Extension of Oregon Amtrak Cascade Trains


amtrak-cascadeAmtrak Cascade trains use the existing Columbia River Railroad Bridge which is 3/4 mile west of the current I-5 bridge. The Railroad Bridge has two tracks spanning the Columbia River. The present Amtrak Cascade Train #503 Southbound is parked overnight in Portland and could be moved early in the morning to Vancouver for passengers commuting to Portland. The trip from Portland to Vancouver is less than 15 minutes.

CTRAN could add bus service from The Vine or other Clark County points going to Vancouver Amtrak Station when a train is loading.

There are a few difficulties to work this plan out with the railroad company who owns the tracks.  The current travel time from Vancouver to Downtown Portland is less than 15 minutes.


Extension of Oregon Amtrak Cascade Trains –  Evaluation Criteria Detail

   Direct Citizen Impact Factors

Citizens Direct Costs (CDC):

This score is based on assumption that the citizen already needs to get to downtown Portland and already spending money for transportation to conduct this trip. So the cost impact to the commuter is assumed largely neutral.

Current One way Amtrak Cascade train ticket is $8.50 to Portland and $11.00 to Oregon City. Tri-Met or C-Tran pass may cost additional.

It is contemplated with more riders this price would be reduced. Some Portland businesses would help pay some or all of the cost for their employees using this transportation. Other policy mechanisms may be available to further reduce the fare.

Seattle ‘Sounder’ that uses regular commercial rail, rates are similar rates as Portland MAX.

vancouver-stationThroughput Improvements for Citizens (TIL):

Throughput improvement for citizens is largely contemplated to be the avoidance of the stress of driving for those that take advantage of this option.

So in the aggregate, there would be some portion of commuters that would find this attractive. So at a minimum we score this as mid-level.

The train trip from Vancouver to Downtown Portland is less than 15 minute. Commuters have time to relax, eat a quick meal, read, or use Wi-Fi with personal computers.
Avoids commuters tied up in auto traffic on I-5.

If the rail is operated properly, it should be quite reliable.

Train connects to MAX Yellow and Green Line and Bus Transit Mall at Union Station. A short walk to Portland Street Car is possible. Also the Amtrak trains continue to Oregon City in about 20 minutes for commuters to Clackamas County wanting more Tri-Met connections. The train continues to Salem and Eugene also.

Citizens could appreciate the broader contribution of less impact to environment.

Save money with gas, wear and tear on personal vehicle, and parking cost. Many employers will help subsidize passes for public transportation.

Bicycle riders could find this attractive as they can bicycle to the Vancouver train station and take their bike through to downtown Portland.

Citizen Disruption to Build (CD): No additional capital expenses are needed.

   General Impact Factors

Project Costs (PC):

Nearly no capital cost at all.

This plan avoids the effort of arranging capital costs.

Could be a money maker for WashDOT and ODOT if it is scheduled correctly. The new fares would generally be considered new revenue for a resource that currently exists.

New passenger train cars are already in the works and if this transportation is successful, more trains could be added.

Finance Options (FO):  Don’t need any.

Environmental Impact (EI): None contemplated.  Maybe positive environmental impact as more cars are off the freeway. Trains are much less polluting than auto traffic per passenger.

Execution Effort (EE):

Execution is doable, but there are obstacles from multiple bureaucracies. Union Pacific and Burlington Railroad, WashDOT, ODOT and C-Tran.

Scheduling is an issue. WashDOT is purchasing more trains in 2017. The train schedules need to operate closer to the peak traffic times on I-5 to be attractive to more commuter passengers.

Need C-Tran bus service to deliver people to Vancouver Amtrak station at commuter peak times.

Rail service can be expanded over time as ridership increases allowing operation costs to go down. As riders increase, then add capacity with minimal expense.

Throughput Improvement for Region (TIR): Goes in the direction of providing relief on I-5 from Ridgefield to Oregon City at the peak times if the trains are scheduled correctly.

Commerce Impact (CI): Commuters from I-5 using the train allows more room for trucks on I-5.

Timing to Achieve (TTA): Back to ‘Ease of Execution’ it could move quickly or get bogged down in bureaucracy.

Further Online Resources





Back to Transportation Through-Put Matrix 

Original analysis: 10-25-2016.  Updated: