, BNSF will be starting on a bridge maintenance project between Vancouver, WA and Portland, Oregon. Amtrak Cascades trains will terminate and originate from Vancouver Station with bus transportation to Portland Union Station to connect to trains bound for Eugene, Oregon. There will be a small detour in place that will add about 30 to 60 minutes to the Coast Starlight (Trains #11/14) and the Portland section of the Empire Builder (Trains #27/28)

Continue reading “Amtrak Cascades – More Track work”

News Roundup: 42 Days

By the Author
By the Author

The 42 and 42X are the two routes, along with the 194, that most closely duplicate Central Link. The 42X will be eliminated and the 42 will be dramatically scaled back in route length, service headways, and service span.

The 42 is basically being retained as a shuttle for the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) so that they have a door-to-door connection to downtown. They cared enough about transit access to send a bunch of people to the County Council meeting to demand their very special bus line, but not enough to design their brand-new building so that it actually faced the light rail station, or even the nearest bus stop.  It has plenty of parking, though.

[UPDATE: Tipper Carl points out that ACRS is so transit-oriented that on the very same webpage, it says to find out about bus service to the Bellevue location by calling Community Transit.  Heh.]

The 42 is also infamous as the route where, until recently, you could get your next hit of crack.  Even more infamously, it’s a route I take almost every day.  Elsewhere in the world:

  • Joe Biden says intercity rail funds are on the way.  Checks should go out by the end of the summer. (H/T: Gordon)
  • In other Biden news, he and Sec. LaHood met Wednesday with selected State Governors and transportation officials.  Washington was not on the list.
  • STB Hero Geoff Simpson (D-Covington) is upset at the Governor’s veto of the MVET authorization.
  • The Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada is concerned that deteriorating rolling stock could force a halt to many Southern and Western Amtrak routes.  As Cascades has its own trainsets, it ought not to be affected. (H/T: Lloyd)
  • Transit planners ask Congress to fix New Starts Funding, since FTA rules routinely force agencies to lowball ridership estimates.  For all the doubters, those rules were used to generate Link ridership estimates.

News Round-Up: HSR

Tempe Light Rail Bridge
Tempe Light Rail Bridge, photo by rail life.
  • Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is serious about competing for the $8 billion in High Speed Rail (HSR) stimulus money. The USDOT is going to complete an initial “application guidance” with instructions on how states can apply for HSR money by June 17th. There’s also a $1 billion per year HSR grant program whose application procedures were published May 18th, with WSDOT scheduled to supply an application and a final application by August 18th. Funded projects will by announced by February 17th 2010. There’s a stakeholder meeting scheduled for May 27th, where WSDOT will outline it’s plan for acquiring funding for HSR. We’ll keep you posted.
  • Pressure is mounting – this time from the Vancouver Sun – north of the border for the Canadian government to chip in border services for a second daily Amtrak Cascades run to from Seattle Vancouver BC. Previous posts on this topic here, here and here. Via the P-I.
  • NPI’s Andrew Villeneuve shares his thoughts on Link’s coming opening.
  • Here’s an easy (but expensive?) way to increase bike ridership in Seattle. H/T to Lloyd.
  • This is a great idea for a bus stop. H/T to Oran.
  • The Tempe Town Lake LRT bridge looks great during the day (see above) but even better at night.

Amtrak Customs Hold-up Temporarily Disappearing

Amtrak 90253 Pacific Central Vancouver BC 2005_0112
An Amtrak Cascades train in customs quarantine at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, photo by Stephen Rees

Amtrak Cascades has wanted to run another daily train from Seattle to Vancouver, but Canada’s customs agency has been asking Amtrak Cascades to cover the costs of Canadian customs service on the new run – around $1,500 a day – and Cascades doesn’t have the money. Because that money isn’t budgeted, the new service has been delayed. Thankfully, the Canadian Government’s hold-up has continued to get press from our northern neighbours (that’s the way they spell it, anyway), and the hold-up is going to go away, though only briefly ” before, during and for a short time after” Vancouver’s 2010  Olympic games. Here’s Jon Ferry in the Province (H/T to Lloyd):

Responding to increasing pressure, however, federal Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan has finally agreed to waive the customs cash grab “immediately before, during and for a short time after the 2010 Winter Games.” The only problem is the extra trains are needed right now for what will undoubtedly be a critical summer tourist season.

[Discovery Institute’s Cascadia Center Director Bruce] Agnew points to a Washington state Department of Transportation study showing that Amtrak passengers currently spend nearly $16 million Cdn a year in the Vancouver area. With a second train on the Vancouver-Seattle run, that could soar to as much as $49 million.

Saying they plan to temporarily waive the border fee may be a way for the Canadian Federal Government to save face and pray for a successful Olympic Games despite the worst economy in generations, but I’d take the Canadian Government’s position at face value. Anyone who dreams about Vancouver-Seattle-Portland high speed rail needs to pay attention to this topic: the US Federal Government is going to take a look at this customs issue before to making any long-term investments in high speed rail on Amtrak Cascades. If the Canadian government isn’t willing to chip in $1,500 a day – at most $547,500 a year – to make a second daily run possible, what hope is there of several daily runs, or anywhere near enough runs to make an investment by the federal government on this side of the border worthwhile?

This hard-line stance may have earned political points in Canada during the Bush administration, but I can’t imagine this is popular today. I’d hate it if Ottawa’s stinginess over just the customs fees on a second run jeopardized our chance of regional high speed rail. Come on, Ottawa, the train is going to get you guys millions in tourist dollars and you only have to pay the customs fees. Get on the ball.