Washington state working to keep second Vancouver, B.C., Amtrak train

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) said Tuesday it and members of Congress are continuing discussions with British Columbia officials to retain the second daily Amtrak Cascades train between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. The service is threatened because the Canadian federal government last week said it would require the Washington DOT to pay nearly $550,000 a year for border clearance services. This money would cover additional staffing by the Canada Border Services Agency for the northbound train’s 10:50 p.m. arrival at Vancouver.

Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond said “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. Does it really make sense for $550,000 in annual border inspection fees to be the reason the service ends? We proved that the ridership demand was there, during the Olympics and after,” Hammond said. “We have no money to cover this added cost and we will not ask Washington travelers to pay more for their tickets, when customers traveling into Washington don’t have to pay a U.S. customs fee.”

The Canadian government decided that the additional fee is necessary because of fiscal concerns. It did so after reviewing the pilot program over the past year and considering the staffing costs for the second train’s late-evening Vancouver arrival.

“I am extremely disappointed that Canada has taken this counterproductive and harmful action against Washington state passengers,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash). “This new fee will hurt our state and it will reduce cross-border economic activity that helps both countries. I will be monitoring this situation closely and I urge Canada to reconsider this decision."

The second Amtrak Cascades train has been operating as a pilot project since Aug. 19, 2009, with a morning southbound and evening northbound service pattern. Since the train’s inception, the Canadian government has evaluated the level of incoming traffic to Vancouver and whether additional fees would be necessary for ongoing customs services. After the 2010 Winter Olympics in British Columbia in March, the trial period was extended through Sept. 30 to provide additional time to assess the second-train service.

Total ridership on the second Amtrak Cascades train between Portland and Vancouver has grown steadily in the first year of operation, carrying nearly 245,000 passengers. Of these, 26,837 have traveled across the U.S./Canadian border into Vancouver, B.C.

Service provided by the second Vancouver train has been extended through Oct. 31 and reservations can now be made for travel through that date.
OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) said Tuesday it and members of Congress are continuing discussions with British Columbia officials to retain the second daily Amtrak Cascades train between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. The service is threatened because the Canadian federal government last week said it would require the Washington DOT to pay nearly $550,000 a year for border clearance services. This money would cover additional staffing by the Canada Border Services Agency for the northbound train’s 10:50 p.m. arrival at Vancouver.

Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond said “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. Does it really make sense for $550,000 in annual border inspection fees to be the reason the service ends? We proved that the ridership demand was there, during the Olympics and after,” Hammond said. “We have no money to cover this added cost and we will not ask Washington travelers to pay more for their tickets, when customers traveling into Washington don’t have to pay a U.S. customs fee.”

The Canadian government decided that the additional fee is necessary because of fiscal concerns. It did so after reviewing the pilot program over the past year and considering the staffing costs for the second train’s late-evening Vancouver arrival.

“I am extremely disappointed that Canada has taken this counterproductive and harmful action against Washington state passengers,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash). “This new fee will hurt our state and it will reduce cross-border economic activity that helps both countries. I will be monitoring this situation closely and I urge Canada to reconsider this decision."

The second Amtrak Cascades train has been operating as a pilot project since Aug. 19, 2009, with a morning southbound and evening northbound service pattern. Since the train’s inception, the Canadian government has evaluated the level of incoming traffic to Vancouver and whether additional fees would be necessary for ongoing customs services. After the 2010 Winter Olympics in British Columbia in March, the trial period was extended through Sept. 30 to provide additional time to assess the second-train service.

Total ridership on the second Amtrak Cascades train between Portland and Vancouver has grown steadily in the first year of operation, carrying nearly 245,000 passengers. Of these, 26,837 have traveled across the U.S./Canadian border into Vancouver, B.C.

Service provided by the second Vancouver train has been extended through Oct. 31 and reservations can now be made for travel through that date.
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