Dear [Washington State Legislator, Governor Inslee],
The 2021 Washington State Legislature’s biennial Transportation budget includes $500,000 for a Service Development Plan (SDP) for the Amtrak Cascades service (SSB 5165, Sec. 222 (2)). The SDP is a prerequisite to Federal funding of projects. This presents a welcome opportunity to make significant upgrades to the state’s passenger rail system.
Rail transportation, with two-thirds less energy consumption and two-thirds fewer emissions than highway travel, is an effective climate emergency solution. To realize the inherent climate benefits, rail service must attract ridership and be well-utilized. Effective passenger rail service is fast, frequent, reliable, and convenient. The climate emergency demands that we initiate rapid and steady responses from our transportation sector to reduce greenhouse gases by about half in the next eight years to prevent irreparable climate damage. Fortunately, we can vastly improve our rail system while it remains operational.
To this end, the SDP must include:
- Seattle – Portland travel time of 2 hours 30 minutes, retaining the current stops,
- Seattle – Vancouver BC travel time of 2 hours 45 minutes, retaining the current stops,
- All trains after the first arrival of the day in Seattle operate through Seattle until the last train of the service day to arrive in Portland and Vancouver BC,
- One hour interval between trains throughout the service day,
- Service day of first arrival in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver BC of 8:00 am,
- Service day of last departure from Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver BC of 10:00 pm (or later as necessary to leave one hour after the previous train),
- Ninety percent or better punctuality within five minutes of schedule time.
- High quality customer service and amenities including locally-sourced healthy food, internet access, staffed stations, baggage check, and clear signage for local connections.
Integration with transit and last mile services at each station to include convenient car share or rental.
These service elements have been demonstrated to be feasible by the Long-Range Plan for Amtrak Cascades (February, 2006) which was completed at the directive of RCW 47.79.020, and the successful implementation of several of the components of the plan since 1995.
Please ensure that the Washington State Department of Transportation integrates these fundamentals into the new Amtrak Cascades Service Development Plan.
Please provide any information you have on development of an RFP for the Amtrak Cascades SDP, including timeline and requirements. We look forward to working with you to create a plan that will establish Cascades service as the backbone of a sustainable 21st century transportation system in Washington State. We can be reached at email@example.com .