Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Editorial: Canadian Government Says No to Second Train and a Growing Economic Engine

A year ago as the Vancouver Winter Olympics were looming, the Washington Legislature and WSDOT secured funding to pay for a second Amtrak Cascades train to Canada and finally a deal was reached in increase rail service between Seattle and Vancouver.

Since the Olympics ridership has remained strong and it has proved a popular service for tourists and travelers in the region.  Despise WSDOT's strong financial commitment to the second BC train its future is in jeopardy.  Why you might ask? Because the Canadian Government does not want to spend a few thousands dollars per train to staff customs agents at the station.

This second round trip is a critical economic, cultural, and transportation link between Seattle and Vancouver.  It provides an important transportation option for BC, Washington, and international travelers.  To see this service lost due to lack of initiative from the Canadian Federal Government would be an absolute travesty.

The Canadian Government has suggested charging a surcharge to pay for customs services on the train.  Do drivers going into Canada have to pay a surcharge for customs? No.  Does the Canadian Government try to charge Washington State when automobile traffic increases at the border? Of course not.  This is a gross example of government policies from decades past that unfairly places financial burdens on travelers who choose not to drive.

I the end I see this as a issue of pure economics.  Every traveler that gets off a cruise ship in Seattle and takes the train to Vancouver or every Seattlite who decides to take a "stay-cation" with a weekend train trip to Vancouver stays in their hotels, buys their taxable goods, and directly contributes to their local economy (and generates tax revenue).  To cancel the popular second train makes that trip much less convenient and eliminates a growing economic engine for Cascadia.  With the help of WSDOT's strong leadership on this issue, I hope that  local, provincial, and federal governments in Canada can come to an agreement to fund the minuscule cost of two customs agents to meet the second train in Vancouver.  Anything otherwise would be a complete failure of vision and leadership by our good neighbors to the North.

Amtrak Cascades in Surrey, BC image courtesy Seattle Transit Blog

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