Amtrak’s Second Vancouver Train Gets a Year’s Probation

The elation over the extension of the second daily Amtrak run between Seattle and Vancouver is shared north and south of the border, despite the contretemps being instigated by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), who wanted someone on the U.S. side to pay some $550,000 per year to defray customs inspection costs.

Washington’s Governor Gregoire was “vexed” by the CBSA’s original move, and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson eventually bent ministerial ears in Canada as well.

Crosscut broke down those costs as $1,500 per train, which the Washington State Department of Transportation, which sponsors the route, was unwilling to pay itself, or try to extract from passengers in the form of higher ticket prices. WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond estimated the economic benefit to Vancouver at almost $12 million. (The CBSA, in turn, argued that they’d only agreed to waive the staffing costs for a pilot project lasting the duration of the Olympics, and weren’t sure the post-Olympics tourism would bring the same economic boost.)

The potential economic benefit played a large part in the announcement Canada’s Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews that “the border services agency has reallocated about $800,000 to cover the cost of the second U.S. Amtrak train into Vancouver per day,” as CTV News reports. Essentially, the train has a year to prove that it’s a net money-maker for the province. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson hailed the decision as a “no-brainer.”

Through the rest of October, by the way, train passengers can snap up promotional offers from twelve different Vancouver attractions.