In about four years, the passenger experience of Amtrak Cascades – the rail service connecting Vancouver, Seattle and Portland – will see a complete overhaul with the introduction of a new fleet.
A total of eight new trains will be introduced into service in 2025/2026, a spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Railroads, Freight and Ports Division (WSDOT) told the Daily. Hive Urbanized.
New Fleet Deployment in Amtrak Cascades Operations Acquired as Part of Amtrak’s Larger U.S.-wide Procurement of US$7.3 Billion Railcars and Train Equipment from from the German manufacturer Siemens Mobility. These trains are built at Siemens facilities in Sacramento, California.
The Amtrak Cascades service will be Amtrak’s first-ever operation to benefit from the major new fleet order, supplying the Pacific Northwest with 48 new passenger railcars, two locomotives and a spare cab.
These new modern passenger trains will be of the Siemens Venture model, also used on Brightline in Florida, and will be introduced on VIA Rail’s Quebec-Windsor line starting this year.
Each car can accommodate up to 74 seated passengers, but after taking into account the space required for business class and dining service, Amtrak Cascades’ configuration of a six-car train would provide total capacity of up to to 350 seated passengers. Additionally, the flexible interchangeability of Venture trains makes it easy to remove or add cars, so train lengths can better meet peak or off-peak demand.
According to Amtrak, its Venture trains feature more comfortable seats, individual power outlets, USB charging, Wi-Fi, improved lighting, larger windows, improved accessibility and “more contemporary food service experience”, including self-service options. There will also be digital screens for passenger information, improved HVAC, touchless lavatory controls and automated steps.
The WSDOT says Amtrak Cascades’ exterior color scheme for the new Venture trains will maintain the service’s existing signature “evergreen and mocha” look.
The new cars accommodate around 25% more passengers than their discontinued predecessors, which were retired from service in 2020 after more than two decades of use. Amtrak has deployed its older Horizon cars on Amtrak Cascades service for temporary use in 2020, until the new Venture trains arrive.
The Amtrak Cascades route spans 467 miles (752 km), much of it in Washington State, which has 12 of the 18 stations. Four daily round trips are operated for the segment between Seattle and Portland, and two daily round trips are operated for each of the segments between Portland and Eugene, and between Vancouver and Seattle.
Last month, following an extended pandemic hiatus, Amtrak said it would relaunch the Amtrak Cascades route between Vancouver and Seattle in September 2022 — months earlier than planned due to a labor shortage. work.
And just before the pandemic, WDOT said it was working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Canada Border Services Agency, and the provincial government of British Columbia to implement U.S. preclearance. full of Amtrak Cascades passengers departing Pacific Central Station near downtown Vancouver. This would eliminate the second southbound U.S. Customs inspection stop at the Canada-U.S. border, reduce the expected travel time for southbound trains to Seattle, and eliminate the risk of additional delays.
According to Amtrak’s new 15-year strategy released in May 2021, it is aligned with the Washington and Oregon state governments’ plans to significantly increase frequencies on the Amtrak Cascades route.
The segment between Vancouver and Seattle will eventually see frequencies double from two to four daily round trips.
The segment between Portland and Eugene will see frequencies tripled to six daily round trips.
And the segment between Seattle and Portland will increase to 13 daily round trips, more than tripling current frequencies.
The full train journey from Vancouver to Eugene takes approximately 10 hours and 30 minutes, including just over three hours in optimal conditions for the segment between Vancouver and Seattle. While future Venture trains will be able to run at faster speeds, the existing track infrastructure generally does not allow for reduced travel times.
Future increases in frequency and capacity serve not only to capture significant demand, but also to help increase ridership for potential future high-speed rail service between Vancouver, Seattle and Portland.
According to WSDOT statistics, ridership on the entire Cascades Route from Vancouver to Eugene has steadily increased over the past few years, with total annual ridership increasing from 672,000 in 2015 to 753,000 in 2019.
In the year before the pandemic, approximately 193,000 passengers traveled on the segment between Vancouver and Seattle, 499,000 between the Seattle and Portland segment, and the remaining 61,000 traveled on both segments.
The Vancouver to Bellingham segment saw its average capacity utilization increase from 44.9% of occupied seats in 2015 to 48.6% in 2019. This capacity utilization rate was the lowest of any segment on along the Cascades Corridor, with the other 12 segments posting rates. between 52.6% and 64.4% of seats filled.