I boarded the train this morning at 10:30am with a scheduled arrival of 12:00. That, overall is not a bad commute compared to the nightmare of those that currently commute in from Olympia. Currently the various bus trip, which includes a transfer to either a second bus or to the Sounder, is a very long trip. I’m also not one to encourage long commutes, I think they are inherently bad for society and for the mental health of individuals attempting to make these trips.
However, if the trip must be made, which a lot of people do, the train should be a viable option. There is demand, there are tracks, and soon there will be an even shorter route that will take about an hour and 15 minutes instead of an hour and a half. The problem is that Sound Transit hasn’t mustered up the strength or money to extend as far as Olympia yet, and Amtrak Cascades (which would be a perfect candidate) can’t seem to organize their trains to run along this route.
But if I were to dream nice things for the commuters of Olympia that come into Seattle, here’s a viable (and net operationally profitable option!).
- Take one of the train sets, which there WILL BE SPARES soon based on the arrival of two new train sets that Oregon/Amtrak has purchased. Put this single train set on an Olympia to Bellingham route for an early morning commute. Leave Olympia at 6:50 or 7am for a 8:15 or 8:30 arrival in downtown King Street Station Seattle.
- Take that same train that arrives at 8:30 and add another train that goes to Bellingham – at least during the College School Year – and have it depart for Bellingham around 9:00am.
- Have that train turn in Bellingham for the southern trip back toward Seattle, departing at 3:30pm for Seattle, arriving and departing from Seattle at or around 5:30pm.
- Arrive back in Olympia at around 7:00pm.
This is just one thought. With two new train sets coming online, it is absurd to keep them unused. There are routes that will garner and build ridership. Not using them is an absolutely waste of taxpayer money. They’re paid for, the Cascades are easily operationally profitable (at least between Portland and Seattle) and could easily be used and become a net asset to the route.
In a later entry I might dream up another route that would be a good idea. One of the most obvious I may outline is a new schedule for Portland to Seattle. There are a ton of flyers in the morning (that leave PDX at around 5:00am) that would happily take the train instead of flying. I don’t want to wish Alask Airlines ill will, but environmentally, economically, and mentally it would be better to shift this short route to passenger rail travel instead of having people fly.
So what’s your thoughts? Any route ideas? Maybe Spokane, somewhere else, or even Bend?