NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Hurray for Amtrak! Third daily Cascades train between Seattle and Bellingham is coming

A big kudos to WSDOT, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and Sound Transit for figuring out how to pull this new service together on short notice:

To assist travelers affected by yesterday’s I-5 highway bridge collapse in Skagit County, Amtrak Cascades will add one round trip route between Seattle and Bellingham, Wash., in the coming weeks.

Amtrak, the Washington State Department of Transportation, BNSF Railway and Sound Transit are working together to add this service, a morning departure from Seattle to Bellingham with an early evening return, to help those who normally drive this route. More details will be released as they become available.

Amtrak Cascades provides four trips each day over the Skagit River Rail Bridge, which is fully functional. Amtrak Cascades Thruway buses add ten more trips through the area. For schedules, reservations and tickets, visit or call 800-USA-RAIL.

WSDOT’s rail office had previously been working on plans for a third daily round trip between Seattle and Canada’s Vancouver, but yesterday’s events have necessitated an acceleration of the timetable. We look forward to hearing more details.

The third round-trip train will only go as far as Bellingham according to the announcement; British Columbia-bound travelers should continue to take the No. 510 (morning) or No. 516 (evening) trains out of King Street Station.

Presumably, the new train will make all regular stops between Bellingham and Seattle, which are Mount Vernon, Stanwood, Everett, and Edmonds.

The announcement doesn’t say if this new train will stop in Mukilteo. Sounder North stops in Mukilteo on its way to and from Everett, but Cascades currently does not.

It’d be nice if this third Cascades train stopped in Mukilteo too.

Sound Transit’s taxing district does not extend beyond urban Snohomish County, which is why ST doesn’t provide any commuter rail service to points north of Everett, like Mount Vernon or Bellingham. ST sensibly does have a partnership with Amtrak Cascades, however. That partnership is definitely going to make a difference for North Sound commuters in the weeks and months ahead. ‘

More rail service is exactly what Washington State needs. We applaud this announcement and encourage any readers who are able to take advantage of this new service to do so once it begins. In the meantime, have a chuckle on us by watching this fantastic Amtrak commercial, titled “Kids Repeat”.

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  1. FYI, I drove yesterday the detour route via Fir Island that the WSDOT earlier recommended (subsequently de-certified for having a deficient bridge) and found it added 15 minutes to the normal drive time between Seattle and Bellingham. If you don’t have to do this every day, it’s a pleasant 24 minute rural diversion compared to the usual nine minutes speeding past the malls, big box stores, I-5 Auto World, Mt. Vernon multi-modal station, and other overly- familiar sights along I-5.

    I don’t yet know how the currently certified other detour routes listed at perform, but I’m betting that for door-to-door travel times, driving is still faster than taking the train.

    # by John Niles (@JN_Seattle) :: May 25th, 2013 at 10:30 AM
    • Thanks for sharing your experience, John. What time did you do the drive?

      I think the old adage “your mileage may vary” applies here. Your detour doesn’t sound so bad. Others may have had more difficult commutes yesterday.

      It is important to give people choices so they aren’t forced to drive. Amtrak’s adding of a new trip will allow more people to park and ride and take the train north or south. That’s a good thing. Any cars that can be taken off the road will improve commute times for people who still choose to drive.

      Most Amtrak routes are not faster than travel by automobile (although forthcoming improvements to Amtrak Cascades will give its trains a speed advantage to driving I-5) but speed is not the only consideration when choosing a mode of transportation. For many people, myself included, the train is the best choice for many trips because it’s the least stressful way to go. Traveling by train, I can work on my notebook computer, read a book, or take a nap. Can’t do those things while driving. If I want to get up and walk about, I can. If I want to grab a snack in the bistro car, I can.

      # by Andrew :: May 25th, 2013 at 1:21 PM
  2. Imagine if any of the road diversions needed a Warren Buffett company’s say so before any traffic proceeded over it.

    # by Mark Dowling :: May 26th, 2013 at 3:36 PM
  3. By the time the Cascades service is in place, a temporary bridge will be open for business, so who needs the train?

    # by rsd :: May 28th, 2013 at 11:11 AM
    • RSD, it’s best not to count our chickens before they’re hatched. The *plan* is to have the temporary bridge in place by mid-June. There could be complications. Even if the plan goes off without a hitch, having that additional Cascades service will be great. It gives commuters options. That service is needed and beneficial even if I-5 is functional. And remember, the temporary bridge is temporary. It won’t function like the span it’s replacing. For example, you won’t be able to speed over it at sixty miles per hour. There will be special speed limits in place and there may be weight restrictions as well.

      # by Andrew :: May 28th, 2013 at 12:37 PM