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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Amtrak Cascades posts ridership growth, obtains favorable border-fee ruling from feds


Ridership on Amtrak Cascades service continues to grow and is on pace to register a record number of passengers this year — particularly now that the railroad has received federal approval to run a second train to Vancouver, British Columbia, for another year.

Year-to-date ridership on the Cascades service is up 13 percent compared with 2009. In the third quarter, the service set a new ridership record of 237,162, a 7 percent increase compared with third-quarter 2009.

The ridership spike is due in large part to a second train that runs between Portland, Ore., and Vancouver. The second train has been operated as a pilot project since August 2009, while the Canadian government evaluated traffic levels and determined whether additional fees would be necessary for ongoing customs services. After being extended following the 2010 Winter Olympics, the trial period was scheduled to end this month.

In September, the Canadian government determined it would require the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) — which operates the Cascades service in partnership with Amtrak and the Oregon Department of Transportation — to pay about $550,000 annually for border-clearance services. The money would have covered additional staffing by the Canada Border Services Agency for the second train, which arrives at 10:50 p.m. The Canadian government recently announced the train could operate for another year without having to pay the border service fees.

In the third quarter, more than 68,000 people rode the second train to Vancouver. The train has generated an additional $11.8 million in annual tourism revenue for Vancouver, WSDOT estimates.

The Cascades service operates three daily round trips between Portland and Seattle, one daily round trip between Seattle and Vancouver, and one between Portland and Vancouver, as well as provides daily service between Eugene, Ore., and Seattle via Portland.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/25/2010