Celebrating 30 years of Amtrak Cascades passenger rail service

(OLYMPIA)– Amtrak Cascades passenger rail service celebrates its 30-year anniversary on April 1, 2024. On this date in 1994, the Washington State Department of Transportation and Amtrak launched a single daily roundtrip between Seattle and Portland. This train supplemented the nationally funded long distance and regional service that had operated in the Pacific Northwest since Amtrak was formed in 1971.

Today the state-funded Amtrak Cascades system serves 18 cities in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, according to a news release from the WSDOT. Since its inception in April 1994, Amtrak Cascades has carried more than 18 million passengers. Its most popular stops along the 461-mile route include Seattle’s King Street Station, Portland’s Union Station, and Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“This 30-year milestone was made possible through the collaborative efforts of many partners, communities, elected officials and our valued passengers,” said Jason Biggs, director of WSDOT’s Rail, Freight, and Ports Division. “We’ve progressed significantly over the last three decades to meet the growing population and economy of our region, but today we reflect on where it all started.”

Six months after the first train left Seattle, the service further expanded in October 1994 when the Oregon Department of Transportation and Amtrak added a daily train between Eugene and Portland. In May 1995 the service grew further to include trips between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia. Since that time, Washington and Oregon have worked together to schedule more daily trips. Today there are a total of 12 daily trains between Seattle and Portland; four between Portland and Eugene; and four between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia. In 2024, WSDOT anticipates ridership on Amtrak Cascades to approach one million passengers annually.

“We’re thrilled to see so many people continuing to ride and support Amtrak Cascades over the years,” said Suzanne Carlson, administrator of ODOT’s Public Transportation Division. “As a regular Amtrak Cascades rider, I know how important this option is for all of us. We are fortunate to have an environmentally friendly, relaxing way to travel – and that’s going to become even more important as we look to grow and improve our service in the Pacific Northwest.”

As Amtrak Cascades looks toward the future, Amtrak and the states of Washington and Oregon are introducing a new fleet of state-of-the art trains that are scheduled to debut in 2026. The new trains, funded through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, are part of a nationwide transformation designed to revolutionize the passenger rail experience. The first Amtrak Airo trains will go to the Amtrak Cascades service in the Pacific Northwest. Both Washington and Oregon also are developing Amtrak Cascades service development plans to add more frequent and reliable daily service in the years ahead. WSDOT’s preliminary plan is available for comment through April 18, 2024.

“Today we pause to remember that it all began as a strategic decision to invest in passenger rail service by visionary leaders in the 1990s. We honor their foresight,” said Biggs. “We are grateful for the support received from so many people and organizations over the past 30 years and look forward to the decades ahead for even greater advances for passenger rail in the Pacific Northwest.”