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  #1  
Old Posted Aug 21, 2009, 11:00 AM
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Amtrak starts direct service to B.C.

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Amtrak starts direct service to B.C.
Thursday, August 20 | 9:38 p.m.
BY LIBBY TUCKER
COLUMBIAN STAFF WRITER


Amtrak is now offering its first direct, round-trip train service between Portland and Vancouver, B.C., in preparation for the 2010 winter Olympics. The new route stops in Vancouver as part of the Cascades service line. It also means a second daily train runs between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.

The train service, which started Wednesday, is a pilot project that will run until after the 2010 Olympic and Paralympics winter games take place Feb. 12 to 28 and March 12 to 21 in Canada. After the games, the Washington State Department of Transportation will decide if the route is popular enough to continue the service.

The Vancouver games are expected to temporarily boost tourism and travel throughout the Pacific Northwest, including passenger rail traffic. But transportation officials also hope the new service will encourage more leisure and business travel in general on the state's passenger rail system over the long term.

"If there's sufficient interest in the train, it may well continue," said Andrew Wood, deputy director for the department's rail and marine division. "It's important that as we start offering people more travel options that the rail mode of transport becomes more popular."

Wood said the Canadian government has agreed to waive the $1,500 per day fee the new train would incur to cross the border until after the 2010 games. Without the additional fee, the new train costs the department roughly $3,000 per round trip to operate, or up to $100,000 per month. The Oregon Department of Transportation covers the cost of train operations in Oregon.

The agency will need to fill at least 100 seats each one-way trip to keep operating costs in the black, Wood said.

The first train in the new service left Vancouver, B.C., at 6:40 a.m. Thursday carrying 68 passengers out of about 200 available seats. Sixty seats were booked for the return trip from Portland, according to the transportation department.

Trains are scheduled to leave Portland at 3:05 p.m. daily, arriving in Vancouver, B.C., at 10:45 p.m. On the return trip, trains leave Vancouver, B.C., at 6:40 a.m. and arrive in Portland at 2:45 p.m.

Over the past 15 years, Washington's transportation department has spent about $350 million to operate and maintain five trains in Amtrak's Cascades service, with the most popular route running between Portland and Seattle.
source


At $82 - $85 round trip, this is actually fairly reasonable. I can see myself taking weekend trips down to Portland just because of the price.
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Last edited by Distill3d; Aug 21, 2009 at 11:02 AM. Reason: does anyone REALLY read the "reason for editing"?? like seriously?
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  #2  
Old Posted Aug 21, 2009, 11:49 AM
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hmm, might go to seattle for a day or two using the train over christmas.
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Old Posted Aug 21, 2009, 2:16 PM
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Opening day, and they're at 68% of where they need to be to be in the black. Not bad. Taking flights out of Seattle and spending the say in Seattle got a whole lot easier with Rail and Link LRT.

Take the train down to Seattle, spend some time at Pike Place market downtown and take the LRT to SeaTac. Or... take the morning train down, see a Mariners game, stay over night and take the next day's evening train back.

For those wondering... one way tix

Vancouver - Seattle : $35
Vancouver - Bellingham: $13
Vancouver - Edmonds (1 stop before): $27
Vancouver - Everett (Premium Outlets, Boeing factory): $27

Bellingham - Seattle : $20
Bellingham - Everett: $15
Bellingham - Edmonds: $16

There's [understandably] a big jump for crossing the border. Interestingly, though... if you buy two segments (VAC-BEL, BEL-SEA), it works out being $2 cheaper. Not much I know, but for 4 people, two ways, that's $16 for doing nothing.

edit: JUst for fun... I determined the "cheapest" way is to do a two segment via Mount Vernon.
Vancouver-Mount Vernon = $18
Mount Vernon - Seattle = $14
Total: $32

Round-trip savings for 4 ppl ( $24 )

Last edited by twoNeurons; Aug 21, 2009 at 3:00 PM.
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Old Posted Aug 21, 2009, 8:22 PM
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i really wanna try it when i get a job
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  #5  
Old Posted Aug 25, 2009, 7:26 PM
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The ridership is pretty good considering most people don't know it exists yet. Heck, most people are probably unaware of the existing daily Amtrak train to Seattle.

It would be nice if the train was running earlier in the summer instead of just this late and into the winter. It will probably be full on Sundays for Seahawk games. Speaking of which, now that I bring that up, I should do that! In fact once I'm done writing this I think I'll look to see if the train can be used to get to an afternoon Mariners game (as a day trip instead of overnight).

Once people around here realize you can catch the train in the morning and take a cheap flight from Seatac (and get there using Link), or land in Seattle during the day and take a train home at night it will catch on, especially in January when the Link link to the airport is fully finished.

Just people border jumping to catch cheap flights at Seattle or Bellingham will probably put Amtrak in the black. And it's probably why Canada wanted fees to keep this from happening. Yes, I do think the Canadian Government is petty enough to keep this train from happening to save YVR 50 passengers a day.

I hope this is a big enough success that they decide to keep it going, and add a third, mid-day train (for those of us who hate mornings). A Mid-day train to/from Seattle would also be good because it would be that much closer to check out times at most hotels.
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Old Posted Aug 25, 2009, 7:36 PM
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^ mt vernon has an amazing taqueria on the main street there. they sell carnitas by the pound, very very tasty.
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Old Posted Aug 25, 2009, 8:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flight_from_kamakura View Post
^ mt vernon has an amazing taqueria on the main street there. they sell carnitas by the pound, very very tasty.
I have family living in the Mt. Vernon area and I'm stoked for this train - it's taken too long for it to get into service. Small-town WA Mexican food is f*cking delicious and one reason why I visit family so often.
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Old Posted Aug 25, 2009, 8:26 PM
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You should be okay for Afternoon Mariner games.

Games last from 2.5 to 3 hours, and considering the return train leaves at 6:40, and that the station is a short walk ( or one stop by LRT ) even if the game started at 3PM you should be fine (barely) if you're quick about leaving after the game.
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Old Posted Aug 25, 2009, 8:52 PM
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I wonder if ridership makes this train economically viable, if they will increase frequency?
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Old Posted Aug 25, 2009, 9:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twoNeurons View Post
You should be okay for Afternoon Mariner games.

Games last from 2.5 to 3 hours, and considering the return train leaves at 6:40, and that the station is a short walk ( or one stop by LRT ) even if the game started at 3PM you should be fine (barely) if you're quick about leaving after the game.
Not that many games left in the season, but there is a 1pm game against the Yankees a few Sundays from now.
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Old Posted Aug 25, 2009, 9:12 PM
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That's a damn long train trip. I'd rather drive
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Old Posted Aug 26, 2009, 12:46 AM
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At $102 return, it seems a bit pricey to me.
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Old Posted Aug 26, 2009, 1:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Chikinlittle View Post
At $102 return, it seems a bit pricey to me.
Vancouver to Portland, Round Trip:

Amtrak: $102
Alaska Airlines: $128
Greyhound: $147



Aside from driving yourself, it seems like a no brainer to me to take the train.
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Old Posted Aug 26, 2009, 6:44 AM
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its close to $100 in gas to get to portland by car
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Old Posted Aug 26, 2009, 6:52 AM
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^ plus parking downtown, which can be up to $20 per day.

Unless you need a car (like if you are travelling to to the coast, or the Columbia River Gorge), it almost seems like a no-brainer to take the train.

Especially because it's quite stressful driving down the congested 1-5 during weekdays.
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Old Posted Aug 26, 2009, 6:54 AM
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i don't mind it - once you get out of olympia its not too bad

usually its good to have a car to get to the coast - the best part of oregon - portland is nice but the coast is amazing
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Old Posted Aug 27, 2009, 6:14 AM
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I actually just booked tickets for the Vancouver->Portland->Seattle->Vancouver leg of my vacation next week, came out to $128. I was going to drive, but at that price I'll take the train instead. Already enough driving to get to Vancouver from here.
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  #18  
Old Posted Aug 27, 2009, 2:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twoNeurons View Post
Take the train down to Seattle, spend some time at Pike Place market downtown and take the LRT to SeaTac. Or... take the morning train down, see a Mariners game, stay over night and take the next day's evening train back.

For those wondering... one way tix

Vancouver - Seattle : $35
I'm not sure where you see the $35 figure. That's the price for a bus ticket. A train is $47 each way. But of course the bus is 3h30m while the train is 4h20m... which is a big reason this whole thing is somewhat of a joke.
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Old Posted Aug 27, 2009, 3:36 PM
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Originally Posted by twoNeurons View Post
Vancouver - Seattle : $35
Awesome! I could definitely see myself visiting the Emerald City in the next few months..
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Old Posted Aug 27, 2009, 4:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WarrenC12 View Post
I'm not sure where you see the $35 figure. That's the price for a bus ticket. A train is $47 each way. But of course the bus is 3h30m while the train is 4h20m... which is a big reason this whole thing is somewhat of a joke.
If I'm not mistaken, bus tickets are $35 to the last empty seat.

Train tickets are variable pricing, starting at $35 and going up to $41 and $47 as the train fills. I just checked tomorrow's train, and yes, it's $47.

If you book about a month in advance you'll get the $35 tix. Since it's %100 refundable, there's really no risk in booking early if you know in advance.

My guess is you need to have the cheaper seat for the whole journey, so you're competing with Seattle - Everett/Mount Vernon/Bellingham passengers as well.

And as mentioned before, if you book it as a multi-city trip via Mount Vernon it's $32.

You are on the same train, but I don't know if you have to change seats.

edit:
As for the 4h20 time, it's worth noting that the scheduled time was billed as 3:55 in 2003. My guess is they had a hard time keeping that schedule, so they had to change the schedule. They've also been using older trainsets while the Talgos were out of service for a mid-life. They're coming back into service soon. I hope that we can see 3h25 in the near term. 3h25 is the goal for WSDOT in the midpoint between 2003 and 2023. Initially, this mid-point was envisioned for 2008, but in the actual plan was determined as unrealistic given the status of funding was uncertain. At the midpoint, there would be a morning afternoon and evening train between Vancouver and Seattle ( 6 trips ).

Here's a list of what is needed (according to WSDOT) to get trains down to the sub-180 minute area:
  • Vancouver Terminal Control System Installation of new traffic control system/$6.9 million
  • Still Creek to CN Junction New siding/$12.9 million
  • Sperling-Willingdon Junction Siding New siding/$11.4 million
  • Willingdon Junction Grade separation/$16 million
  • Brunette-Piper Siding New siding/$28.6 million
  • Fraser River Bridge Replace or improve existing bridge/$575 million
  • Colebrook to Brownsville High speed track, continuation of White Rock bypass/$91.8 million
  • Colebrook Siding New siding/$11.4 million
  • White Rock Bypass High speed rail bypass/$312.7 million
*estimated in 2006 U.S. dollars.
source

The White Rock Bypass and Colebrook High-speed tracks shave the most time off ( almost an hour )

Last edited by twoNeurons; Aug 27, 2009 at 5:50 PM. Reason: addendum
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