Trains, planes, and ferry boats
I'm a transportation junkie. While Pacific Northwest baseball fans mark the passage of spring by flocking to Safeco Field for the April 12 home opener of the Seattle Mariners vs. the Oakland Athletics, I'll be winging my way from SEA to SFO on Alaska Airlines Flight 224. Aisle seat, please. And although I was semi-interested in this year's March Madness, I was a lot more jazzed by the return of Washington State Ferries' Chelan to the Anacortes-Sidney, BC ferry run at the end of March. I can't wait 'til I can board the boat to my second home of O Canada.
Since I'm a travel writer, it's no surprise that I have an interest in getting from one place to another. After all, I depend on trains, planes, and ferry boats to haul me around the globe. Here's the latest in my trippy world:
Trains: The good news is that the Amtrak Cascades second train that was added between Seattle and Vancouver, BC for the 2010 Winter Olympics is going to stick around. The pilot project was originally scheduled to run through March 31, 2010 and it's been extended through Sept. 30, 2010.
Simply put, travelers between Seattle and Vancouver, BC now have two choices a day. From Seattle, head north at 7:40 am or 6:50 pm and from Vancouver, the southbound trains depart at 6:40 am and 5:45 pm. Stops along the four-hour journey include Edmonds, Everett, Stanwood, Mt. Vernon, and Bellingham. For Mariners and Sounders fans, ditch the car and take the train to the game. Sound Transit has added more runs to its weekend day game schedule this season, with the Sounder taking passengers to King Street Station for 16 Mariners games and four Sounders FC soccer matches. That includes service from Everett, Mukilteo, and Edmonds (along with Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, and Tukwila). The special Sounder service is in addition to regular Link Light Rail service to and from the stadiums. Link Light Rail serves 13 stations in downtown Seattle, SODO, Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Tukwila, and SeaTac. And if you live near SeaTac, consider parking at the airport and hop the light rail to the stadium for a parking fee of $2 an hour (that's 50 percent off). It's only good for the Mariners' opening home stand, April 12-21. Link Light Rail fare is extra, of course.
Planes: Another airline merger is in the works, this time between United Airlines and US Airways. Mergers are typically not a good thing for passengers, but there's little the flying public can do about it. My main concern is whether I can transfer/keep my frequent flier miles. Further afield, Ireland's discount airline Ryanair got people all riled up with its proposal to charge people to pee. Yup, there will be only one pay toilet per plane, so you better have some coins if you're heading to the loo.
And Spirit Airlines didn't live up to its name with the announcement that beginning August 1, 2010 it will charge $45 for each item stowed in the overhead bin. Fortunately, Spirit doesn't fly to Seattle, so no problem there. Among the exemptions are umbrellas, coats/wraps/hats, car seats/strollers, diaper bags, cameras, medicine, pet containers, books, and food for onboard consumption. What about homegrown frozen turkeys?
And I recently discovered that you don't have to go to SeaTac to fly to Portland. SeaPort Airlines flies out of Boeing Field, which is my kind of airport. No lines, minimal security, and you only need to arrive 15 minutes before departure. They also fly to Pendleton, Newport, and Astoria.
Ferry Boats: The seasonal return of the Chelan from Anacortes to Sidney on Vancouver Island commenced on March 28, 2010. I'm not the only happy traveler; it's a welcome return for businesses in Sidney by the Sea and elsewhere, as reported in the Times Colonist. The state ferry system's newest boat, the 64-car vessel Chetzemoka, is currently at the Everett Shipyard where it's undergoing final outfitting and system testing. It will sail between Keystone on Whidbey Island and Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula beginning this summer.
A second ferry for the run will be built in the spring of 2011. The City of Coupeville and the Swinomish Tribe have suggested Squi Qui as the name for the second boat, honoring a Lower Skagit tribal leader and signer of the Point Elliot Treaty. Another name that's gaining momentum is Tokitae (aka Lolita), after the killer whale that was captured in Penn Cove on Whidbey Island in 1970. The Whidbey-Island-based Orca Network has even created a Facebook page to drum up support. So far, Tokitae has 233 members.