Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Amtrak tries to increase service to B.C.

with 12 comments

The Seattle Times has a brief summary of why the second Cascades train is not running yet.

This has already been covered here – but it comes down to the intransigence of the Canadian Border Services Agency. They decided that a second train on an existing servcie was the same as a new service – and thus demand $1500 a day. Amtark is refusing to pay. The Times does not say why but it is simple. These charges are not levied if an airline adds an additional flight btween Seattle and Vancouver. Or if a bus service runs an extra bus.

Appallingly this has been allowed to drag on for months – since last July in fact. The train has a number of benefits that the Canadian government should be willing to pay for. For a start every passenger who switches to the train from driving reduces their greenhouse gas emissions – something the federal government has notably failed to achieve in most of its programs so far. It would also reduce delays at the border crossings – cutting federal expenditures BSA services there. There’s also the considerable reduction in traffic on the freeways too but they are not federal concerns.

The province and local agencies wanting to encourage tourism are also stymied since the BSA does not report to BC – only to Ottawa. I suspect that if there were to be a similar fuss over the Amtrak services to Montreal – or even Toronto – something would have happened by now. And it is not as if there not conservative  MPs in ridings impacted by this decision – from whom we have heard precisely nothing.

Amtrak Cascades crossing Mud Bay

Amtrak Cascades crossing Mud Bay

Written by Stephen Rees

February 9, 2009 at 9:04 am

Posted in Railway

12 Responses

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  1. Ahhhhhhh!!!! This makes me crazy!

    I live in Vancouver and I have been waiting for this second daily service for years and years.

    First it was the province screwing things up for the better part of a decade, and now it’s the Feds. Nobody on this side of the border looks good in this ongoing saga.

    I believe the second morning departure would actually be very convenient for Canadians, more so than the single evening departure we now have.

    Washington has been ready and able to make this second trip happen for years. Just what the hell is the problem up North?

    Ahhhh!!! Sorry, I just needed to vent my frustration.

    And, thank you, Stephen, for keeping on top of this vexing story.

    Andrea C.

    February 9, 2009 at 1:20 pm

  2. Thanks for bringing this issue to the attention of so many. I also added a bit about this latest news item to the Tranport 2000 news page.

    There was report done by the Border Policy Research Institute that said the extra GST revenue from visitor spending for the second train would more than make up for any increase in inspection costs to the CBSA.

    The fact that it has been bogged down for 7 months is a disgrace!

    Matthew Buchanan

    February 9, 2009 at 8:19 pm

  3. Letters to the Right Hon. Stephen Harper would be in order. This should be an easy win for him.


    February 9, 2009 at 9:08 pm

  4. Agreed. This doesn’t make sense at all. A second line would be a win, win for both sides…particularly to increase tourism in a time when tourism is suffering.


    February 9, 2009 at 10:07 pm

  5. […] [rabble] Campaign aims to raise awareness of tenants’ rights before 2010 Olympics [CBC] Amtrak tries to increase service to B.C. [Stephen Rees’s blog] A timely infrastructure injection [The Globe and Mail] Cost-cutting memo […]

    re:place Magazine

    February 10, 2009 at 8:14 am

  6. Truly, truly sad. BSA should be ashamed for their extortion-like feet dragging. I’ve done both the bus and the train, and there is no comparison between the two. More comfortable ride, much easier through customs. And if they twinned that one section of track in WA and replaced the Fraser rail bridge, it would be even faster. I know the transport plan for the Olympics isn’t out yet, but I can’t think of a better way to ease the mess at the borders.


    February 10, 2009 at 9:14 am

  7. I think this is reprehensible behaviour. I use the Amtrak train and “bus train” service up the corridor frequently and am appalled at the lack of improvement and importance but on this basic transportation resource.

    The customer demand for another route is definitely there but the current schedule and booking is a huge detriment to use – as it is, if you want to travel by train (NOT bus), you must leave at 6PM arriving in Seattle at 10PM (earliest) with no continuing service southbound requiring a night over in Seattle. Coming northward requires an early morning departure from Seattle again not convenient for business or pleaure travellers.

    The rest of the developed world has figured out trains as an eco-friendlier and human-pleasant mode of transport. Trains played such an in important role in opening up Canada but we’ve squandered the legacy.

    With the prospect of increased tourism and trade at hand, could Canada please get on board with more cross-border train service, … please?


    February 10, 2009 at 11:52 am

  8. Those Talgo tilting trains are going to wear out before the rail infrastructure is good enough for them to ever reach their top speed of 124 mph (200 km/h) on the Cascades run (at least on the Canadian side).

    Ron C.

    February 10, 2009 at 1:33 pm

  9. I would be thrilled to be able to take the train to visit my brother in Seattle, but the lack of good times to take it, the cost, and hassle has put it out of the question.

    Some day I suspect it will be the only way to get there (aside from horses or donkeys after the end of gasoline vehicles as we know them). In the meantime, if I want to take a train somewhere, I go anywhere but North America. Idiots.


    February 10, 2009 at 5:14 pm

  10. Those Tory MPs you refer to are south of the Fraser, where the Cascade runs through, but doesn’t stop. So this service doesn’t really serve the constituents of those ridings. I can see more being bothered by the increased traffic through White Rock than the lack of a second train service to Seattle.
    That said this dispute is silly.


    February 10, 2009 at 5:39 pm

  11. Yes, it’s 2009 and this should be a simple thing to get going. There is no hope for environmental improvements if a simple thing like this cannot be solved. $1,500 is what it costs in the additional delays at the border in terms of pollution and wasted time.

    In Europe trains speed across borders at 100 mph + without stopping. Lets get this thing going! The track is there all that is needed now is the will of the Canadian Immigration people.


    February 24, 2009 at 2:08 pm

  12. […] Amtrak tries to increase service to B.C. « Stephen Rees’s blog […]

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