Stephen Rees's blog

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

Amtrak gets federal funding for Cascades

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Railway Age magazine reports that $56.1m in US federal funding has been allocated to the Cascades passenger train service.

For fiscal year 2008, ended Sept. 30, Cascades service carried 760,323 riders, up 12.8% from the previous fiscal year. Four Cascades trains each way link Seattle with Portland, Ore.; two of those reach further south to originate and terminate in Eugene, Ore. One additional frequency runs between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia; the state of Washington, province of British Columbia, and Amtrak are in discussions to add a second cross-border train.

They have been “in discussion” for far too long. An extra passing loop was added in South Delta last spring but since then the second train has not been launched simply because a Canadian federal agency is seeking to extract extra revenue from it.  Border services want to be paid more because they say adding a second train to an existing service is a “new service”. If an airline adds an extra trip to an existing cross border service that does not attract any attention- neither do bus services that increase their frequencies. But Amtrak is somehow different. Of course the undoubted benefits that a second train would bring in reducing congestion and motor vehicle emissions at road boarder crossings do not figure in their calculations.

The Canadian government is indeed one of the worst offenders in foot dragging over simple changes that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Harper is much more concerned about the revenue streams to his pals in the Alberta oil patch. And the BC government is, of course, silent on the issue.

“Discussions” are not needed. All that has to happen is for someone in Ottawa to issue an edict to the BSA, or just give them a small amount in extra funding from some program or other to allow the train to start.   It would, of course, be nothing like the amount the US government has just given but it might give them some indication that we are interested in getting along with our neighbours.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 24, 2009 at 9:27 am

Posted in Railway

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