NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting 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
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