Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, which is served by Amtrak Cascades. (Credit: Stephen Fesler)

Amtrak Cascades train service north of Seattle remains suspended, but bus service will be offered in early December. This will allow Amtrak passengers to reach Vancouver, British Columbia after nearly two years of no Amtrak-affliated service. Officials have also said that train service is expected to be restored in 2022, but that’s predicated on a variety of factors.

Starting on Wednesday, December 1st, Amtrak Cascades will be providing four daily bus trips between Seattle and Vancouver operated by their partner Cantrail. Buses will serve King Street Station in Seattle and Pacific Central Station in Vancouver. An extra stop in Richmond will be provided at the Sandman Signature Hotel near the airport. The departure times are as follows:

  • From Seattle at 10:45am, 1:45pm, 4:45pm, and 9:00pm; and
  • From Vancouver at 5:30am, 9:00am, 11:30am, and 4:00pm.

Travel times are about three and a half hours each way, although there is a bit of variation on either side of that. Some of the trip times do work for connections with other Amtrak services to and from Seattle.

Tickets can be booked through Amtrak’s website and app as well as Cantrail’s website, starting at $45 each way for regular adult fares, though there are discounts available.

In addition to Cantrail, Greyhound is offering twice daily cross-border bus service between Seattle and Vancouver. The company launched its services on November 8th, the first day it could do so under new federal travel protocols issued by the Biden administration.

Passengers should be aware of all special cross-border protocols. In addition to acceptable identification and travel documents, passengers are subject to Covid vaccination requirements and must provide proof of full vaccination. Canadian officials are also requiring pre-travel Covid testing and travel registration, though that is partially falling away for shorter trips soon by Canadian citizens and residents. Nevertheless, passengers will need to provide all required documentation that the respective governments have established or passengers will be prohibited from traveling.

As for when Amtrak Cascades train service will return north of Seattle, the CBC has reported that that travelers will have to wait until early next year. Amtrak’s spokesperson, Marc Magliari, said that the delayed restart boils down to agreement on and implementation of inspection protocols and some unique operational hurdles. For instance, Amtrak’s Maple Leaf and Adirondack trains services from Canada are operated by VIA Rail Canada crews even though the equipment is owned by Amtrak; this means those crews will need to be re-qualify to run the trains. Bilateral Covid vaccination and pre-testing inspection procedures also need to be worked out given the unique circumstances of trains operating in foreign frontiers.

For now, passengers wanting to reach Everett, Mount Vernon and Bellingham from Seattle (or in between) with Amtrak services can do so by bus. A once daily service is being provide with buses departing northbound from Seattle at 12:15pm and and southbound from Bellingham at 3:00pm.

Restoration of Amtrak Cascades train service north of Seattle will no doubt be welcome to all of the communities served when it finally happens, especially if that comes with two daily roundtrips, but it’s going to be awhile longer.

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Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.