Amtrak’s Washington bias

Now, I don’t want to become the “alternative transportation and cooking writer” here at PDX Metblogs, but hey, it’s what I pay attention to. The boyfriend and I are heading up to Vancouver, BC this weekend, and we’re going by train. I took the train a lot when I was a kid to visit my dad, but I am sad to say that I haven’t ridden Amtrak since I was at least 14. My last train ride, in fact, was in France in 2004. I absolutely love train travel, and since the last town I lived in had no passenger rail service, I was extremely excited to find out that a train goes all the way from here to Canada!

Oh, how I was mistaken. Oh, yes, there is a train that goes from here to BC, but it stops overnight in Seattle. The one and only train to Vancouver leaves from Seattle early in the morning and the only train from Vancouver leaves too late in the afternoon to take it all the way through to Portland. So we’re stuck taking the Amtrak bus on the Seattle-Vancover trip and back again, which I wasn’t too pleased to find out. Since Amtrak is really pushing the Cascades line, they included a free “companion pass” in the fantastic Chinook Book, which is actually why I purchased the darned thing anyway (though all in all, it has been awesome). My beef: Since the train does not go all the way to Vancouver from Eugene (where the Cascades line starts), the coupon in the book does not cover the entire route. The furthest one can go and use the coupon (in Oregon) is from Eugene to Seattle, and I really haven’t a need to go to Seattle. After finding out that the fare with the coupon is the exact same as the fare without the coupon (because of the way they bill the bus and train rides separately with the coupon in use), I’m keeping the savings for the next time we decide to take the train to Eugene (erm…). Thus, I call shenanigans on Amtrak. Why have a coupon marketed mostly to the Portland market (in the Portland Chinook Book) when it’s only useful to travel in a 3-hour radius, whereas the coupon offered in the Seattle-based Chinook Book would cover the full Cascades train lines?

7 Comments so far

  1. beulahmae on May 13th, 2008 @ 6:27 am

    Let’s just face it: the train sucks in America.

  2. leander37 on May 13th, 2008 @ 9:11 am

    Aw… The train is all right. It depends on where you’re going… (I think that flying sucks, and choose the train whenever I can). Anyhow, stay tuned for daily train service to Vancouver, BC. I don’t know if this will fix the coupon issue, but it will fix the bus issue.

  3. matt on May 15th, 2008 @ 3:29 pm

    I had no idea there was any train service between Seattle and Vancouver. Every time I tried to plan a trip the Amtrak site had me on a bus between the two. Totally blows the point, don’t it?

    It will be a happy day when I can take the train straight through to BC with no minimal muss or fuss.

    Hey, what are the border requirements these days? Last time I was through I was ok with a driver’s license but I heard they’ve tightened up a bit?

  4. determinedpeace on May 18th, 2008 @ 12:49 pm

    checkout this link:

    so it looks like there is an improvement on the way.. This would be great if they add more trains in each direction..

  5. clevergirl on May 27th, 2008 @ 12:19 pm

    We used our passports, as did most of the people on our bus, though I saw one girl go through with her birth certificate and driver’s license. Supposedly by the end of the year (August, I think?), US citizens will need their passports, full stop. Also know that we got some guff in a Vancouver bar for *only* having our driver’s licenses available as IDs (we’re both well past the legal drinking age of 18). In most bars in Vancouver, they require 2 forms of picture ID (though we found that only US driver’s licenses are allowed to be used by themselves).

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