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The Two Train Tango: What Will It Take To Get A Second Train To Vancouver?

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The Two Train Tango: What Will It Take To Get A Second Train To Vancouver?

It seems simple enough. Trains carry passengers between locations such as, say, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seattle, Wash. When those passengers disembark, whether for business or pleasure, they spend money. When money is spent, those receiving it benefit.

Would you dish out $500,000 a year if someone would then send you $33 million?, Miro Cernetig, The Vancouver Sun, “Ottawa’s lack of vision may derail dream of fast-train service,” May 19, 2009

So, it would also seem then, if all the stars were aligned to have Amtrak begin running a second daily train between Vancouver and Seattle, that officials would do what they could to make it happen — that bureaucratic hiccups could be managed, addressed and not hold things up. But as in life, in governance and regulation oftentimes the simple becomes unnecessarily complex.
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The goal is simple: increase more train service between the two cities and ultimately along the entire Cascadia Corridor from Vancouver to Eugene, Ore. The roadblock is equally straightforward: a dispute about money and time. (Canadian border officials say Amtrak should foot the bill for the cost of inspecting another train.)
That cost, as reported in The Vancouver Sun today is “about $1,500 a day, or a little over $500,000 a year.” As Miro Cernetig points out, that doesn’t seem like very much when estimates show that “a second train will bring another 35,000 visitors to the city annually, creating $16-million to $33-million in spending.” Jon Ferry of The Province newspaper made similar arguments. And just this week, the Honorable Ujjal Dosanjh, Member of Parliament for Vancouver South, voiced his views in a letter to Minister of Public Safety Peter Van Loan and Minister of International Trade Stockwell Day.
As I reported two weeks ago, Cascadia Center is part of a coalition that has been urging action to accelerate a second Amtrak Cascades service to Vancouver. The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver is certainly the most imminent reason to do this, but more broadly (and long term) is the idea of building a true high-speed rail corridor in the Northwest. (For it’s part, Cascadia is focusing on that broader issue next week during Cascadia Rail Week, May 27-29 in Portland and Seattle.)
It remains to be seen whether Ottawa will take steps to accelerate the second train. But if you live between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, it’s beginning to get difficult to turn around without reading, hearing or seeing someone talk in favor of the idea. And you’re probably also wondering if, with all the favorable facts aligned, Ottawa would really throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. Let’s hope not.