Daily trains from Seattle to Vancouver could doubleBy Frank Luba, The Province – August 20, 2010
Amtrak’s long-range plans for trains into Vancouver could mean four trips a day instead of the current two.
The current two trains — which were expanded for the 2010 Winter Olympics from a single daily trip — are only running because the Canadian government extended a pilot project providing border-clearance service to the American carrier.
The project was instituted in August of 2009 in anticipation of Olympic visitors, and then extended in March to continue through September.
It’s been a hit.
The second train attracted a record of nearly 25,000 passengers in July, and the second-quarter total of 214,641 passengers was an increase of 12 per cent over the second quarter of 2009.
Total ridership on the service, which runs all the way to Portland, was 398,414 through to June 30 — a 17.3 per cent increase over 2009.
Andrew Wood of the Washington State Department of Transport, which helps run the Amtrak Cascades service to Canada, said a decision on the pilot project is imminent.
“[The B.C. government] have notified us that a decision has been reached,” said Wood Friday. “They will be notifying us shortly.”
“The B.C. government is very enthusiastic about the train being on and they have been working with us on this,” he said.
“It’s our intention for this to remain permanent and building on our long range plan, we would like to have more service.”
Wood indicated those plans are to have four trips in both directions.
A spokeswoman for the Canadian Border Service Agency, which deals with the border clearance project, declined to answer queries about the situation Friday.
The B.C. Ministry of Intergovernmental Relations, which has been working with Washington on the Amtrak situation, failed to respond to a request for an interview.
Whatever happens, travellers to Vancouver from the U.S. can get some good deals if they purchase a trip by Sept. 27 for travel though Sept. 30.
In addition to a 25-per-cent reduction on the price of their train ticket, Cascades passengers can get a downtown Vancouver hotel from $107 US through Tourism Vancouver, and a brochure of reduced fees to a variety of sites through Vancouver Attraction Group.
Among the attractionss are the Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours, Grouse Mountain, harbour cruises and the Vancouver Art Gallery.
A video about the Cascades service can be found at www.amtrakcascades.com.