The second Amtrak Cascades service to Vancouver, B.C., which could have ended in October if the Canadian government had decided to implement a previously proposed $1,500 inspection fee, received a reprieve when Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced after a meeting with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, his decision to permanently waive the proposed fee. Cascadia had worked closely with the Washington Department of Transportation, Amtrak, the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) and All Aboard Washington in pointing to the strong ridership and great economic impact to B.C. from both trains. In July, at the PNWER Summit in Portland, we collectively pressed the case with Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer. Canadian Consulate General Denis Stevens also deserves great Read More ›
By Heiner Bente and Ray Chambers The Corridors: Best Practices from Around the World. Intercity American passenger rail service is not close to the standards of the other industrialized nations of the world. With growing population and congestion it is time take a new look at the way rail passenger service is operated in America. While America has slumbered for decades with its lax, government run passenger service, the rest of the world has been wide awake. The US is stuck with an inefficient uneconomic model that dates from the mid-20th Century. Meanwhile much of the rest of the world has introduced competition and private sector innovation into passenger railroading. For more than two decades international institutions, including the World Read More ›
Transit News Here’s a one way to market light rail: highlighting the ethnic eats along the route. The new Gold Line in L.A. has mad culinary appeal. In Seattle, Sound Transit’s new “Link” light rail line might also benefit from a promotional campaign highlighting adjacent dining and other neighborhood attractions. Just one of many points of interest: In between the Othello and Edmunds stops, and right across from the Link tracks at Graham Street, is Joy Palace, one of the region’s best restaurants for Hong Kong style Chinese entrees, and the bite-sized savories and sweets known as dim sum. Take it from me, or Yelp fans of the place. In the same urban mall is a wondrous Asian supermarket, Viet Read More ›
It’s a familiar Washington scenario: a major new federal grant program is launched and soon a brand new constituency is born with an army of supplicants and lobbyists eager to secure a piece of the action. The Administration’s high speed rail initiative has been no exception. It has spawned a large and enthusiastic following. Two regional coalitions — the Midwest High Speed Rail Coalition (IL, WI, IO, MN, MS, MI,IN, OH) and the Western High-Speed Rail Alliance (AZ, CO, NV, UT)– have entered the competition, supported by the umbrella States for Passenger Rail Coalition headed by Frank Busalacchi, Secretary of Wisconsin DOT. Also in the running are several statewide rail corridors including California, the sole state with a tangible high-speed rail project, having secured voters’ approval for a $10 billion bond measure. Cheering on the sidelines is the newly formed One Rail Coalition which includes many of the established rail-oriented lobbies such as the Associations of American Railroads (AAR), the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the Railway Supply Institute.
Other members of the new constituency include foreign high-speed rail operators and equipment manufacturers; the domestic engineering and construction industries which are eyeing the program as a potential source of hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts; the green lobby; and just plain old railroad enthusiasts. They were all in evidence at the September 22-23 conference of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association– a new membership organization established specifically to “advocate, educate and support the development of a state-of-the-art national high speed rail network across America.”
What brought these disparate interests together was the lure of big money.
On Oregon Public Broadcasting this morning Tom Banse reported about the long-awaited second daily train between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., which begins service today. Tom Banse: …(It) makes its inaugural run Wednesday evening, starting from Portland. The president of the Clipper Vacations company, Darrell Bryan, books many customers on the route. He plans to board the run in Seattle. Bryan says the additional train to British Columbia will give travelers more flexibility. Darrell Bryan: “It’s a much needed service. As you know, the congestion on I-5 is terrible; the issues at the border with long waits. With this, (comes) the ease and convenience of crossing the border and clearing once you arrive in Vancouver.” Tom Banse: Amtrak was ready to Read More ›
The Seattle Times reports that the Canadian government has dropped its insistence Amtrak pay $1,500 per day for immigration and customs inspections for passengers on a planned second daily train between Seattle and Vancouver. As a result, service will expand next month, and continue on at least through the 2010 Winter Olympics and paralympics in Vancouver. Over-time, cross-border trade and tourism supporters have previously said, up to four daily Seattle-Vancouver trains would be feasible. The second daily train will allow same day round-trips on Amtrak between Seattle and Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station (pictured above) and will speed travel times on the Portland to Vancouver route, as well. Vancouver Sun columnist Miro Cernetig reported earlier on studies showing an additional $1.87 Read More ›
Today in Washington, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood unveiled the long-awaited guidelines that states and regions will use to compete for economic recovery funds for high-speed rail.
“The time has finally come for the United States to get serious about building a national network of high-speed rail corridors we can all be proud of,” Secretary Ray LaHood said. “High-speed rail can reduce traffic congestion and link up with light rail, subways and buses to make travel more convenient and our communities more livable.”
According to the LaHood’s statement, the “guidelines…require rigorous financial and environmental planning to make sure projects are worthy of investment and likely to be successful.”
As part of our recent Cascadia Rail Week, Cascadia Center hosted a gathering at Novelty Hill Winery In Redmond, where officials from the Sonoma-Marin commuter rail line recently approved by voters discussed their plans with supporters of Puget Sound’s Eastside commuter rail initiative, which would use parts, and eventually all, of the BNSF’s underutilized Snohomish-to-Renton corridor. In today’s Seattle Times, editorial page columnist Lance Dickie, who attended the session, writes: Connections between where people live and work are the essence of public transit. The 42-mile Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail corridor between the cities of Snohomish and Renton — including a spur from Woodinville to Redmond — is ripe with potential. Or so it seemed in 2007, when the Port Read More ›
As most of our regular readers know, this week as part of Cascadia Rail Week, Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute (along with a host of industry and community co-sponsors listed at the end of this post) has been rekindling the debate about national high-speed passenger rail and especially the development of service in the Northwest’s “Cascadia Corridor.” With the strongest commitment to rail in generations (President Obama’s budget request is $8 billion to upgrade and expand rail lines), one of Cascadia’s longest running concerns is getting new life.
“Rail Week” began Tuesday evening at the Columbia Tower Club in downtown Seattle with a welcoming dinner honoring Vancouver, B.C.’s Mayor Gregor Robertson. It ends tonight with a closing dinner and discussion at Novelty Hill Winery in Woodinville, Wash., one of several of the cities on Seattle’s “Eastside” that would be served by a 42-mile Eastside commuter “rails and trails” corridor from Snohomish in the north to Renton in the South. (View the week’s agenda here.)
The Tuesday and Friday evening bookends are emblematic of the breadth of the rail week sessions as well as the issue as a whole. On the one hand, Cascadia is seeking solutions to national and regional passenger rail challenges, exemplified in part by Mayor Robertson’s participation; the mayor is a strong advocate of high-speed passenger rail between his city and points south along the West Coast. On the other hand, Cascadia recognizes that the success and development of shorter commuter rail corridors such as Seattle’s Eastside will be just as critical to the eventual overall health of a future passenger rail system in the Northwest and the country. “Rail Week,” which has so far included a train excursion, policy-focused luncheon sessions, and a well-attended public lecture at Seattle’s City Hall, has been designed to bring attention to both ends of the spectrum and everything in between.
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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