Tom Till is Co-Director for Discovery Institute's Cascadia Center, a hub for policy development and leadership on transportation and energy issues.
In early March, the Province of British Columbia announced a $4.5 million project grant that will add another daily round trip to operate between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., by fall of next year. It will also enable same day rail travel between Portland, Ore. and Vancouver. An op-ed on the issue that I wrote with my colleague and fellow Co-Director, Bruce Agnew, can be found here.
Largely unknown in the rest of the country, but vitally important for the Pacific Northwest, this service will not only aid business and commerce but will do even more for one of the prime drivers of the region's economy -- tourism. Just look at these numbers:
- The Amtrak Cascades service, of which this second train will be a part, began in 1994. As of 2005, that service had achieved a 330 percent increase in riders.
- In 1999, a study based on an estimated 47,000 riders going to Vancouver, B.C., reported that the service brought $11 million into the province's economy. A second train would likely increase the number of inbound riders to 90,000, with a commensurate increase in benefits.
That the numbers are impressive should not be a surprise. Canada is a strategic partner in so many ways. As reported by the U.S. State Department, the world's longest peaceful border supports a daily flow of $1.4 billion in bilateral trade between the U.S. and Canada. That's real money. Those are real lives.
There is still much work to be done in our region, including resolving the contentious "Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative" requiring passports or "pass cards" for Canadian-US travel (our op-ed points out many others). But, this additional Amtrak Cascades service to British Columbia is an important step in the right direction.