Amtrak Cascade passenger rail service runs between Vancouver, BC and Eugene, Oregon. Major stops along the route include Seattle and Portland. Earlier this spring, I posted about how the US federal government pulled funding from Amtrak Cascade service.
Back in 2012, the BC, Washington State, and Oregon governments signed a Memo of Understanding to jointly manage the rail service. Not surprising, but the BC government hasn't kept up their end of the deal. Right now there are two daily round-trip trains that serve Metro Vancouver. A long-term plan for the Amtrak Cascade service, created by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) in 2006, envisioned four daily round-trip trains for Metro Vancouver. In order to get to this point, the BC government would have needed to spend $98 to $662 million by now, and $503 to $1,067 million by 2023.
There is a range in pricing because the long-term plan notes that Amtrak Cascade service could terminate at Scott Road SkyTrian station in Surrey. This would be the most cost effective option as it wouldn’t require the replacement of the 111 year old Fraser River Rail Bridge. It would also improve access to Amtrak Cascade service for more people in Metro Vancouver.
Since the BC government isn’t even interested in solving local transit issues in Metro Vancouver, I don’t think the provincial government will help fund improvements to the Amtrak Cascade rail service in the province.
With the US federal and provincial governments' lack of support for the on-going operation of the rail service, Washington State has become the major funder of the service. Luckily, Washington State is working to grow ridership and revenue. By 2017, rail service between Portland and Vancouver will be expanded from four daily round-trip trains to six daily round trips trains. Travel times will also be reduced by about 10 minutes.
Even with the lack of provincial support, Amtrak rail service in Metro Vancouver will be improving. Right now you have to go through a two-step inspection process to be cleared for entry into the US, once at Pacific Central Station, and once at the US border. This slows down service by 10 to 20 minutes. Work has been underway to remove the border inspection by making Pacific Central Station a preclearance facility. This is similar to YVR; you clear US Customs at the airport.
In June of this year, Transport Canada, WSDOT, and Amtrak met a Pacific Central Station. Transport Canada informed WSDOT and Amtrak that the station is now ready to be a preclearance facility. It is now up to US Congress and the Canadian Parliament to official sign-off on a preclearance agreement.
It is good to see that Washington State is continuing to support passenger rail service, it is unfortunate that BC has not kept up its end of the agreement as we could have had much better passenger rail service in Metro Vancouver.