State needs to assure better rail service for Amtrak Cascades

The Puget Sound region’s population is expected to grow by 4 million people in two or three decades, yet in its most recent planning document, the Washington state Department of Transportation is undercutting our ability to use intercity passenger rail as a reliable and convenient travel alternative.

Other state departments of transportation are applying for federal grants to deliver faster, reliable and frequent intercity passenger rail. This investment can revitalize cities, connect communities, and reduce travel times. Programs in the Midwest and East are setting 70 mph as the new average speed, providing an attractive alternative to driving and flying.

Amtrak Cascades from Vancouver B.C. to Portland, Ore., is unreliable and slow — taking three hours 25 minutes at about 53 mph average speed. It is often late with about 47 percent on-time performance as of last year. Rather than planning for the current standard for rail service of 70 mph average speed, WSDOT’s 20-year service plan would increase average speed to about 58 mph. This minimal improvement is not what we need or want. WSDOT must do better.

WSDOT is seeking public input until April 18 on its planning document. Email to and ask that sufficient infrastructure projects are included in their planning to support frequent service, with better than 88 percent reliability, 2.5 hours travel times between Seattle and Portland and 2.75 hours between Seattle and Vancouver B.C. These trip times are in the 2019 Washington Rail Plan. This is feasible. We need this for Washington.

Arvia Morris


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