Amtrak Pacific Northwest Transit Adventures

Heading back from Vancouver via SkyTrain, United Airlines, the Lake Shore Limited and 2 Ubers

This is the final post of my Pacific Northwest Up to Date trip. It’s a bit later than I’d like but I wanted to rebuild Chicago-Union Station first to get those 2 photos properly processed with the station.

Me and my Dad have four excellent days skiing at Whistler. We head up there on the 6:00am Friday morning Whistler Express bus (it was a very short night after my Amtrak Cascades day in Portland and then Seattle) and headed back Monday afternoon after skiing. Louise flew into Vancouver on a red-eye Saturday morning from a conference in Honolulu, took the YVR Whistler SkyLynx bus and met us in Whistler. Louise doesn’t ski but had a great and productive two days writing and working in the condo we rented off of AirBNB. We spent Monday night at the nice Delta Hotels Vancouver Downtown Suites.

Tuesday morning our flight wasn’t until 2:00pm. I thought about getting up early and riding the new SkyTrain Evergreen Exteinsion, but decided to take it easy and spend a portion of this vacation exploring some with Louse. I think the best way to fully do the Evergreen Extension is to start with a scenic ride out to it on West Coast Express, which only runs outbound during the afternoons. We awoke to amazing views in our corner hotel suite, and seagulls making noise that we could hear inside the room.

We then headed down to a nice breakfast in the hotel restaurant that was complementary because of our Marriott Gold status courtesy of the AMEX Platinum Card (this amazing benefit at Marriott hotels is sadly ending). We then took walk and ended up getting some views of the Waterfront West Coast Express Station(7 Photos) from the plaza in front of Waterfront Centre.


We also passed through Waterfront Station(5 Photos) with it’s complicated faregate situation (you have to pass through faregates entering and exiting to transfer between the Canada line and all other rail and SeaBus services at the station)


We eventually end up back at our hotel room to pack up our luggage and at 11:50, 2 hours before our flight, we walk through this alley with a unique mural.

We then arrive at the southern entrance to the Canada Line’s Waterfront Station(5 Photos). There I buy two more single use Compass Tickets in one transaction, getting the right setting on the machine to accept my debit card as Chip and Pin.


We get onto the Canada Line, waiting for a Richmond train to leave before the next train arrives going to YVR Airport. It’s an uneventful ride as it starts to rain once were on the outdoor stretch.

We get to the YVR Airport(5 Photos) at 12:25. I have an awkward moment. As we approach th faregates to tap out of the SkyTrain System, a woman, I assume a tourist with luggage, approaches me from behind, and as I tap my Compass Card, says I didn’t know I needed to keep my card and follows me through the faregates. This doesn’t sound any alarms so we head down the stairs towards the US and International departures area.


We scan our passports for paper boarding passes and head into the US Customs, and pre-clearance area. The first step is security. Luckily I have my physical Global Entry ID card that gets us in a line that doesn’t seem to be moving any faster than the regular line. In Canada there is only PreCheck light, shoes can be kept on but laptops need to be taken out of their bags. The line gets long enough that an additional line is open, although this one is part of a normal line so an employee gets the job of saying “Shoes on, shoes off pointing” to the two lines. All passengers just go through metal detectors with millimeter-wave scanners as a back up in Canada. We don’t mind and choose the “shoes off” line. At the metal detector, I get an odd beep, and an employee tells me I’ve been randomly selected for either a full pat down or a body scanner. I opt into the body scanner which seems easier. The sweat of carrying my ski bag backpack shows with suspicion under my armpits (this has happened on other trips when I’ve been sweaty). The guy barely pats me down and figures it’s just sweat.

We continue to the Global Entry kiosks, these are quick with our fingerprints. Pre-Clearance still requires you to talk to a customs official, so after a couple questions we’re free to enter the not all that big but quite pleasant US Pre-Clearance Area. It’s strange looking into the World-International Departures area across the way, an area we are not allowed in, past different immigration lines.

We end up heading to the Plaza Premium Lounge for 20 minutes where we have some quite decent but simple rice and curry for lunch. Another free meal. The lounge is crowded with the staff warning us there are not too many seats available but we find some.

We see boarding is at 1:20 but since were in group 4, we’ve decided to leave the lounge at 1:30. At 1:25 (a fill 30 minutes before departure of this narrowbody plane), we overhear, over the entire Transborder departure area, that United Flight #298 is ready for departure. We board and find an empty row to ourselves (I’ve done the aisle, leave an empty middle seat, window trick when booking our two separate tickets that Louise needed done for reimbursement purposes). We wait for a few stragglers, but no one for our empty middle seat towards the back and push back at 1:52pm, taxi and take off at 2:16.

The flight is productive. I help Louise talk through part of her dissertation proposal, the extra seat really making this possible. I get some out the window photos of the mainly slow covered Rocky Mountains, and get sad when they fade into the Great Plains.

The flight is overall decent, except Air Traffic Control Delays on our approach into Chicago delay us a bit. We finally land at 7:53 and a long O’Hare taxi gets us to the gate at 8:09pm. We are off the plane and in the terminal at 8:20pm. Just too late to reliably take the Blue Line down to Union Station for the Lake Shore Limited home to South Bend so rideshare it is.

I have a monthly $15 Uber credit from my AMEX card. An UberPool is only $25 but an ETA into Union Station too late for us. LyftLine seems more promising, but after hailing one I immediately hit cancel when the dispatched ride share is over 20 minutes away (there’s no fee when it’s immediate). We end up hailing an Uber for $43. The Uber takes 15 minutes to arrive but we have a decent, professional driver. It’s an uneventful ride down the Kennedy Expressway to Union Station(2 Photos) where we arrive at 9:05. We have plenty of time to hit up the Pret and McDonalds for Chicken McNuggets (during weekends only the McDonalds is open this late, and these are now a post-trip joke between us).

We then head out to board the Lake Shore Limited after most of general boarding has happened.

As we board the last Hiawatha train of the night is detraining on one of the through tracks on the south concourse in push mode so it can head into the yard for the night. I get some photos of the Midwest painted Charger unit as we board, I also notice the logos of the various departments of transportation that jointly funded them.


The Lake Shore Limited leaves a few minutes late. It seems like the slight delay is that their trying to fix a PA issue. The conductor comes to our car to ask if anyone had heard her announcement. I say no and she goes back to the vestibule to give a long safety sphael. I should have said “Yes we did”.

We’re both still hungry and head to the cafe car to grab a Pepperoni Stromboli to split in the cafe car. We first ask for a pizza but the attendant says they are too frozen for consumption. It’s fairly good. We sit in the “observation car,” as the attendants/conductor announce it although the Amfleet I Business/Lounge car has smaller windows than the regular coaches. We stop a few times for freight trains and arrive in South Bend more than 25 minutes late at 12:24am.

I hail another Uber for the short $6.18 ride down Washington Street home. It’s a 25 minute wait for this Uber because he’s coming from the south and delayed by two long freight trains that block the grade crossing, creating at least a 10-15 minute delay.

We still get home by 1:00am, when the alternative the 9:15pm Supersavor Bus would have dropped us off at the South Bend Airport.