Ultra-High-Speed Ground Transportation study - Current regional connectivity

Amtrak Cascades Route Map showing Vancouver BC through Seattle and Portland to Eugene Oregon

The Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor (PNWRC) is one of 11 federally-designated high-speed rail corridors in the U.S. The 462-mile (742-kilometer) PNWRC serves the most densely populated areas of the Cascadia megaregion, linking Vancouver, BC to Seattle, Portland, and Eugene.

Current regional transit systems

Regional transit systems in Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland have extensive network connectivity and service throughout their population centers. Vancouver’s transit network, planned and managed by TransLink, is one of the most extensive for a large metropolitan region in North America.  TransLink operates SkyTrain, a driverless light rapid transit system.

In Seattle, Sound Transit plans, builds, and operates express bus, light rail, and commuter trail services in the urban areas of King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. The Sounder train is a regional commuter rail service operated by BNSF on behalf of Sound Transit, travelling from Everett to Lakewood.

TriMet provides bus, light rail, and commuter rail transit services in the Portland metropolitan area.  The Portland region’s light rail system is the largest stand-alone light rail system in the nation by ridership.

Current intercity passenger rail service

Amtrak Cascades intercity passenger rail system is managed by WSDOT and the Oregon Department of Transportation and includes trains operating daily serving 18 cities in Washington, Oregon and Canada along a 467-mile long corridor. The service is funded by the states as well as ticket revenue. The states contract with Amtrak to run the service, including four daily roundtrips between Seattle and Portland; two daily roundtrips between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia; and two daily roundtrips between Portland and Eugene, Oregon.  Amtrak Cascades trains travel at a maximum 79 mph on privately owned freight tracks.

Opportunities for better connectivity

The exiting travel choices in Cascadia include air, rail, automobile, and bus service.  Below is a distance and time breakdown for all four modes between the cities.

Existing travel choices Seattle to Vancouver

Mode Distance Travel time
Air 119 miles (192 km) 0:55
Amtrak Cascades 157 miles (253 km) 4:30
Automobile 141 miles (227 km) 2:41
Bus 141 miles (227 km) 4:08

 

Existing travel choices Portland to Seattle

Mode Distance Travel time
Air 130 miles (209 km) 0:50
Amtrak Cascades 177 miles (285 km) 3:40
Automobile 173 miles (278 km) 3:14
Bus 173 miles (278 km) 3:35

 

The distance between Portland and Seattle and between Seattle and Vancouver are less than 200 miles (322 km) each, which are short distances for a robust air market. In addition, the corridor has significant congestion. In 2016, the three largest metropolitan cities in this study experienced an average of 142 hours of delay annually per driver. This total is significantly greater than the 107 average annual hours of delay experienced by the largest metropolitan areas in the travel corridors of Texas Central Partners High-Speed (Dallas-Houston) and the Brightline Intercity (Miami and Orlando) rail projects.

Further analysis is being done to determine alignment of the corridor as well as station stops. This more in-depth study will determine more exact projections for ridership, cost of construction, and cost per trip.