Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Cascades

2nd daily Amtrak train to B.C. about to be canceled

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Seattle Times

The Washington State Department of Transportation announced Monday that it and members of Congress will be holding discussions with British Columbia officials after Canada decided last week to impose border fees that would force the cancellation of the second daily Amtrak Cascades train to Vancouver, B.C.

The Canadian federal government said late last week it would require the state’s transportation department to pay nearly $550,000 a year for border-clearance services, according to a WSDOT news release. The money would cover additional staffing for the Canada Border Services Agency.

“British Columbia and Washington are so disappointed by this news,” said Paula Hammond, Washington transportation secretary, in the news release. “The economic benefits for Vancouver and Washington are clear as travelers shop, eat and stay in local hotels. The second train has brought an estimated $11.8 million in economic benefits to British Columbia during the year it has been allowed to operate.”

This should not be hapenning. But then we are talking about a Conservative government. The one that wants to scrap the long gun registry that its own police force tells it is saving lives. The one that wants to spend more money on prisons when crime has been in steady decline. The one that wants to buy stealth bombers even though it says we “cannot afford” all kinds of other services that Canadians actually value. The one that claims to be about free trade and economic growth, but cannot understand the simple math that says for $0.55m you get an extra $11.8m.

Other places order these things better. Across Europe, where they actually understand the concept of a open trade across borders, most land boundaries between countries are inspection free. You can just drive across – or ride through on a train. No-one comes down the corridors now demanding your papers. We could, you might have thought, accept that people who are in the US probably do not pose much of a threat – and anyway since we are supposed to be part of the same North American Free Trade area we would not be trying to levy taxes and duties on goods brought in from there. But we do of course. And we need to keep up our border security mostly because our common causes – like the War on Drugs – have been egregious failures.  We send lots of pot south, they send us guns and hard drugs in return.  The US, of course, also thinks it needs to protect itself from us and our propensity for bringing Washington apples with us to munch on the journey – but it does not charge us for the privilege of being harrassed and inspected.

It is being suggested that we might like to write to the PM. pm@pm.gc.ca will get an email to his office. I think they count them, even if they don’t actually read them. It can’t hurt. It probably won’t change their minds either because they are clearly not open to rational arguments. Most of the people who want to get into Vancouver late in the evening are probably Canadians – but that is not based on any objective data – just my own observation that when I go to the US I leave here in the morning and get back in the evening –  no matter how long my trip. Your mileage may vary.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Railway

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An outbreak of reasonableness?

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Amtrak Cascades Mud Bay Surrey BC 08-04-2005 10-28AM

There is a joint press release out today from Washington State DoT and BC’s MoTI

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Shirley Bond and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Secretary Paula Hammond today announced an extension of the second Amtrak Cascades train service between Vancouver and Seattle

The second daily Amtrak Cascades train began service on Aug. 19, 2009 as a pilot project, running through the end of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The Canada Border Services Agency has since agreed to extend the provision of border clearance services for the second Amtrak train through the end of September 2010.

So it has been kept going for the summer. At this stage that is not very much progress for an issue that has been going on for far too long already. The problem is that Canada is way behind the rest of the world. Our passenger trains are all dreadfully slow and old fashioned. The rest of the world is investing in High Speed Trains, which for city pairs like Vancouver – Seattle are much better and more efficient than flying or driving. Indeed, this corridor is one that the Obama administration has identified in its HST program. And that has real money attached to it. The problem is that Canada has no such program. Nor is there anyone, apparently, who can influence the Canadian BSA to behave appropriately. If a bus or plane operator decided to increase their cross border service frequency, there would be no problem at all. Its only because trains are treated differently that there is any issue at all. And the sum involved, while significant enough to deter Amtrak from operating a second train across the line (prior to August 19 last year it turned around in Bellingham), it is trivial compared to the benefits of getting people out of cars and planes.

There actually is not much the province or the state of Washington can do. What should be happening is that our MPs – especially the Conservative ones – should be lobbying hard to get the BSA some money from somewhere. So far as I can see that isn’t happening either – or it has and has been totally inadequate.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 23, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Posted in Railway

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Update on Cascades second train

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The Vancouver Sun is now reporting that a second train may be added for the Olympic period. But really there is no resolution to the fundamental problem of the Canadian Border Services Agency trying to collect $0.5m in annual extra revenue from  Amtrak, which makes the second train unecomic to operate. They are “still talking” – which just shows that our federal politicians are simply ducking the issue.

Amtrak 134 Cascades Vancouver BC 2006_0731

Written by Stephen Rees

April 2, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Posted in Railway

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Upcoming talks could lead to 2nd Amtrak run to B.C.

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Seattle Times

Just a short update on a story covered here more than once.

Officials from Washington’s DOT and Canadian customs will meet in Canada in two or three weeks to discuss the issue.

It is all very vague. What the story does not say is that if an airline already operating between YVR and Seattle were to add an extra flight to an existing service it would not be asked pay this fee. For reasons known only to the Canadian bureaucrats, an extra train is a “new service” but an extra plane or bus is not.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 7, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Posted in Railway

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New Seattle-Vancouver train delayed by CBSA cash grab?

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Transport 2000 in Ottawa puts out a web based news service and the following story is copied entire

I have nothing further to add

According to Jon Calon, Transport 2000 Western Newsletter editor: “It is a sad thing” the (passing) siding near Colebrook Road that was paid for out of funding from the government (and) has been installed quite some time ago … still does not host the second Seattle – Vancouver Amtrak train.”

This week Vickie Sheehan of Washington DoT, the train’s sponsor, told Transport 2000: “At this time we do not have a firm date on the start of the second train service to Vancouver, BC. We are still awaiting clearance from the CANADIAN BORDER SECURITY AGENCY (emphasis added) and until this issue is resolved, our second train service is delayed”.

Further probing led to the discovery that the CBSA views the second train as a “new facility” and demands to be paid for screening its passengers. Pearson and Vancouver International Airports are grandfathered, new flights (facilities) attract no new bills. The treatment of the second Amtrak train is a case of modal discrimination with the State of Washington being held up to ransom. The rumour is CBSA wants $1,500 a day!

Written by Stephen Rees

July 27, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Transportation

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