The Canadian government announced today that Amtrak has been cleared for a second daily service between Seattle and Vancouver.
The trains will begin next month and continue through the Olympic and Paralympic Winter games next year, according to a news release from the Canadian Border Services Agency.
Amtrak Cascades, which currently has one round trip a day between the two cities, was poised to start the second train last summer after track improvements were made. However, the service was derailed by a dispute over payment for immigration/customs inspections of passengers arriving in Canada aboard the second train.
The Canada Border Services Agency wanted a daily payment of $1,500 Canadian for inspection costs. Amtrak Cascades, the Pacific Northwest rail service that is operated by Amtrak under contract with the governments of Washington and Oregon, hasn't wanted to pay that much — no such fee is charged for the current Seattle-Vancouver, B.C., train.
Bruce Agnew, policy director at the Discovery Institute's Cascadia Center, a think tank that studies transportation issues, said the fee has been waived by the Canadian government. He said that Canadian officials are viewing the second daily route as a pilot project that Public Safety Canada will reevaluate after the Olympics to determine whether it is popular enough to be continued.
Agnew is confident that the second daily service, which is to run later in the day, will have high ridership numbers because the route offers service from Portland and Seattle to Vancouver. A spokeswoman for Public Safety Canada did not return a call for comment.