Why WSDOT ought to embrace the Amtrak Cascades Long Range Plan

Interview with Rail Expert Tom White

In Washington State, the climate imperative and transportation justice demand that policymakers favor trains - not more lanes or planes! Solutionary Rail campaign lead Bill Moyer interviewed one of the co-authors of the Amtrak Cascades Long Range Plan, discussing where we are today and next steps we need the Legislature and WSDOT to take.

“I see absolutely no reason whatsoever to study a 'range of alternatives.' Our mission in 1992 was to develop a service to get the maximum number of people off of highways onto a train. It was not a small, a medium and a large plan or anything like that. It was, “We’ve got all these people on this highway. You figure out to how get 'em off.” That should be the mission right now. And it isn’t.” ~ Thomas White rail expert and co-author of the Amtrak Cascades Long Range Plan.

The north-south Amtrak Cascades service was designed to meet high population/ridership scenarios when the Long Range Plan (AC-LRP) was written.

Though written in 2006, it still offers the most viable pathway for modeshift to passenger rail.  Today, however, our policymakers, led by Governor Jay Inslee, are focusing on their pet project, Ultra High Speed Rail (UHSR).  But what about the Amtrak Cascades? We need infrastructure and service improvements to be designed to maximize ridership in the shortest amount of time, primarily because of the extreme urgency to cut emissions in half by 2030, and quickly thereafter.

Building up our existing rail network for “regional high-speed rail” will take less time and money than building all-new corridors for ultra fast trains. Washington decision-makers must focus on mode shift to rail by expanding and upgrading our existing rail network that has potential to be much better utilized. The north-south Amtrak Cascades service can meet high growth scenarios that are cost effective, affordable, and sensible. 

Resources viewed in the interview:

  1. Amendments to the 2023-2025 Transportation Budget
  2. Amtrak Cascades Synopsis
  3. Slides with Timetables & Projects


About Tom White:

Tom has over 55 years of experience in railroad operations. He has been a towerman, train order operator, yard clerk, crew caller, train dispatcher, and assistant chief dispatcher for Baltimore and Ohio Chicago Terminal, Southern Pacific, Alameda Belt Line, The Oakland Terminal Railroad, The Milwaukee Road, and Burlington Northern. At BN, he was assigned for five years to service design, scheduling, new passenger projects, technology development, and capacity planning. Since 1997, he has been a railroad operations consultant, working on projects in the US, Canada, Mexico, and South Africa. He is the author of four books, and co-author / contributing author of three others.

Tom, along with his wife Lael White, is the Co-Founder of Climate Rail Alliance

Showing 1 reaction

Pitch In Join the Team Take Action