Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rail in Washington

Did you know that since 1994 Washington State has invested $280 million for the Amtrack Cascades passenger rail service between Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland? Washington State has also allocated $344.3 million to both passenger and freight rail infrastructure since 2003. From 2005 to 2009, they will be spending $201 million on passenger rail alone. Of course this is only about 3% of all money budgeted for infrastructure in the state ($10.7 billion has or will be spent on road since 2003), but it is way better than what we are currently doing in Canada. As a note, in late July/early August there will be four trains a day between Vancouver, BC and Seattle.

Also interesting is that Washington State has been buying up rail lines (they own 3 currently.) They see rail as a key part of the economy.

Another interesting fact from BNSF: 40% of all goods travel through rail in the US, but rail is only responsible for 13% of overall transportation costs. It would seem that rail is the most effective and efficient way of moving goods.

For passenger rail, $5 – 6 billion will need to be spent in the next 15 year to bring the Amtrak service up to par. This seems to be a reasonable amount of money (about the same cost of 2 UBC SkyTrain lines.) I had a converstation with a fellow at WSDOT Rail, and learned that they are currently updating the long range vision for passenger rail in the state. He told me that (just like Canada), the federal government will need to providing funding for many of these projects to go forward.

Anyway, the point of today’s story is that rail transportation delivers the most bang-for-your-buck compared to other, more rubber-based, solutions.

As the US Congress The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission said in their recent report:
Our Nation will need to put more emphasis on transit and intercity passenger rail and make them a priority for our country. A cultural shift will need to take place across America to encourage our citizens to take transit or passenger rail when the option is given. It is also important to increase the market share for freight rail…

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