Resumption of Amtrak service to Canada (2022)

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zephyr17

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It could also be that service north of Seattle just isn't viable without traffic to Vancouver.
That could be. I took the morning train fairly frequently and Mt. Vernon and Bellingham were significantly turnover points (Edmonds and Everett were almost all people just boarding). But usually at Bellingham almost as many people got on as got off. The train was usually about as full arriving Vancouver as it was leaving Everett.

I recall going down to the station to check out the "second train" (the evening northbound) while it was still the "City of Bellingham" as we called it and it was pretty sparsely populated.
 
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Because running Seattle to Bellingham requires the same number of Amtrak crews as running to Vancouver.

Whatever Amtrak's excuse(s), there is no viable way to comprehend how they were selling round trip business class tickets from Bellingham to Portland in February for travel in June, make route familiarity runs and not communicate to ticketed passengers that there are NO PLANS or dates to restart service.
 

zephyr17

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Probably so…I was thinking in terms of the Vermonter, which ‘replaced’ the Montrealer. Similar? Maybe…🤷‍♂️
I don't think the cases are all that similar. The Montrealer was an overnight train, the Vermonter a day one. The "City of Bellingham" ran on pretty much a similar schedule to the evening north/morning south Vancouver train. IIRC (and it has been a long time), crew availability wasn't the issue for the Montrealer, but schedule reliability and lengthening due to horrendous track conditions.

The circumstances are quite different, and not parallel, other than both the Montrealer and Cascades crossed the border and were crewed by Amtrak the whole way.
 

Trogdor

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Whatever Amtrak's excuse(s), there is no viable way to comprehend how they were selling round trip business class tickets from Bellingham to Portland in February for travel in June, make route familiarity runs and not communicate to ticketed passengers that there are NO PLANS or dates to restart service.

How is there “no viable way to comprehend”? There’s a nationwide staffing shortage affecting almost every industry. Everybody had more optimistic staffing projections in February than reality is turning out to support.

I’m definitely not saying Amtrak made all the right decisions a couple of years ago when they furloughed a bunch of employees, but there’s nothing that can be done today about decisions made in 2020. That said, even transportation agencies that didn’t furlough anybody are facing major staffing shortages right now, and despite attempts to ramp up hiring, they’re still finishing the day with fewer people than they started.

The fact that Amtrak was able to restore some of the service they did is actually a bit amazing. I’m working with agencies that are still cutting service, even as ridership is returning, simply because they just don’t have enough staff to operate (or maintain) the equipment.
 

zephyr17

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I am posting a link to the post I just made over in the Amtrak Board with the letter I sent to my Senators on Coscia since it directly bears and refers to the resumption of service to Vancouver:

 
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The "second train" was a Bellingham turn initially before it was finally extended to Vancouver for the Olympics. They did build a layover track in Bellingham. I don't know if it still exists.

There was no layover track built. It was simply parked in the Pine Street yard in Bellingham. (2006)
DSCN1524.JPG

This was the cleaning facility (the dirt strip) and equipment.
DSCN1536.JPG
 
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HenryK

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I am blind as a bat. Yes, it's still there, and I apologize for casting aspersions! Anyway, thanks very much for the advice.
Especially for that terrific map. I'll be overnighting in Seattle and catching the Builder the next day to Glenview IL.
 
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Here's a summary of some details of the Amtrak staffing issues:


An OBS class was supposed to begin on May 9, but only 3 of the 21 applicants had passed their background checks by May 6. It's not clear whether that's because of Amtrak's inability to process the candidates in a timely matter or because most of the applicants were failing the background checks. Given that both Washington and Oregon have legalized recreational weed, and Amtrak uses hair follicle testing (which is probably overly sensitive to past weed use), it is quite possible that the problem is that most of the applicants are failing the drug test.

Then there's the issue that apparently newly hired maintenance workers have a 6-month training period in which they are under some sort of training status and can thus not bid for a position.

There's also the issue of equipment shortages, as WSDOT rejected the offer of three Talgo 8 trainsets that were gathering dust.

Anyway, I don't know enough to comment on the validity of these points, I'm just repeating what was in the article.

The implication from the WSDOT/ODOT letter was that Amtrak prioritized resumption of daily Empire Builder and Coast Starlight service over resumption of Cascades service north of Seattle into Vancouver. If I were running Amtrak, I'd probably agree with WSDOT/ODOT and prioritize the corridor services; after all the two long distance trains are running 5 days a week, whereas there is no Cascades service north of Seattle. This is hurting more than people riding to Vancouver, there is no service to points within Washington State that should have service.
 

Northwestern

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It could also be that service north of Seattle just isn't viable without traffic to Vancouver.
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Yes. no Cascade service north of Seattle and to Vancouver would be huge loss.

I would really like to see an Amtrak station stop in Blaine, WA (former home of country music star Loretta Lynn). There are 870,00 Canadians living south of the Fraser River. The only way they can get on a Cascade train is to double back to Vancouver. Also, same for people living well north of Seattle who want to get to Vancouver, BC. There is a big gap between Bellingham and Vancouver and a Blaine station could help fill that gap.
 

JP1822

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Agree with you on a stop needed at Blaine, WA. I had thought when the Cascade train to Vancouver first launched there was a station stop south of Blaine that would have helped ease this (or perhaps one was strongly proposed but never got built).

It would have helped to maintain the Bellingham - Seattle Cascade Corridor train. Ran for years to Bellingham, without being extended to Vancouver, BC. Would have at least preserved the work force - if done correctly.

With all these States legalizing marijuana - for recreational use or whatever - this is causing a big conundrum. Its not legal on the federal level. It’s legal in the recreational sense. But it’s going to be flagged in a drug test and cost a person his/her job. I am not getting into this debate - legal or otherwise - but its a problem within this triangle. If you get a medical card to use marijuana, I guess that may get you around the drug test? Very problematic. Even if used medically, there’s still a possibility of an impairment, and do you use it medically on the job?

I know some people that have overcome their insomnia by taking an edible form at night. And they say it doesn’t cause the drowsiness in the morning like Ambiance or other sleep aid meds. So medical marijuana has legitimately helped them, and they take it as they are supposed to. If they only take it at night for said prescribed reason (while not working), will that give someone a “pass“ in their drug test? Said people may only be able to find jobs for those jobs that don’t drug test I guess. Again, complicated.

And it’s my understanding Amtrak may not do some of the drug testing upfront or closer to someone being hired (and sometimes as a condition of being hired). They fail it, and that’s wasted training and invested time….
 

jis

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Yes. no Cascade service north of Seattle and to Vancouver would be huge loss.

I would really like to see an Amtrak station stop in Blaine, WA (former home of country music star Loretta Lynn). There are 870,00 Canadians living south of the Fraser River. The only way they can get on a Cascade train is to double back to Vancouver. Also, same for people living well north of Seattle who want to get to Vancouver, BC. There is a big gap between Bellingham and Vancouver and a Blaine station could help fill that gap.
I agree. This is something that WDOT needs to push and fund. It would be entirely in their bailiwick as far as having it or not goes.
 

Mailliw

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Medicinal and recreational marijuana are equally illegal under federal law. Having a medical card doesn't count for anything as far as employee drug testing goes; no disability accommodation is available under federal law.
 

zephyr17

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This is just my opinion and only my opinion. It is speculation based on the previous posts with the letters and the Trains analysis.

First, I am personally quite sure that when Vancouver service is restored it will only be one train, the Seattle-Vancouver 516/519 pair.

Second, while I am a bit less sure if this, I bet that we will not see the Portland-Vancouver train, the 517/518 pair, restored until the Siemens Venture cars are in Cascades service.

Anyone want to take me up on that?
 

zephyr17

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I agree. This is something that WDOT needs to push and fund. It would be entirely in their bailiwick as far as having it or not goes.
Blaine has been pushing for it and it makes sense. Although I bet WSDOT would make the City of Blaine and/or Whatcom County pay the lion's share of the costs to build the necessary platform/infrastructure.

It is a real possibility, though.

But right now I think just getting the trains running at all is the priority.
 

railiner

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Looking at Amtrak’s early Pacific International, it stopped at Blaine, WA and White Rock, BC customs stations, although not sure if they were also station stops. They did however, stop for passengers at New Westminster, BC…
 

zephyr17

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Looking at Amtrak’s early Pacific International, it stopped at Blaine, WA and White Rock, BC customs stations, although not sure if they were also station stops. They did however, stop for passengers at New Westminster, BC…
Pacific International did. Cascades didn't. I rode the Cascades from Day One, pretty much. There was a huge gap between the discontinuance of the Pacific International and the initiation of international Cascades service.
 

Willbridge

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Here's the formal exchange of correspondence regarding service on what author Stewart Holbrook called "the Far Corner." It isn't directly discussed, but with the duration of the service suspension I would expect a fatal ped or auto crossing accident after service finally begins again. Local folks will "know" that it's only a bulk cargo train plodding along.
 

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  • Letter to WSDOT-ODOT from Amtrak on BC service.pdf
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  • Letter to Amtrak on BC Service 5 12 22_.pdf
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Willbridge

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This is just my opinion and only my opinion. It is speculation based on the previous posts with the letters and the Trains analysis.

First, I am personally quite sure that when Vancouver service is restored it will only be one train, the Seattle-Vancouver 516/519 pair.

Second, while I am a bit less sure if this, I bet that we will not see the Portland-Vancouver train, the 517/518 pair, restored until the Siemens Venture cars are in Cascades service.

Anyone want to take me up on that?
Reasonable surmises. Here is an update on the Cascades, from the May 21st All Aboard Washington meeting in Centralia.
 

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  • Amtrak Cascades Update (WSDOT) 5_21_22.pdf
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