On Friday, Amtrak released a new timetable for service on the Cascadia Corridor between Seattle and Portland cancelling two daily roundtrips. Service will revert to the old timetable of four daily roundtrips between the city pair on Amtrak Cascades plus one daily roundtrip on Coast Starlight. Passengers who were booked on cancelled trains can be rebooked to other train services.
The new timetable went into effect today. The earliest and latest trips between Seattle and Portland are as follows:
- Seattle to Portland: The earliest train departs at 7.25am and latest at 6.10pm daily.
- Portland to Seattle: On weekdays, the earliest train departs at 8.05am while on weekends and holidays the earliest train departs at 8.20am. The latest train departs at 7.20pm daily.
The revised timetable restores through service to Eugene on some Cascades trains (Trains 500, 505, 506, and 508). Passengers on these through trains will be able to book business class seats and have full food and checked baggage service, which had been curtailed under the previous timetable.
It’s not immediately clear when service on Cascades may be restored to six daily roundtrips between Seattle and Portland, though sometime this year is likely.
The Urbanist sought comment from Amtrak and the Washington State Department of Transportation following the announcement, but none was provided at the time of publishing. Whether declining demand following the derailment in December or a combination of equipment availability and reliability and scheduling challenges stemming from use of the Point Defiance shoreline route played a role in the service reduction decision is not known. Janet Matkin, Communications Manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation, confirmed in an e-mail that service reduction was the result of using the shoreline route instead of the Point Defiance Bypass. “The reduction in roundtrips is the result of lack of equipment and the rail capacity constraints on the BNSF-owned route along the coastline,” she said. “It is not a result of declining demand. Once we return to the Point Defiance Bypass, it is our intent to add the two more roundtrips that we were launching on December 18.”
Later this year, Amtrak service is poised to once again use the inland Point Defiance Bypass after positive train control is fully operational ($). All Cascades and Coast Starlight trains running between Seattle and Portland will call at the new Tacoma Dome Station.
Perhaps then additional Cascades trains will be restored offering passengers more choices and frequency. For now, trains are calling at the old Tacoma Station on Puyallup Avenue.
UPDATE 1/3/17: This article was updated to reflect information that Washington State Department of Transportation staff provided on January 3rd.
Title image courtesy of Kurt Clark on Flickr.