Faster, more reliable passenger rail service between Vancouver, B.C., and Eugene, Ore., is one of the likely outcomes of a new partnership between the Washington and Oregon transportation departments.
The two state agencies have agreed to manage the route for Amtrak Cascades service as one continuous rail corridor, instead of two separate state operations.
This is a welcome move that should eventually lead to improved service for a growing customer base of rail passengers.
The goal is to have a unified plan for governance, scheduling, budgeting, capital planning and fleet management. This should lead to increased efficiencies and cost savings.
As gasoline prices continue to soar, more people are turning to passenger rail service as a viable transportation alternative. Amtrak Cascades ridership in 2011 totalled 850,000 passengers, which is a 51 percent increase in the past 10 years.
It would be interesting to see if they expand this further into a unified operation with British Columbia as well, though that would come with certain issues. I'm not personally aware of how this would immediately affect any plans or other issues with the rail service, other than reduction of redundancies. One potential, however, is a joint selection for future operators in accordance with the Passenger Rail Improvement and Investment Act.
It does point to an interesting trend in centralization amongst various regional groups however, with LOSSAN, the San Joaquins, the Northern California Unified Service, and now this being bandied about within the past year.