Posts Tagged ‘amtrak’

Bridges, Trains, and Roses

Now that the two three-day weekends (at least for me) are over, things should be getting back to normal here, which includes me spewing about everything I have been saving up for the past week. Thusly:
I-5 Over the Columbia
The Columbia River Crossing project needs input from the public, and the current feedback period is only open until July 1. Last Friday, a coalition of 13 groups requested a 60-day extension to said period to give ample time for those people and organizations involved to read the 5,000-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) dealing with the project. I wouldn’t suggest reading it yourself – I got stuck around page 50, and struggled to get that far – but glean as much information as you can on the project (try here and here, for starters) and chime in with your $.02. This is a Big Deal that will affect major transportation in and out of our fair city for decades to come, and yes, it will affect you in some way.

Nextly: I took the train (and bus) to Vancouver BC with the boyfriend 2 weekends ago, and I must say: train travel is awesome, though travel to Vancouver could use some help. Supposedly, there will be direct train service to Vancouver BC from us down here in Oregon in time for the Olympics (a good bit of the city is torn up due to transportation additions to the waterfront and Olympic Village), but I won’t believe it until I see it. We’ve already had a review of the train ride from PDX to SEA, so here’re the bits:

  • Pros:
  • Far less security hassle than the airport: we arrived and boarded barely 20 minutes before our scheduled departure
  • Access to a proper power outlet (120V) for unrestricted use
  • We had the ability to use our cellphones where there was reception (though chose not to)
  • The car we were in was incredibly quiet, and we whispered most of the trip
  • One can bring his/her own liquids aboard! No more smuggling 3oz bottles of vodka! We brought our massive flask and some mixers and made cocktails at our seats
  • The seats were comfortable and there were plenty of bathrooms to go around
  • Cons:
  • Delays – we were over an hour late to Seattle, but the connection was guaranteed, so some people got to wait on the bus for us. Sorry, people!
  • When we boarded, the a/c was broken in our car, and we were sweating up a storm (hottest day yet of the year + running a suitcase from the MAX to Union Station = ick!), but it was fixed when we departed (which was, granted, nearly 45 minutes later)
  • This is really about the bus – The bus sucks. It’s better than taking Greyhound the whole way, but the bus just seemed that much more crappy after such a pleasant train experience
  • Price – It was less than $200 for both of us to get to Vancouver and back, but I would love to be able to take the train down to Sacramento and maybe across the continent without having to sell my firstborn and a kidney. Get the prices for 6+ hours of travel down to an affordable rate (i.e. cheaper than airfare), and I’ll start booking my travel today.

And one more quick one!! Holy crap, it’s Rose Festival season again! The rides are going up to make Waterfront park a muddy mess, should the rain continue (opening Thursday) and the fireworks kick everything off on Friday. The good stuff (boats!) will start floating in on Thursday (Tall Sailing ships, 5/29-6/5, then Fleet Week 6/4-6/8). I’m so excited – more on that soon!

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?

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