Siemens locomotives at King Street Station
Two Siemens locomotives in Cascades livery at King Street Station, in Seattle, the week that Amtrak resumed normal schedules after a year of reduced service due to the pandemic (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled train ser­vice between British Colum­bia and the rest of the Pacif­ic North­west will be resum­ing in the fall, rather than in the win­ter, the Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon Depart­ments of Trans­porta­tion announced today.

“WSDOT and ODOT are pleased to share that train ser­vice between Seat­tle and Van­cou­ver, BC now will resume in Sep­tem­ber 2022. Ear­li­er plans called for a Decem­ber return to Cana­da, but Amtrak was able to advance the sched­ule. Stay tuned for fur­ther details. We’ll share more info as soon as it’s avail­able,” read an email bul­letin from the agen­cy’s Rail, Freight and Ports Division.

Back in May, WSDOT informed the pub­lic that due to “staffing short­ages,” Amtrak was­n’t plan­ning on restart­ing ser­vice to British Colum­bia until the end of the year.

“Amtrak informed the states of Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon that the pop­u­lar Amtrak Cas­cades train ser­vice north of Seat­tle will not resume until late 2022 due to Amtrak staffing short­ages,” the agency said in May 13th announcement.

“WSDOT and ODOT expressed extreme dis­sat­is­fac­tion with this plan and urged Amtrak to at least begin offer­ing ser­vice a few days a week on an inter­im basis until full ser­vice can resume in Decem­ber 2022,” that bul­letin added. “Amtrak not­ed it is com­mit­ted to an ear­li­er start date if employ­ee resources allow.”

“Sev­er­al staff posi­tions need to be filled includ­ing con­duc­tors, on-board ser­vice staff, and mechan­ics. Progress is being made in recruit­ing nec­es­sary staff; how­ev­er, once hired, they must com­plete exten­sive train­ing pro­grams before start­ing their jobs. This route – serv­ing Seat­tle, Edmonds, Everett, Stan­wood, Mount Ver­non, Belling­ham and Van­cou­ver, B.C. – has been sus­pend­ed since May 2020 when the Cana­di­an bor­der closed to non-essen­tial travel.”

“Dai­ly bus ser­vice between Seat­tle and Van­cou­ver, B.C., and between Seat­tle and Belling­ham, will con­tin­ue to be offered through the Amtrak tick­et­ing system.”

Cas­cades has a Seat­tle <> Port­land <> Eugene route as well as a Seat­tle <> British Colum­bia route. The south­ern route, link­ing Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon, is cur­rent­ly in oper­a­tion, but as explained above, the north­ern route has not been. Soon, that will change and it will once again be pos­si­ble to take a trip to Van­cou­ver — Canada’s Van­cou­ver — by rail, which is great news.

The province of British Colum­bia and the states of Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon are study­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of devel­op­ing a high speed rail link that would pro­vide fast ser­vice between Cas­ca­di­a’s major cities in the future. Sig­nif­i­cant resources would be need­ed for such an under­tak­ing, which would require the con­struc­tion of a new grade-sep­a­rat­ed right of way. NPI’s research has found a major­i­ty in sup­port of build­ing a new high speed rail line in the Pacif­ic North­west as well as a major­i­ty in favor of strength­en­ing Amtrak’s exist­ing Cas­cades ser­vice.

Before ser­vice can be strength­ened, though, it has to exist. That’s why we’re so glad to hear that the norther­ly Cas­cades route is on track to resume oper­a­tions in Sep­tem­ber. That will be after most of sum­mer has elapsed, but at least it’s soon­er than the Decem­ber time­frame Amtrak had pre­vi­ous­ly offered.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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