06/13/2017: Last Train to Walla Walla

When I was a pre-teen and teenager, my brother and I spent time commuting from Walla Walla to Seattle to visit our dad. The trip was always made on the Greyhound bus and would take anywhere from 8-9 hours. The only other option would be to fly, but that would cost almost 2-4 times what it cost to take the bus.

I often wondered what it would be like to ride the train to Seattle, but there was no passenger train that made that trip. Once I moved to Seattle (as an adult), I was able to take a train to and from Portland, Oregon, to see my older brother. It still took longer than flying, but I liked it better than taking the bus.

Around the time I visited Japan in 2005, I became interested in “bullet” trains. Like most things, it was a passing curiosity. But then I got to thinking, what if there was a “bullet” train that could run from Walla Walla to Seattle?

As of the writing of this article, the average highest speeds of the trains are between 190-200 miles per hour (mph). According to Google, driving from Walla Walla to Seattle is about 272 miles. It also takes about 4 1/2 hours to drive. If a “bullet” train was to make the same journey, at 190 mph, it would take about 1 1/2 hours. This, of course, is assuming that there are no stops. Flying from Walla Walla to Seattle takes about an hour, but you also have to factor in time spent in pre-flight security and that the plane travels to Sea-Tac airport, not directly to Seattle.

Of course, if a train was traveling from Walla Walla to Seattle, I would expect there to be other stops. Maybe stops in Pasco, Yakima, and Ellensburg. If each stop was 10 minutes or less, it would add would add around 30 minutes to the trip.

Having a quicker way to travel across the state would greatly benefit everyone along the line. More people would be willing to take “day trips” to cities further from Seattle. Imagine getting on the train around 8 am and arrive in Walla Walla around 10 am. You could have breakfast (or brunch) during your ride. Then, you spend 5 hours in Walla Walla, catching the 3 pm train back to Seattle. It would only be 5 pm by the time you get back. Or, maybe you are from Walla Walla and would like to spend the day in Seattle. Instead of spending the 9 hours it took to drive, you would spend over half of that time not behind the wheel. Plus, you don’t have to worry about being too tired to drive.

Tourism aside, it would be faster (and more likely, cheaper) way to transport goods back and forth. And given the time it takes to travel, people may even start commuting from some eastern Washington cities to Seattle. Yakima is a little under 150 miles from Seattle, so it would be less than an hour of commute. The ferry ride to and from Bremerton is longer than that.

For now, I know this just a pipe dream. The costs to get the project started would be very high, especially since all the land the rails would be on would need to be purchased. And, I know from watching the construction of the light rail in the Puget Sound area, it would take a long to build. Because of these things (and some political beliefs), there would be little or no public support. Thus, no legislators would support it. So, the only way it would happen, is if some private investors decided to make it happen. But not me. I may have the vision, unfortunately, I do not have the cash to make it come true.

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About Thomas J. Brown

I am the last true Saiyan...wait, that can't be right...
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