From Vancouver to Seattle in less than one hour is a ticket that a lot of people in both cities would find very appealing.
Roughly cutting two-thirds off the current travel time, it would dramatically change business and tourism between the northwest coast’s twin leading cities. The obvious benefits are why the idea for high-speed rail up and down the Cascadia coast has been kicked around for decades. Will it ever actually happen?
A new business analysis that was commissioned by the Washington State Department of Transportation says it should, and argues the plan should go one step further, to create a rapid-transit line from Metro Vancouver to Portland, Oregon.
“The significant reduction in travel times, combined with more reliable and higher frequency services, would result in a better-connected megaregion with major shifts in existing trips from auto and air to UHSGT [ultra-high-speed ground transportation],” the report’s executive summary reads.
“Travelers would be able to arrive earlier or leave later from origins, tailor travel schedules to meet individual needs, and have more time to conduct business or enjoy leisure activities,” it continues. “Depending on the scenario, between 1.7 million and 3 million annual trips would be made by 2040. Ridership on UHSGT would be more than three times the current number of travelers on intercity rail in the Pacific Northwest corridor.”
The proposed rail line would see trains spend most of the trip moving at roughly 400 kilometres an hour.
Through 2017 and 2018, a feasibility study analyzed competing modes of transportation and concluded ultra-high-speed rail was the way to go (ruling out a hyperloop-transportation system that would move people between Vancouver and Portland at speeds exceeding 1,1000 kilometres per hour, to the dissapointment of Elon Musk). Now Washington State’s business analysis has made the same determination.
In a July 15 media release, B.C. minister of jobs, trade, and technology Bruce Ralston expressed the province’s support for the plan.
"This study is part of the necessary good work that's being done to give us a clearer picture of the feasibility of ultra-high-speed rail service between British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. Improving the connectivity in the Pacific Northwest region presents enormous potential for job creation, economic growth and environmental benefits on both sides of the border,” he explained quoted there.
"While this study is a preliminary assessment of the possible impacts, some of the key findings include reducing travel times between Vancouver and Seattle from three hours to one, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by six million tonnes over the first 40 years of operation,” Ralston continued. “The project could have huge economic benefits, drawing new companies to the region.”
So far the B.C. government has spent $600,000 studying the idea with Washington State. Today the B.C. ministry of jobs, trade, and technology’s release said that work will continue.