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High-speed train? You’re dreaming

May 26th, 2009 · 16 Comments

An excellent article debunking the current hoopla over the alleged high-speed train network between Vancouver and Portland from Monte Paulsen at the Tyee, for those who haven’t already spotted it.

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  • Corey

    We can’t even use the rail line out to Chilliwack for passengers, so I’d agree – HSR in the region is a pipe dream.

    Maybe things would change if we get a Minister of Transportation a little less obsessed with moving cars around.

  • not running for mayor

    The minister of Transportation is simply providing the people with what they want, as much as people want the interurban back unfortunately there are many more people that want the gateway expansion. A government that tries and changes the people soon gets changed by the people.

  • DMJ

    After listening to Bill Good yesterday, I would ask everyone to take a crash course on rail transit, from light-rail to HST’s. So much misinformation, so much rhetoric.

  • LP

    I agree with NFRM.

    There seems to be a lot of people who think they know better and make every effort to push their agenda despite having a majority of people against them.

    How can the BC Liberals be arrogant by not listening to the people with respect to the power lines in Delta………but yet Vision Vancouver be progressive by clogging up the Burrard Bridge and surrounding neighborhoods for a couple hundred cyclists when the majority is clearly against this plan.

    Just look to how a solidly Liberal riding now has a sitting independent.

    Better pay attention Vision.

  • foo

    Anything the various BC govts do has no impact whatsoever on whether there’s high speed rail to Seattle.

    Do you really think the US govts would spend billions of infrastructure dollars on a line whose only purpose is to make things more convenient for Canadians or those who want to visit Canada?

    There’ll be high speed rail from Seattle to San Diego before there’s even an upgrade on the link to Vancouver.

  • Chris

    At this point I’d be happy with a 2nd low-speed train with direct service to Portland. But the political will at the provincial and federal levels seems to stop even that from happening.

  • nick

    LP – there is actually a website where “these people who think they know better” can have their say and someone might actually listen. It may not have any affect on a connection to the U.S. though but is more about creating solutions for Metro Vancouver’s transportation challenges and maintaining Vancouver as one of the most livable cities in the world.

    TransLink is planning there 2040 strategy and is looking for public input. They’re doing this through a series of public consultations and workshops in June as well as through the website For more info about what challenges TransLink is facing, you should check out an OpEd piece by TransLink’s CEO in today’s Sun:

  • DMJ

    Dead right Chris! How many of you out there know that there is a federal law preventing passenger trains from operating over 79.5 mph?

    Even though portions of the track can support 100 mph speeds, passenger trains are prevented by law to travel at such a speed.

    The US North East Corridor is exempted from the law.

    The Vancouver Seattle run is hamstrung by slow speeds in Canada (15 mph through Whiterock! & the rickety Fraser River rail bridge) and the elderly swing bridges (10 mph max speed)between Marysville and Everett. Yet track improvements have been made to increase speeds elsewhere.

    Bullet type trains, like TGV and ICE are a pipe-dream because we just do not have the demand for a 300 kph service. Yet, a 175 kph service, with tilt-trains, is feasible.

  • This is not rocket science. Countries around the world are building high speed rail between cities the size of Vancouver and Seattle.

    A high speed rail line is being built between Lyon and Torino is being built at a cost of $9.4 billion dollars. The line includes a 32 mile tunnel through the Alps.

    The sizes of the two cities are comparable to that of Vancouver and Seattle, the distance is almost exactly the same and they are in different countries.

    With flying becoming less comfortable and more expensive for short haul trips, it is obvious that rail is the answer. With the fantasy of cheap oil just over, it is not surprising that it takes governments awhile to come up with new plans.

  • LP

    Regarding Burrard Bridge, which is off topic, I must offer a few corrections. First, there are over 5,000 cyclists and pedestrians crossing the bridge that will benefit although banning peds from the east sidewalk is not acceptable.

    Secondly, you might remember there was just an election. Mayor Robertson promised in the campaign to go ahead with the trial. He was elected by a landslide. The people have spoken and they support the trial.

  • Darcy McGee

    > Maybe things would change if we get a Minister of Transportation a little less
    > obsessed with moving cars around.

    Because the minister of transportation could then being straightening and leveling the valleys and rivers which make up our geography?

    (True high speed rail requires long, straight tracks. The point that we can’t even use the track we have is still true…I’d rather have functional standard speed passenger rail than no rail at all…which is essentially now.)

  • Darcy McGee

    > The line includes a 32 mile tunnel
    > through the Alps.

    This, of course, is one of the sticking points here and one that I’m a bit torn on.

    Do we have the political will and desire to blast such a thing right through the Cascades or the Coasts? There are safety issues as well, but I think that’s the secondary and solvable issue.

    The current track to Whistler (note the singular) would not allow anything remotely approaching high speed rail, or even a two way commuter type system.

    Perhaps we should blast the tunnel, but I like Garibaldi Park as we need to preserve that…

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    And while Vision hasn’t addressed one stitch of the serious issues in this city, our ever-increasingly flakey Mayor is on a junket to the US to chat about pipe-dreams of “linking” us with Oregon, etc.

    Gregor must have found Sam’s stash behind some cupboard and thought, “Oh what the hell…”

    It’s the only explanation.

  • A. G.

    To paraphrase, another politician, a mayor must be able to multitask. The job is showing leadership. It is up to staff to implement solutions and council and the mayor to provide oversight, not micromanage, which seems to be what you are suggesting.

    It is also important that a mayor keeps an eye on the future and not just on the present. Otherwise, future mayors will be stuck with problems 20 years down the road.

    Which brings me back to high speed rail. The planning must start now to have a system in place 20 to 30 years down the road when oil supplies will be very expensive. High speed rail may be the only alternative for medium and long distance travel.

  • A. G. Tsakumis


    Spare me the pollyanna…

    Vision, thus far, is a bust. Gregor has done nothing except pander to the far-left. After the Olympic Village funding issue, it’s been one slow descent into doctrinaire hell, which, frankly, it appears he is delighted to dive straight into.

    I saw your website and you are, alas, yet another dreamer who thinks peak oil will overtake us and that the car will diminish over the course of a few decades.

    Good luck with that.

  • MB

    High fuel surcharges will knock the planes out of the sky, probably sooner than most people think.

    Gas prices in excess of $2/litre could effectively change the will of the people toward public transit more than any persuasive philosophical discussion would.

    The will of politicians pusillanimously follows the will of the people with a lag time of about a decade, so I don’t expect anything remotely resembling HSR or rail for the Valley (and cities and suburbs and exurbs and satellite communities ….) to appear anytime before 2025, and only after much wailing and gnashing of teeth.